Rewire your New Year’s Resolutions

Eating right, visiting the gym religiously, triumphing over the mid-afternoon sugar (or Venti fat+sugar+caffeine) attack, quitting smoking, saving money…wouldn’t it be nice to make 2010 the year when your resolutions actually stick? The fact that people make New Year’s Resolutions in the first place—whether they’re about fitness or kicking addictions or getting out of debt—shows that many, many of us are dissatisfied with our lives.

But before you sign up for a new gym membership, buy any new gadgets, or join a support group, you need to put the odds of success in your favor by focusing on the right problem. The key to changing your life is to consciously rewire your brain.

In other words, to achieve physical (or financial) fitness, you first need to develop mental fitness.

That applies to getting fit or quitting smoking or strengthening your marriage, or whatever.  You can change your life in any way you want to change it. But first you have to understand what’s at the root of your problems: your mind and the way it directs your brain to function—basically, where you place your attention.

Why Resolutions Fail

The main reason why resolutions so often fail is that the lifestyle habits that brought you to your current level of pudginess, or caffeine have carved neural pathways in your brain that can’t be changed by sheer willpower; as they pointed out in “What the Bleep Do We Know“: what fires together wires together. Instead of looking at your body’s behavior as something bad that needs banishing, realize that it might actually be telling you something: that you’re depressed, bored with your job or relationship, or perhaps trapped in the past. It could be your fitness failings are actually symptoms, and you’ve made your poor squishy thighs the undeserving scapegoat for your general unhappiness.

Fortunately, new breakthroughs in science have shown the brain to be a highly flexible organ, and constantly in flux, responding to the events in our lives by continuously rewiring itself.

You can actually change the brain’s size, how it functions, and how the neurons in the different parts of the brain connect – dubbed “neuroplasticity” – by consciously training your mind.

Over the years I have come to realize what immense power mind training has. Our minds can essentially be trapped by the ways in which they function, which can put us into frantic and depressed conditions. Mind training helps us focus our attention, quiets a scattered mind, and brings flexibility and clarity that enable us to see other options.

Why Mind Training Will Give You Resolution Success

The words “brain” and “mind” are often used interchangeably, but in reality, the mind is the CEO of the brain, telling it what to do; the brain simply acts on orders. For example, if you’re reading a book, the mind tells the brain to turn the page, and the brain responds by sending messages through the nervous system to your arm and hand, enabling you to complete the action. While the mind has no specific location, the brain itself is a physical organ, akin to “a three-pound tofu-like” mass atop the spinal cord.

Each part of the brain is characterized by a specific brainwave, which, for many of us, is where the root of the problem lies: one wave dominates the others, causing dysfunctional attitudes and behaviors.

By learning to focus on each type of brainwave separately, you can eventually retrain them to work in harmony, integrating the brain-mind and producing a feeling of peace and awareness. This is called “synchrony”. Opening the brain to synchrony is when the “magic” happens because you can consciously begin to change the way you do things. Of course, the mind can (and does!) lead us astray, but it also has the ability to reform itself when it achieves synchrony.

A key part of mind training is meditation, which activates the brain’s circuitry and actually helps the brain to grow. (Studies back this up, showing that the more someone meditates, the thicker their brain matter becomes.) Meditating also makes it easier to control emotions and respond to stress and crises with greater ease – poise, even.  Meditation is a scientifically proven method of training the mind, and thereby of changing aspects of your life.  Meditation can train the mind to reduce health problems and stress, and it can also increase your potential and success in life by enabling you to attain synchrony. Essentially, it will allow you to reprogram and evolve your brain to a higher state of consciousness and function. My various classes, workshops and retreats are all designed to teach and practice brain/mind meditation.

There are four tools to train & awaken the mind and with practice help you accomplish your resolutions.

1. INTENTION Quite simply, the brain thrives on direction and purpose. When you give yourself intentional directions, you give each level of your brain a specific focus to explore how that particular “frequency” functions. For example, you might set your intention on having emotional awareness. Think of intention as being about “what.”

State your resolution as a result. Be very specific and clear what your goal is.
“I will lose 5 pounds and keep it off through regular exercise balanced eating within three months.” Intention is not about the process of taking the pounds off, rather it is a focus that keeps the mind focused on achieving a new pattern.

2. ATTENTION This is where you are focusing. When teamed with intention, it enables you to establish a field of awareness and sustain your mind in a single-focused manner. Since concentration can bring balance and stability, attention is essential to reducing stress. Attention is about “where.”

Concentrate on repeating and practicing your intention for 21 days. Research has found that it takes at least 21 days to begin to rewire the neuronal pathways which will produce a changed behavior. If you miss a day it is okay. Keep going until you at least have completed the 21 days and notice what you’ve accomplished, but more importantly how you feel about yourself.

3. RECEPTIVITY The mind is adept at blocking out what it does not wish to acknowledge…which is what got you in this mess that you are trying to resolve! Learning instead to embrace what is on your mind will sensitize you to what is happening in each moment; instead of reacting automatically, your responses will become more flexible. Receptivity is about “when.”

Accept who you are and what you do without self-judgment or criticism. Changing behavior with a resolution is often one step forward and two back. Noticing how you judge your self or rationalize or excuse yourself for not following through on your resolution will alter the mind/brain pattern. We reinforce the old patterns of the neuronal pathways through judgment and guilt. By affirming ourselves rather than negating we rewire the brain faster. Give yourself recognition and acknowledgement for your commitment to shift from negative to positive. Remember your resolution is just a way to practice how you can work with your mind/brain to create the kind of changes you want in your life.

4. AWARENESS Distinguishing between what you think is happening vs. what is actually happening is easier said than done. True awareness comes from being attentive and not getting lost in the randomness of your thoughts. Being truly aware means you are open to meaning, purpose, hope, and better able to penetrate that “me-me-me” veil that can fog your mind. Awareness is about “how.”

Who you are is bigger than any resolution that you want to make in your life.
When we are aware and watch the traffic of thoughts in our head and name them as they pass through – planning, anger, fear, judgment, etc. – we create a level of objectivity that reduces stress and lets us experience a different quality of our life. As you go through the 21 days of changing behavior and accomplishing your resolution notice how your mind will try to trick you and rationalize why your resolution is failing or you are not strong enough, or don’t have enough will power, etc.  When those thoughts come up just name them and you will discover that they will have little power over you. As the practice of your awareness grows you wake up more and more to the world and round you and who you really are.

Practicing all four of these tools with a resolution gives you a practical means to learn how to rewire your brain/mind and make the kind of changes you want for your life.

The mind-brain is facile, flexible, and plastic.  With training, it is possible to reprogram what blocks the mind’s Flow and move quite rapidly from a less evolved state of mind to a higher state of synchrony, one that better serves us and the life around us.

When you achieve your New Year’s Resolutions through rewiring your brain, you are also doing a good deed for your fellow man by contributing to the collective evolution of the human species.

You’re helping manifest in your behavior a state of kindness, love and caring for our planet. Not a bad return for a small investment of your time and energy!
And to think, you just wanted to look better in your favorite jeans!

How yawning can positively affect the brain and your life

BLOG #1: YAWNING
Hi Everyone,
Well, this is my first blog and it combines Mental tools and tips and Brain-Mind research. My intention is to get a blog to you each week and provide insights, inspiration, practical tools, tips and research on the brain-mind. I am absolutely fascinated by the brain-mind research and my understanding continues to grow since writing my book, Heal Your Mind, Rewire Your Brain. Besides the brain-mind information I will also let you know about tele seminars, workshops in your area or appearances at conferences and public presentations that I will be doing. For example, all of you in the New Mexico area I will be doing a weekend workshop in Santa Fe February 26-27. You can contact Elisa Bongiovanni for more information. 505-988-8839. Do check regularly the website under “Patt’s Events” for what I am doing. So, now take three yawns and notice what happens in your body and your mind.
Many people believe that yawning in the presence of others is disrespectful.  Thus, we cover the yawn by placing our hand over our mouth.  In our society when you yawn it is thought of as a sign of boredom. But this simply is not true. Recently, extensive research about yawning has been studied. Here are some examples of the benefits of yawning from the research.
Sara felt the time crunch as she had lots of details to take care and not enough time to do them.  She had taken on the leadership role to organize a charity musical event for blind children.  She knew she had taken on too much but her determination kept her on track in these final moments. In the morning as Sara sat at her desk shifting through all the things to do she observed herself yawning. In fact, she yawned quite a few times.  She thought it strange as she had a good nights sleep. She wondered why she was yawning.  After several yawns she noticed a mental clarity, she was more relaxed and more alert which helped her be efficient with her time to finalize the details of the event.
Josh had been lying in bed in a coma for two weeks after his accident. His mother patiently came to the hospital to see him every day. This day as she came into his room she noticed him move and make some sounds.  And then suddenly Josh yawned several times even before he opened his eyes.  As he opened his eyes and spoke she was overjoyed and knew that he was back to our world and would be getting well.  Josh’s yawning continued over several days, she recalled. She kept wondering why he yawned as he came out of a coma.?
Janet and Ray had a disagreement that lasted all week.  Each time they came home from work they would rekindle the argument. Finally, after carrying the anger and tension around all week they were able to talk honestly about their concerns and feelings. After the clarity of their talk they felt closer.  As they sat back on the sofa Janet began to yawn and then Ray began to yawn as if it were “contagious.” They both laughed and felt so good to be relaxed and at ease with one another again.
These antidotes about yawning point to some interesting research about how yawing effects our brains. The researchers at the institute of Neurology in London found that yawning stimulates a unique neural activity in the area of the brain called the precuneus.  The precuneus plays a major role in being more conscious, self-reflection, aids in relaxation, alertness, and good memory. Thus, when the we take in a deep breath such as a yogic breath in meditation the precuneus is a stimulated, makes us more alert and that is why we feel sense of deeper self awareness.
Tip number one: Yawn as you meditate several times (particularly as you begin the session) because it brings a deep relaxation and reduces stress. You will notice as you yawn that you will have more mental efficiency. The benefit is that it promotes the maintenance of vigilance and alertness just as Sara yawned and needed her mind to be efficient in her time crunch.
Brain researcher Andrew Gallup at State University of New York at Albany says that yawning promotes and maintains mental efficiency by keeping brain temperature in homeostasis. Therefore, yawning helps cool down this part of the over active brain as it regulates the temperature and metabolism of the brain. His research found that yawning increases when people are engaged in difficult mental tasks. Yawning helps contract the facial muscles during a yawn which forces blood through cerebral blood vessels to the brain, which may function to increase alertness. Thus, yawning may reduce sleep as it reflects a mechanism that maintains attention. Yawning also increases when people are in a change from inactivity to activity and vice versa.
Tip number two: When you are focused intensely on a project and need to stay alert and conscious take a moment to yawn every 20 minutes or so, and then sit back and relax. Concentrated activity takes a lot of energy to stay conscious. Our yawns are primarily located ln the new evolutionary part of the brain called the prefrontal lobe. It is this part of the brain that easily gets stressed and fatigued.
I imagine Josh was resetting his brain with his yawns after awakening from his coma. This notion is supported from the research that Florenza Giganti has done at the University of Florence, Florence, Italy.  Yawning helps regulate the circadian rhythms of newborns and also people that come out of a coma or a late-night partygoer. Yawning resets the brain’s internal clock. Yawning appears to arouse a neuromuscular rewiring. As in a coma there is a disturbance in the brain stem. Yawning then may rewire the brain to create a harmonious progress in the brain stem.
Tip number three: Remember when you are traveling by plane and changing time zones yawn to reset your circadian rhythms. Yawning will help to reset your body from jet lag.
Janet and Ray began to feel more connected and less stressed and as they yawned they stimulated dopamine, which activates oxytocin the pleasure and relationship bonding chemicals. The more these chemicals are activated the frequency of yawning increases.  Yawning is also contagious as it triggers the mirror neurons that literally mirror another persons behavior or emotional state. People who are on antidepressents may experience yawning more often especially in the first three months of taking the SSR’s.  So as I say, “individuals that yawn together stay together.”
Tip number four: In stressful relationships situations simply stop the conversation and yawn together several times. If nothing else you may get a few laughs with each other. Remember, laughter is pretty close to yawning!
If you have any questions or comments about yawning lets have a dialogue.

BLOG #1: YAWNING

Hi Everyone,

Well, this is my first blog and it combines mental tools and tips and brain-mind research. My intention is to get a blog to you each week and provide insights, inspiration, practical tools, tips and research on the brain-mind. I am absolutely fascinated by the brain-mind research and my understanding continues to grow since writing my book, Heal Your Mind, Rewire Your Brain. Besides the brain-mind information, I will also let you know about tele seminars, workshops in your area and/or appearances at conferences and public presentations that I will be doing.

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