by Leigh Seger
Ahhh, January…and those New Year’s resolutions. Statistics published each year show that the inspiration to stay on track dissipates quickly. In fact, only 8% of us are successful in keeping those resolutions.
But too many times the root cause of our many habits and hang-ups is never addressed: our thinking. Even more specifically, the purity of our thinking.
For years, we’ve heard about the power of positive thinking—and with good reason. There is actual science behind this.
Neuroplasticity is the scientific term that explains how thoughts and experiences can change the structure and function of the brain. For example, neuroplasticity plays an integral part for those who have suffered from strokes and other neurological disorders, along with mental illness.
Research has shown that through repetitive physical and mental exercises, other areas of the brain can be trained to take over. The same philosophy is true with the repetitious quality and purity of our thinking.
You are today where your thoughts have brought you; you will be tomorrow where your thoughts take you. – James Allen (author of As a Man Thinketh)
At the heart of all the “New Year’s goals” lies the desire to simply be a better, purer person this year. Maybe your goal is to be more kind in thought and deed to others. Maybe it’s about being less critical, judgmental, or breaking negative thought patterns about oneself. Maybe it’s about heavier issues like struggling with various forms of addiction.
The Brain That Changes Itself, the acclaimed book by Dr. Norman Doidge, shares the amazing science of brain plasticity and ways to harness its power to make lasting, positive changes.
In an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Dr. Doidge shares the story of Michelle Mack, a woman born with literally half a brain. The left hemisphere of Michelle’s brain was missing—the hemisphere that controls speech and thought. Yet to meet Michelle, Doidge shares, the deficiency was not overtly obvious. This patient was able to work a job, vote in elections, and had a great sense of humor. This was possible because Michelle’s right hemisphere took over the job of the left.
While the vast majority of the population will never suffer from a neurological disorder, Michelle’s story illustrates that our brains are equipped to do some pretty heavy lifting. The ability to “re-structure” the mind gives great hope to those who struggle with mental illness, addictions, and other negative or destructive thought patterns.
As positive thinking changes the brain in a physical way, pure thinking can do the same. Taking what we know about the effect of positive thinking and applying that to the power of pure thinking can set the stage for some inspiring change in one’s life.
This way of thinking allows us to actually chart the course of our thoughts by trudging new pathways in our brain. Through repetitiously focusing on the purity of thoughts, the old pathways become less travelled and more difficult to follow.
Dealing with the heavy issues
For individuals dealing with emotional or addictive issues, the science of neuroplatiscity and the power of pure thinking play a huge role. Take pornography addiction for example. Numerous studies and years of research have shown that viewing pornography changes the neuropathways of the brain. These pathways become more ingrained as one continually looks at pornographic content, resulting in a “path of least resistance” in the brain. This then leads to desensitivity to the content and fuels the addiction process.
However, knowing what our brains are capable of is an exciting reassurance in conquering the battlefields of our minds. Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz, a leading expert in neuroplasticity, had this to say in an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation:
“When you understand how the brain works somewhat better, you can use that information to literally enhance your own perspective, broaden your own sense of your capacities and, with that awareness, learn to focus on other things knowing that if you focus on other things consistently you can change what’s there. You can change the way that real estate is used.”
With any addiction, the choice to re-wire our brain is never easy and takes hard work. One cannot buy a product to “fix” this—it has to come from within. Thinking purely takes daily focus, determination, and patience.
In his recent article, “This is Your Brain on Porn,” author and licensed counselor Michael John Cusick shares his expertise on how to reboot our brains in a positive, pure direction.
- Cusick first instructs on the need to practice intentional thinking. When we shift away from the negative issue or thinking, our brains will start to do the same.
- Next, pursue alternate passions. When one is in an addictive holding pattern, tunnel vision sets in and many cannot see past the confines of their addiction. By trying new things, the focus begins to shift away from the addiction and begins to rewire the brain to have more affinity towards the new experiences it is taking in.
- Lastly, employ the power of repetition. As shown earlier, repeated behaviors create structural changes in the brain. Just as those behaviors can be negative, resulting in addiction and other disorders, they can also be changed into a positive by repetitious thinking and actions. Cusick notes that as an athelete develops muscle memory, so does repetition lock behaviors in the brain.
Think on These Things
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. – Philippians 4:8
As individuals focus on changing the purity of thinking this year, here are some additional ways to stay inspired and keep the momentum going:
- Engage in positive self-talk. Positive and encouraging messages to one’s self lead to a greater success in changing the direction of thinking and breaking habits and addictions.
- Practice daily gratitude. Psychologists show that consistently practicing this helps to reframe the nature of our thinking. On difficult days, take time out to think of the things that you are most thankful for. Focus on what you have, not on what you don’t have. Embrace challenges as opportunities to grow. Taking a few moments to do this shifts one’s ‘state’ to a better place.
- Be an example to others. The change in your thinking will start to become outwardly evident and may even start a change in someone else.
- Be accountable. Have someone help to keep you on track with your thoughts and actions. Practice daily or weekly check-ins to discuss your progress.
- Pray and meditate. The quiet time spent will help to consistently re-focus and re-affirm your goals.
- Exercise. Not just good for us physically, exercise helps to clear the mind and relieve stress.
Want to learn more? Be on the lookout for next month’s edition of Pure Minds Online, where we’ll dig deeper in exploring tactics to avoid negative emotions, bad habits, and working through addictive behaviors.