Retrain Your Brain

By Pamela L Tippit, LPC-S


A big part of a client's journey in the therapeutic process is learning how to retrain themselves. Often, clients come in with habits that do not serve them, or the purpose of those habits are the results of many possible issues from trauma, to family of origin environment, to situational. A large part of the therapeutic relationship hinges on whether a person can successfully retrain themselves into new ways of thinking, being, and doing all while sustaining these new habits. Although this may sound easy, we all know it is anything but.


When I am talking about the concept of retraining with clients, I will use the analogy of going to the gym. We all know how the gym works. You go to move your body to create a healthier, stronger, functional being. Most of us are also aware that with exercise, you cannot just do it a time or two and achieve lasting, long-term effects and results. We must find a way to incorporate consistent, sustainable movement and exercise into our daily lives to maintain a healthy body. The same can be said for mental health and therapy.


In May's blog I talked about how mental health treatment and therapy comes with several long-held myths. The main one being that it works just like going to your primary care doctor's office. You go when you’re not well. The doctor prescribes you something. You take that prescription or get that surgery. You heal, then you do not come back until something else is wrong. Mental health is nothing like this.


It helps to think of going to therapy much like we think about the gym. A few of the main reasons someone might go to the gym is to possibly get professional guidance from a trainer or a planned, structured workout from a group fitness class. Going to the gym puts us in an environment where we are surrounded by other like-minded people possibly on similar missions as our own. Another reason we go to the gym is because, unlike just working out at home, the gym forces us to carve out individualized self-care time. You may be able to recreate this intentional self-care doing a home workout, and if so great and two BIG thumbs up to you! But the main reason why the gym exists is because being in that environment, stepping outside of our comfort zone, allows us to be intentional with our time, energy, and effort. Just these few factors can help us retrain our bodies and help us create healthy habits.


With this in mind, I read an article on INC by. Marcel Schwantes, INC. contributing editor and founder of Leadership From the Core, about behaviors that separate dreamers from doers.


I quickly realized that the top 3 habits that indicate success are the same habits that give us the ability to retrain our brains and improve mental health! The article shared a quote from Warren Buffet that states “the chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken." I do not know much about Warren Buffet, aside from the fact that he is one of the wealthiest people alive. But what I can say is that this quote really stood out to me.


Too often we leave our life on autopilot, doing things out of familiarity and habit, whether they serve us or not. As I read, I realized that being more intentional with the following behaviors can create change needed to not only retrain the brain, but can make a huge difference in your personal growth, fulfillment, success, mood, relationships etc.!!


Wondering what those 3 top habits are? When you read them, you will see that each skill is very doable and very much within all our reach!


1. Begin your day unplugged. You are probably saying… I know! I know! I have heard this before! But hearing it, knowing it, and doing it are very different things. If you are one of the people that wakes by instantly grabbing your phone and checking the notifications, I want you to stop and think. If this is how each day starts for you, do you really have time to be intentional with your behavior? Do you take the time to ask yourself the question “what’s called for today?” Do you take the time to check in with yourself and see how you’re feeling and what the best moves are for the day? Just doing these things instead of jumping right into the onslaught of media is just a little tweak that all of our mental health can use that could help each of us run at a more optimal level and allow us to hold space for the creativity, growth, and change that we often think is unobtainable because we are too caught up being sponges for media consumption. Starting the day with intent for yourself is the best form of self-care anyone could ever practice.


2. Learn from others. We have possibly heard the saying “birds of a feather flock together.” Well according to the research, there is a lot of truth to this saying. No one does anything alone. There is always support, guidance, advice, motivation, energy etc. that we gain from those in our lives. And according to some of the most successful people, surrounding yourself with people who are successful at whatever they choose to do in life can benefit us just by being in proximity to that type of energy. According to Mr. Buffet, "you will move in the direction of the people that you associate with. So, it's important to associate with people that are better than yourself." “As the famous saying goes, we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. Make sure to associate with those further along the path who can potentially help you learn new things, grow, and advance your career and life.


3. Make time for yourself!!! Who would have thought! Self-care is one of the top 3 habits of successful people! So, just as important to surround yourself with the right people (see #2), it is also important to prioritize time with the most important person, which is yourself. “Research suggests that blocking off time away from other people gives you space to focus on deeper thought, rather than just reacting to immediate issues. If one of your immediate issues happens to be finding time for yourself, try delegating less important and more time-consuming tasks to others.” Learning to accept that we can not do it all and that we must let go of some things in order to have more health, wealth, peace etc. is a mantra that we can all hold on to help us retrain our brains.



References:

Schwantes, Marcel. INC. Warren Buffett Says there is 1 Key Choice In Life That Separates the Dreamers From the Doers. @marcelschwantes


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