Eating right, visiting the gym religiously, triumphing over the mid-afternoon sugar (or Venti fat+sugar+caffeine) attack, quitting smoking, saving money...wouldn't it be nice to make 2010 the year when your resolutions actually stick? "The fact that people make New Year's Resolutions in the first place—whether they're about fitness or kicking addictions or getting out of debt—shows that many, many of us are dissatisfied with our lives," notes Patt Lind-Kyle, author of Heal Your Mind, Rewire Your Brain: Applying the Exciting New Science of Brain Synchrony for Creativity, Peace and Presence (Energy Psychology Press, 2009) and whose voice appears on the book's companion CDs.
But before you sign up for a new gym membership, buy any new gadgets, or join a support group, you need to put the odds of success in your favor by focusing on the right problem. "The key to changing your life is to consciously rewire your brain." In other words, to achieve physical (or financial) fitness, you first need to develop mental fitness. "That applies to getting fit or quitting smoking or strengthening your marriage, or whatever," continues Lind-Kyle. "You can change your life in any way you want to change it. But first you have to understand what's at the root of your problems: your mind and the way it directs your brain to function—basically, where you place your attention."
According to Lind-Kyle, the main reason why resolutions so often fail is that the lifestyle habits that brought you to your current level of pudginess have carved neural pathways in your brain that can't be changed by sheer willpower; as they pointed out in "What the Bleep Do We Know": what fires together wires together. Instead of looking at your body's behavior as something bad that needs banishing, realize that it might actually be telling you something: that you're depressed, bored with your job or relationship, or perhaps trapped in the past. It could be your fitness failings are actually symptoms, and you've made your poor squishy thighs the undeserving scapegoat for your general unhappiness.
Fortunately, new breakthroughs in science have shown the brain to be a highly flexible organ, and constantly in flux, responding to the events in our lives by continuously rewiring itself. You can actually change the brain's size, how it functions, and how the neurons in the different parts of the brain connect - dubbed "neuroplasticity" - by consciously training your mind. "Over the years I have come to realize what immense power mind training has. Our minds can essentially be trapped by the ways in which they function, which can put us into frantic and depressed conditions. Mind training helps us focus our attention, quiets a scattered mind, and brings flexibility and clarity that enable us to see other options."
Why Mind Training Works The words "brain" and "mind" are often used interchangeably, but in reality, the mind is the CEO of the brain, telling it what to do; the brain simply acts on orders. For example, if you're reading a book, the mind tells the brain to turn the page, and the brain responds by sending messages through the nervous system to your arm and hand, enabling you to complete the action. While the mind has no specific location, the brain itself is a physical organ, akin to "a three-pound tofu-like" mass atop the spinal cord. Each part of the brain is characterized by a specific brainwave, which, for many of us, is where the root of the problem lies: one wave dominates the others, causing dysfunctional attitudes and behaviors. By learning to focus on each type of brainwave separately, you can eventually retrain them to work in harmony, integrating the brain-mind and producing a feeling of peace and awareness. Opening the brain to synchrony is when the "magic" happens because you can consciously begin to change the way you do things. "Of course, the mind can (and does!) lead us astray," Lind-Kyle acknowledges, "but it also has the ability to reform itself when it achieves synchrony."
A key part of mind training is meditation, which activates the brain's circuitry and actually helps the brain to grow. (Studies back this up, showing that the more someone meditates, the thicker their brain matter becomes.) Meditating also makes it easier to control emotions and respond to stress and crises with greater ease - poise, even. "Meditation is a scientifically proven method of training the mind, and thereby of changing aspects of your life," asserts Lind-Kyle. "Meditation can train the mind to reduce health problems and stress, and it can also increase your potential and success in life by enabling you to attain synchrony. Essentially, it will allow you to reprogram and evolve your brain to a higher state of consciousness and function. Quite simply, meditation is one of the most valuable tools available to people—if only they would use it."To train & awaken the mind, Lind-Kyle relies on four tools:
1. INTENTION Quite simply, the brain thrives on direction and purpose. When you give yourself intentional directions, you give each level of your brain a specific focus to explore how that particular "frequency" functions. For example, you might set your intention on having emotional awareness. Think of intention as being about "what."
2. ATTENTION This is where you are focusing. When teamed with intention, it enables you to establish a field of awareness and sustain your mind in a single-focused manner. Since concentration can bring balance and stability, attention is essential to reducing stress. Attention is about "where."
3. RECEPTIVITY The mind is adept at blocking out what it does not wish to acknowledge...which is what got you in this mess. Learning instead to embrace what is on your mind will sensitize you to what is happening in each moment; instead of reacting automatically, your responses will become more flexible. Receptivity is about "when."
4. AWARENESS Distinguishing between what you think is happening vs. what is actually happening is easier said than done. True awareness comes from being attentive and not getting lost in the randomness of your thoughts. Being truly aware means you are open to meaning, purpose, hope, and better able to penetrate that "me-me-me" veil that can fog your mind. Awareness is about "how."
"The mind-brain is facile, flexible, and plastic," says Lind-Kyle. "With training, it is possible to reprogram what blocks the mind's Flow and move quite rapidly from a less evolved state of mind to a higher state of synchrony, one that better serves us and the life around us." When you achieve your New Year's Resolutions through rewiring your brain, you are also doing a good deed for your fellow man by contributing to the collective evolution of the human species. "You're helping manifest in our behavior a state of kindness, love and caring for our planet. Not a bad return for a small investment of your time and energy!"
And to think, you just wanted to look better in your favorite jeans!
Heal Your Mind, Rewire Your Brain: Applying the Exciting New Science of Brain Synchrony for Creativity, Peace and Presence gets the best results when used with the companion CDs. Check out a free mp3 of one exercise at HealRewireYourBrain.com/CDs.