Science proves rewiring your brain is easier than you think.
I have spent over 20 years researching science-based ways to rewire your anxious brain. Here’s what I’ve learned:
In the mid-1990s, I found myself at my kitchen counter SMASHING my kids’ bag of Cheetos because I had developed insomnia, couldn’t sleep and couldn’t function. The smallest thing set me off. SMASH! SMASH! SMASH!
I went to the doctor who gave me medication and said “You know your insomnia is because of your anxiety, right?” WHAT?!?!?
I discovered I had struggled with anxiety my entire life and didn’t know it. The medication worked – for a short time. AND THEN IT STOPPED. I spiraled down even further until I said “ENOUGH!” and began researching how to calm my stress and anxiety and learn to sleep well again.
Back then, there wasn’t a lot of science-based research for me to find. In the past 20 years, fortunately, I’ve learned A LOT – let me share the highlights of how to rewire your anxious brain:
Our brains are malleable.
Neuroscientists used to think our brains were fixed by around age 25…after that, no matter what happened, any damage to our brain was permanent. Through the magic of technology and fMRIs, they have discovered that our brains can continue to adapt to changes in the environment – changing shape and adjusting to the environment, our thoughts, and emotions.
How habits are formed.
Whenever we learn something new, a group of neurons in the brain fire off. Then, every time we experience the same thing (or something similar,) the same group of neurons fire off together, creating a deeper groove in the new pathway. (Neuroscientists say “neurons that fire together, wire together.) The more we repeat these patterns, the deeper the pathway gets. This is excellent for when we want to learn something new: a sport, musical instrument, etc. However, it’s not so great when we develop a debilitating habit.
For example, Sally, a client, comes to me wanting to calm their stress and anxiety. We discover that their mother would get stressed out over the smallest things. She was scared to drive, and one day had a panic attack and had to pull over to the side of the road. Sally was in the backseat, witnessed this, and learns that driving is scary. The same group of neurons that fired off that very first time get activated every time they drive on the highway. The pattern gets stronger and stronger until adult Sally can no longer drive on a highway and drives 2 hours out of her way when taking the highway would get her there in 30 minutes.
We can create new neural pathways to break bad habits and create new healthy habits.
With hypnosis, I guide my client to develop and practice new habits/patterns, in turn creating new neural pathways. Once we identify the initial event, we re-wire the memory and develop new neural pathways, allowing Sally to drive on the highway as comfortably as driving around the block. Once we have solidified the new pathway, it is permanent – it’s not like it has an expiration date on it like a milk carton. Of course other stresses will come up (it’s simply part of life), but the important thing to remember is that once we have re-wired the new neural pathway, we are free from the old pattern.