How are new neural networks formed in the brain?
Simple: through novelty and curiosity.
By age 35, 95% of our reactions and responses to outside stimuli are memoried emotional signatures. The subconscious mind has established our identity through the repetition of specific thoughts which create specific emotions. The more we repeat these thoughts and emotions, the more our cells ‘memorize’ them and in time, form an addition.
Many of us think we are in charge of our decisions. We aren’t. Our habits are in charge and unless we change them, we are imprisoned by old beliefs that create the same reality over and over again.
Many people go through life in what Tara Brach calls, ‘the trance.’ They may appear conscious, but their subconscious mind is running the show — 95% of it to be specific.
Years ago, I read an account about mind chatter from a spiritual advisor. As she took her morning walk, she realized her mind chatter was louder than the cicadas singing in the trees. She’d been solely consumed with stressful thoughts (which, in turn, created stress in her body), that she couldn’t ‘hear’ anything else.
This is how most of the population exists — unconsciously consumed with habitual thought patterns that drown out everything else. Yikes.
Your Frontal Lobe
Your frontal lobe is the ‘CEO’ of your brain.
It handles functions like movement, problem-solving, and social interaction.
When we have an experience, the frontal lobe communicates with all areas of the brain to give us context and meaning.
When we give the frontal lobe a new question (or direction) to focus on — therefore interrupting its memorized patterns — something magical happens.
Here’s an Instagram post from Dr. Joe Dispenza (one of my favorite brain experts) explaining what happens when we arouse the frontal lobe with a new question:
Thinking new thoughts creates new neural connections. Thinking those thoughts over and over creates a stronger bond between neurons.
Let’s take a moment and focus on a thought you don’t like.
What thought is it and how many years have you been repeating it?
What happens in your body when you notice you’re in that pattern again?
What is a better thought?
These are all effective questions to get your frontal lobe thinking differently and expanding its horizons.
The longer we’ve been thinking a thought, the more ‘hold’ it has on us neurologically speaking. The more we sway toward going down that path.
Think of trying to loosen a tight knot — that’s what we’re up against when we want to change our behavior and in turn, our life.
Changing our neural patterns might take effort, but the alternative is being stuck in a spin cycle with thoughts we don’t like and neural connections that don’t serve the life we want to create.
Our Thoughts Make Chemicals
Here’s how powerful thoughts are: every time you have one, you make a chemical.
That chemical is sent to all the cells in your body. Receptors on your cell ‘express’ that chemical. The result is an emotion.
Many of us believe we lack willpower when it comes to changing our thinking. This is not entirely true. Our thoughts have bathed our cells in negative chemicals for years. As a result, the cells have formed an addiction. Our cells want us to think certain thoughts so we keep creating the chemicals they like.
This addiction can be likened to heroin, sugar, caffeine, or nicotine. It’s strong and it’s real.
When we think a new thought — or ask a new question — we make a different chemical.
Making a different chemical creates a new emotion, perspective, and perception. Now, your memorized programming has been interrupted and novelty takes over the brain’s focus.
All of a sudden, problems disappear or a solution quickly presents itself, usually in a way you wouldn’t have conceived of in your programmed thinking.
Now, you’re on a new path of thoughts, all making a better-feeling emotion. This builds, just like when you experience a negative cycle of thoughts. As you keep up with the new thought pattern, it builds. Now, your reality starts to change. You notice ways of being you didn’t before.
This is the power of asking pointed questions and allowing our frontal lobe to run with them.
When we interrupt our memorized responses, our brain takes notice and forms new neural connections. The more we stay with these new thoughts, the stronger that connection becomes.
I should add this, too: as we practice new ways of thinking our old ones start to die. The neural networks associated with those thoughts start to break down and eventually, they atrophy from lack of use.
Changing our brains is a lot easier with questions on our side.
Here are some questions to get your frontal lobe activated and creating
Why do I do (x) like this? Do I like doing it that way?
Am I choosing how I spend my time or am I on auto-pilot a lot?
How am I truly feeling about (x)?
What is something I really want to do?
How do I want to feel when I’m 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, or 100?
Is (x) important to me or is this something I feel obligated to do, be, have, or want?
What is the purpose of (x) in my life?
How would I feel if I had the life of my dreams?
What can I do to be happier every day?
Who am I underneath all this conditioning, social programming, and obligation?
Am I satisfied with my life and if not, how could I create more of that?
I notice I do (x) as a habit. What is a better habit?
Do my choices get me where I want to go?
How many of my beliefs have I chosen?
Who do I admire and why?
How can I make more time for myself?
What do I love about my daily experience?
How can I attract more abundance into my life?
How can I love my body better?
What new things do I want to experience?
If I could have anything in the world, what would it be?
How can I take better care of my health?
Start with these and notice the new thoughts you can create just by pointing your brain in a specific direction.