Change: To alter or modify, to do something differently.
Our lives are regularly met with the challenge of change. Sometimes we purposefully choose a change: a new hobby, hairstyle or diet. Sometimes we are forced into the change, such as redundancy or a relationship breakup. Sometimes we welcome the change and sometimes we resent it. Our brains are perfectly formed to adjust to change but they are also hardwired to reject it. We have all been through significant and unpredictable change throughout this last year with new rules and restrictions placed on us. For some this has been overwhelmingly tough, for others it has been quite manageable. Exploring why the brain dislikes change can help us to understand what we can do to adapt more easily.
Our brains are constantly analysing information from our surroundings and making a judgment as to how safe we are in that moment. When we are going about our normal, predictable daily routines our brain pattern matches our behaviours, recognising we have done this before, and switches on our autopilot. If we consider our morning routines, we likely follow a fairly set pattern. Maybe something like; wake up, have breakfast, shower, dress and leave the house. We have ingrained neural pathways for these behaviours and they have been deemed safe. The brain is happy ticking along in autopilot. Our Primitive mind always remains vigilant and scans the area for any kind of oddity or change. This part of our brain we inherited from our distant ancestors and its job is to keep us alive and safe. Imagine a caveman walking through the forest, he needs to be alert to any unusual change in his environment. A bush moving or twig snapping may indicate danger. Our primitive mind is constantly scanning for errors in our pattern matching. Keeping us safe and doing its job. When we deliberately change something in our lives, we enter the potentially dangerous world of the unknown. It is no surprise that the primitive brain protests and resists this change. After all, our primitive brain is there to keep us safe and it has no pattern match on this change, no idea if this new behaviour is safe. As we embark on our change we have to switch out of autopilot and the prefrontal cortex, our intellectual mind, has to take control. We are learning something new. Our Prefrontal Cortex is fast and agile and very capable of learning new things but uses significantly more energy than our autopilot brain mode. The change therefore requires effort and if we become distracted or fatigued, our brain will attempt to slip us back into easy old behaviour patterns. As we practise the new behaviour new neural pathways are created, with repetition habits are created. Our brains are a bit like playdoh, and we are capable of changing the structure of the brains as we learn. So how do we help this process happen?
Most importantly we need to empty our ‘stress bucket’. If we are having negative thoughts and worries, we are filling up our metaphorical stress bucket and this results in the vigilant primitive mind interpreting a threat. The primitive mind takes control, switching on our survival mode and keeping us in a high alert state. We feel anxious or stressed or low – all survival modes. Trying to learn something new while our brain is preoccupied with keeping you alive is very tricky. To empty our stress buckets we need to be engaging in mentally healthy behaviours – the 3 P’s: Positive thinking, positive activity and positive interaction and we need to be sleeping well. If you are achieving the 3 P’s you will achieve the good sleep. If prioritise the 3 P’s we can achieve a mentally fit state and can absorb and learn the necessary changes.
We also know that Hypnosis and guided meditation help to speed things up. The trance state we achieve under these conditions is a state of learning, our minds become open and receptive, and we have a heightened focus and concentration. New behaviours can be embedded, and new pathways created, facilitating the change. Did you ever get into trouble for gazing out of a window rather than listening to the teacher at school? You were likely in a daydream. A similar state to hypnosis of alpha brainwaves. Your brain was most likely consolidating the new information you had been taught.
At Old Town Hypnotherapy we use a combination of solution focused therapy and hypnosis to help our clients achieve change. The solution focused therapy part of the sessions helps the client focus their conscious mind on what exact change they wish to achieve. The hypnosis part of the sessions helps the client embed that change in the subconscious. Both elements of the session help the client empty their stress bucket. As ever, we offer free face to face or online consultations for anyone interested in hypnotherapy. We are also available to answer any queries you may have.
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