Tag Archives: dopamine

The path less travelled

If you walk through a field, then it makes sense to follow the worn path. It’s an easier route to go. 

Unless the worn path goes all round the field. Then it might make more sense to cut a new path straight through the middle. 

At first that new path will be hard going, but pretty soon it will get easier. 

When others notice the new path, they will probably use it too. More footfall means it gets worn down quicker. 

As the other path gets less used, it will grow over until eventually it will not exist at all. 

This is like your brain as you change. 

Each time you do something new you create a new path – a neural pathway. 

Each time you travel that neural pathway by doing the new thing you reinforce it. 

Old pathways disappear as you stop using them. 

Seeking that new pathway and thinking about that new pathway makes it stronger quicker. 

Pretty soon the old way of thinking and behaving is a long forgotten path. 

This is Neuroplasticity. This is what every client I work with goes through. Permanent changes in the brain. 

The good stuff is always there

It seems to be human nature to ignore the good stuff that has happened in the day in favour of the stuff you are not so happy with.

If you are trying to lose weight and get up and go to the gym in the morning and then in the afternoon you have some cake, you will almost definitely delete from your mind the fact you went to the gym and focus only on the fact that you had cake.

We delete the good stuff and focus on the stuff we are not happy with.

But you can change this. It is amazing how powerful it can be to your mental health and general wellbeing to reverse your behaviour and make sure that you focus on the good stuff that happens in your day. How?

At the end of every day write down 3 positive things that happened in your day

Let me explain why it’s important to write it down.

Have you ever been buying a new car and noticed that car everywhere? It’s not that there are more of that car on the roads it’s just that you have primed yourself to notice it.

Have you ever been trying for a baby and found that everyone in the world is pregnant or has a baby? It’s not true it’s just that you have primed yourself to notice it.

By writing your positives down at the end of the day you have to notice the good stuff that is always there and because you are writing them down you can’t delete them. Also, because your brain knows you need to write down 3 at the end of the day it will go looking for them. You are priming yourself to see the good stuff.

And it doesn’t have to be big things. It can be someone making you smile, noticing a bird singing in the morning. They are always there. The worse the day is the more effort you should make to write them down too. It can make the difference between a good and a bad day if you stick to it!

Chemicals in the brain

Our brains give off a whole bunch of chemicals. In fact it is the understanding of the way the pleasure receptors in our brain and body worked that allowed the development of drug treatment programmes.

An interesting one is Dopamine.

Dopamine, like many things, makes us feel good. We all want to feel good.

So when the brain gets what it wants it releases dopamine and we feel good.

Simple.

However, our brain getting what it wants is not the same as getting what we need.

For example, our brains love familiarity. When we do what we’ve always done we get a dopamine reward and we feel better.

So if we’ve always felt useless, we get a chemical reward for feeling useless.

If we’ve always avoided social interaction because we are afraid of it for some reason, then we get a chemical reward for avoiding it.

This is all well and good but makes it even harder when you’re working to change. Especially if you have help from a Cognitive Hypnotherapist like me where the change can be quick and profound. In this situation you have to work hard to specifically focus your brain on learning about the new you. You need to make your new behaviours as familiar as the old ones. The sooner you do this, the sooner you get a dopamine reward for those new behaviours.

The good news is that if we specifically work towards being positive, science  has shown that not only are healthy hormones released, but the unhealthy release of cortisol and stress related hormones is less and less. So we get healthy hormones to make us feel good, we get dopamine for repeating it and our body becomes healthier.

So what can you do to change?

Well it’s actually not that difficult. You just need to train (or prime) your brain to focus on the good stuff. Try this simple task everyday – you may be surprised at the difference

At the end of every day write down 3 positive things that happened.

That’s it. They don’t need to be big things. Just positive things.

And because you do it at the end of every day your brain knows to look for it the next day. And the more you look, the more you notice. And the more you notice, the more it becomes familiar.

Try it out.