It is possible to retrain your anxious brain, and use that nervous activity more productively. Our minds need a job to focus on and when we give it a task, it will set about doing it, or, finding some solution. The problem is, most people don’t do this. They allow their minds to wander and instead of setting it a task to accomplish, it runs riot instead, worrying and focusing on everything that could go wrong.Sound familiar? Your brain is better than the best computer. It can find solutions to the problems in your life, if only you’d let it. Controlling your mind is a valuable skill, even if it is only to calm it down or focus it on a task.
In the book Chimp Paradox, Steve Peters uses the analogy of having a chimp in your mind! Your chimp wants to do everything right now, it doesn’t care about anything other than instant gratification. The other part of your mind is the human side, which understands consequences. Your job is to balance out the two. If your ‘chimp’ runs wild in your mind, it could be likened to your anxious thoughts creating turmoil and anxiety in your life. The human side too can be too cautious and create many problems which aren’t there in reality. It can paralise us and stop us from fully living.
Retrain Your Anxious Brain – Calming Your Mind With The Breath
Calming your mind is a useful skill to learn for so many reasons. Whenever you get stressed or anxious, you can revert to your calm state if you have learned how to do it. Using your breath is a simple strategy for calming down the ‘business’ of the mind. As you become anxious and stressed, your breathing will become shallower and more rapid. By taking control of your breathing patterns you can reverse this pattern.
Focus on your in breath and out breath. Breathe in from the base of your diaphragm through the nose, and breathe out through your mouth. Count slowly from 1 to 5 on your in-breath, and from 1-10 on your out-breath – or whatever you can manage. Your out-breath though should be longer. Try to expel all the air in your lungs on your out-breath. Hold for 2 counts before breathing in again. Try and extend this time for longer periods each time. Breath in for 5, hold for 2 and breathe out for 10.
As you practice this you will notice it takes all of your attention. Do this for as long as you can. This exercise can be used to calm your mind and increase your oxygen intake. Breath hold divers use this to extend their breathing capacity. By expelling all the air in your lungs completely, you can breath in a fuller lung full of air and expel any ‘dead’ space of trapped air in your wind pipe. Controlling your breathing is a fast way to regain control of your anxious mind and slow down your breathing and heart rate. The more you practice this, the easier it will be to use this exercise when you’re feeling anxious.
When you find yourself in an anxious state, do 10 minutes of this breathing exercise; breathe out for 5, hold for 2, breathe in for 10. Repeat for 10 minutes or as long as you like.
Retrain Your Anxious Brain – Focus On A Goal To Accomplish
If your brain is running rampant with thoughts about a problem you have, you can also use it to speak to your unconscious mind to give it new instructions. For example, many people are anxious about money. Rather than having a focus to solve it, they run over the problem again and again in their mind, without an obvious solution. This creates anxiety and the subconscious mind doesn’t have a solution because it’s not been given any specific instructions.
Hand over the problem to your subconscious mind and it will provide you with solutions. You must wait for feedback from your subconscious and be attentive to it when it comes. Calming your mind is the best way to ‘listen’ to the feedback from your subconscious mind. If your mind is running rampant with anxious thoughts, you won’t be able to listen to your subconscious mind giving any feedback. Also, you will confuse your subconscious mind with all the ‘chatter’.
Tell Your Unconscious Mind What You Want
Create a goal or action plan which will solve your problem. For example, if it’s money, decide what you want to do to change your circumstances. Focus on your goal and use affirmations, mantras and positive intention to direct your subconscious in the direction of your intent.
In Stuart Lichtman’s book How To Get Lots Of Money For Anything Fast, he uses what he calls the cybernetic transposition technique to focus your intent to ‘talk’ to your subconscious mind. We all do this to an extent already. The difference with cybernetic transposition is that Stuart explains how to communicate your ideas more specifically to your subconscious mind. This is done through the basic three step process which lets you focus on a very specific outcome which you want to achieve in your life.
Most people have many competing intentions. This creates confusion for the subconscious mind which tries to deliver everything you want. If the ‘chatter’ of your mind is too much, or is conflicting, it sends conflicting signals to your unconscious mind, which eventually gives up! By getting clear on your intentions, you dramatically increase your opportunity for success. So, the main problem for anyone with an anxious mind, is that they are sending negative signals to their unconscious mind and creating more of the same. Learn more in Stuart’s book here.
Retrain Your Anxious Brain – Speech and Thought
You can retrain your anxious brain too, by becoming more aware of your thoughts and speech. Your unconscious mind is listening attentively to everything you think and say. It is attempting to deliver results in your life based on what you want and how you think. By becoming more aware of your thinking and speech patterns, you can more specifically focus your mind on creating what you want, rather than by creating through default and unconscious creation.
In Napoleon Hill’s book Think and Grow Rich, he likens your unconscious mind to “a fertile garden spot in which weeds will grow in abundance, if seeds of more desirable crops are not sewn therein”.
He is referring to the thoughts you ‘feed’ your subconscious mind. The continual thinking process going on in your mind, is part of the creation process of your life. Thoughts which are contrary to what you want, create conflict in your mind. If you can observe this, you can become a more conscious creator in your own life.
Retrain Your Anxious Brain – Meditation
One strategy for observing your thoughts is meditation. Sit still and comfortable for 5 minutes, without stopping, with your eyes closed and simply watch your inner mind. You will notice chattering and self talk come up. Don’t engage with it or attach yourself to this talk; just watch for 5 minutes without becoming attached to the speech.
The first step in changing your inner dialogue is to watch it and dissociate your self from it. It is not ‘you’! As you learn to watch your thinking as an observer, extend the time period in which you do it. Start at 5 minutes daily and gradually increase this time period. You will find a great inner peace in doing this if you persist for long enough.
Retrain Your Anxious Brain – Your Story
A lot of the inner chatter in your mind is your story which you continue to tell yourself over and over. Your ‘story’ is the things you say to yourself to excuse your behaviour and explain why your life is the way it is. What are you constantly telling yourself over and over? Why are things the way they are? What happened to you anyway? The story you tell yourself, and others, is a big clue as to why you want to retrain your anxious brain.
This is your ‘self image’. Your self image plays a huge role in how your life plays out. If you want to change something about yourself or your life, change your self image. Why? Because it is your self image which continually tells you ‘who’ you are. Think about anything you’ve ever tried to accomplish. Let’s say you want to lose weight, or increase your income, for example. You started off with the best intentions and perhaps gained some ground, only to fall back into your comfort zones to ‘normality’.
How Do You See Yourself?
Let’s use the losing weight example. You start by joining a gym. You get into some good habits but then your unconscious programming hits in and you find yourself on a night out having a few drinks. Then, you lose momentum and then you give up. What happened? Your unconscious behaviour patterns took over. Those are the ‘key’ concepts which you believe about yourself which keep you ‘safe’. A consistent world view keeps you safe and this is based on your self image what you ultimately believe about yourself.
Maxwell Maltz discovered that many people going for plastic surgery later felt the same way about themselves, despite their new looks/feature/s. He discovered that if he changed someone’s self image, they often felt so different that they no longer wanted/needed the surgery. Checkout his book psycho-cybernetics here.
How To Retrain Your Anxious Brain
So how is the self image developed and how can we change it? The self image is the most important part of your mind, if you want to make any changes. Unless you see yourself a certain way, you’ll always struggle to produce those results in your life. It’s much easier to change your self image, that to fight against it. If, for example, you don’t see yourself as a success in life, it will be very difficult to attain success, given your view of yourself.
That’s because you will sabotage your efforts to achieve it somehow, because, deep down, you don’t believe you’re worth it. No-one can persuade you that you’re a success either, if you don’t believe it yourself. You’ll discount the positive things people say and focus on the things you believe already. This is known as confirmation bias. It’s a tendency to confirm what you already believe about something, despite any evidence to the contrary.
So how do you change this? If we hold a negative belief about ourselves, how do we find it out and change it? Many of our negative beliefs will surface when we attempt to change something in our life. If we try and alter something in our life, and our excuses prevent us from taking action, chances are good that those are some of your limiting beliefs.
Changing Limiting Beliefs – Retrain Your Anxious Brain
If you notice these coming up, write them down. These are the keys to changing your limiting self beliefs. They might look something like this:
“I’m no good at that”,
“I can’t do that because…..”
“I’m only good at …….”
“If only things were easier…..”
“I’m just….(insert limiting belief).”
Or, your beliefs could be about attaining a better lifestyle or increasing your income level. In which case you might find some negative beliefs about money which are sabotaging your best intentions and efforts to increase your salary.
“Money doesn’t grow on trees” – Although true, this hides a negative view on money
“There’s never enough money”
“I’m not good enough/not worth it”
“That’s for someone else/rich people”
“rich people are greedy”
“That’s just for people born into money”.. etc. etc.
‘Unpicking’ your Limiting Beliefs
Some of the stories you tell yourself about money will prevent it from coming to you. As they come up, notice them and soften them. They are perhaps things you have believed for some time. This makes them harder to budge. Be gentle with them at first. If you have fervently believed something for all your life, it’ll be more difficult to counter this belief. Start by noticing your limiting beliefs around money, fitness, family, lifestyle, or whatever it is you want to change. Then use affirmations, mantras and positive intention to change them.
So, for example if your belief about attaining wealth in your life is stunted by a belief that “rich people are greedy” how well will this sit with you if you become rich. Not well at all! So, you’re less likely to become something you actively despise, since that will mean despising yourself! So you can use a different mantra when you notice this one coming up. “Wealthy people are generous”, for example can be used in its place. As you notice yourself saying things which contradict your best intentions, “I’ll never be…”, for example, ask yourself “Is this actually true?”.
As you learn to ‘unpick’ your ideas about life, you’ll find new ways to be which are more in line with your long term goals and ambitions. These old ideas will begin to have less power over you and you’ll start seeing better results in your life in their place.
Retrain Your Anxious Brain – What Do You Really Want?
Your brain is a super computer which is continually running day and night. By taking control of your brain through the strategies described in this article, you can become more conscious about what you are creating in your life. If you feel as though your brain is running the show, you need to take charge of it again. Don’t neglect exercise either because it helps in the proper functioning of your brain and gives it the chemicals to function at the best performance.
To recap, here are some of the main strategies I have covered in this article:
- Breathing techniques – controlling your breathing gives you greater control over your inner mind chatter. If you are getting stressed about something, breathing exercises are the best way to slow your heart rate down, and control your thoughts by focusing on your breath.
- Focus on a goal you want to accomplish – remember your brain is a super computer. Put it to work and it will produce amazing results for you. Ignore it, and it’ll run wild! See Stuart Lichtman’s book here.
- Notice your speech and thought which are ‘feeding’ your unconscious mind. Are you feeding it the thoughts, words and deeds which will produce the results you want in life? Read Think and Grow Rich.
- Meditation – Learn to meditate and you’ll bring more peace and tranquility into your life, and make you more aware of the thoughts you are feeding. Everyone has the opportunity to start with at least 5 minutes of meditation per day. It’s a discipline which can change your life.
- Your Story – What do you constantly tell yourself? This is your self image. You are becoming the version of yourself which you give most energy to. Is this how you want your story to go? If not, change your self image. Read Maxwell Maltz’s Psycho-cybernetics.
- Change your limiting beliefs by first uncovering them and then challenging them. Are they true? Then, focus your mind on contrary ideas which support your new self image and destination. Use affirmations, mantras and positive intentions to re-program your subconscious mind.
As you can see, there’s lots of ways to retrain your anxious brain. Don’t neglect exercise though, because often regular exercise is the only thing missing. Notice how frustrated and anxious a dog gets it if doesn’t go out for a run. We are no different except we can get too caught up in our minds to the exclusion of the obvious. I hope you have enjoyed this article “retrain your anxious brain”. Please leave a comment below and share!