power of the brain : think fit, be fit.

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[leave yourself no choice but to run the stairs, and you will]

You may have heard someone in passing casually say something along the lines of “fake it to make it!” and thought to yourself, unconvinced, “yeah, right…like I can just wish myself skinny”. Well, while your initial apprehension does hold some weight, it would be wise to relinquish some of this skepticism and cynicism in light of some optimism and faith. The reason for this is simple : while it may not be as effortless as wishing on a shooting star that you will one day, without hard work and persistence, wake up to a slim and toned new you, it is as simple as constantly reinforcing these types of thoughts.

Reinforce “skinny” thoughts, reinforce “skinny” behavior.

Through neurological research, the wiring of the brain has come to be understood as rather plastic, or in other words, rather moldable, particularly by the owner of that large and odd-looking thing inside our skulls (yes, you guessed it, I am referring the brain. Man, yours must be big!) Thus, lucky for you, the age-old term “wishful thinking” does hold some significance. To put it simply for those of you who are not as interested in this “brain” thing to which I keep referring, the more and more we think something, the more connections are made in the brain to that thought, strengthening that thought, making it more and more permanent.

If you think of a thought as a bridge from an idea to a behavior, the more we think this particular thought, the more supportive columns we build underneath that bridge, building a sturdier and more reliable bridge. Thus, this bridge from idea to behavior is less likely to crumble underneath us, and is much more likely to offer us a solid grounding upon which to step toward our goal.

Furthermore, we can feed this thought some “brain candy”, such as by undertaking an action which supports that thought, thus releasing “happy hormones”, or dopamine, as the part of our brain responsible for logical decisions is rewarded by following through with a logical thought. And this can be quite small scale – if you tell yourself you want to lose one pound a week by eating vegetables every night, and then Monday night you go right ahead and eat some vegetables, you just fed your brain some brain candy! Congratulations! And each subsequent night you do this, you will be rewarded with more brain candy (yum!) which will inevitably make the continuation of this oh-so-healthy veggie behavior much more likely.

Thoughts in Action

Let us put this into perspective to illustrate a less brain-boggling picture of what I am trying to convey. Lets take fictitious “Katie” and say that she is quite overweight. Fictitious Katie has had negative experiences with exercise. And weight loss. And diet. And nutrition. Fictitious Katie is on the cusp of giving up altogether, abandoning any possibility of her ever looking as thin and toned as she wishes. She can take one of two roads :: negativity or positivity.

If Fictitious Katie continues along this self-deprecating path of hopelessness, she will literally convince her brain, by continuing to think of herself as lacking any ability to lose weight, that she cannot achieve her goal. When she does a behavior that matches this thought, her brain will even register this as making sense, further rewarding that negative thought.

[Important interruption to the Story:: In fact, negative, stressful thoughts trigger the part of your brain that deals with stress, and this actually shuts down the part of your brain that deals with logical thinking. So, think negatively, and you will literally dumb down your brain enough to actually disregard any rational, positive thought that may float into your brain. Think of negativity as dirt that literally clouds the lenses through which you view life. Negativity equates to a pair of dirty, scratched up sunglasses and a disappointing sunset whilst positivity equates to a spotlessly clean pair of sunglasses and a beautifully vivid sunset. All in all, negativity breeds more negativity and less rationality.]

The story continues… However, Fictitious Katie could instead bump into a personal trainer who skillfully and strategically gets Katie to see that the hard work ethic she utilizes in other areas of her life can be utilized in the weight loss area of her life if she is given the right tools. The personal trainer enables Fictitious Katie to think for herself, for the first time, that perhaps she is capable of accomplishing small, realistic goals that will culminate in weight loss. When Fictitious Katie finally is able to send a thought to her brain that indeed she does hold the power to losing the weight she wishes to lose, the bridge to her goal behaviors begins to be built. Slowly, as the personal trainer, and Fictitious Katie, work diligently together to create positive thoughts regarding Katie’s confidence in her health and fitness habits, the bridge to weight loss within her brain grows stronger and stronger. Each time Ficitious Katie eats more vegetables, fits some cardio training into her workday, and goes to a session with her trainer, her brain feeds her brain candy, rewarding the behaviors which matched her positive thoughts. Thus, the bridge between thought and action becomes sturdier and sturdier. And it becomes increasingly difficult for Fictitious Katie to convince herself she can’t accomplish her goals, as she keeps thinking that she can, and keeps acting in a way that supports that thought. Eventually Katie’s (fine, we can finally leave off the “fictitious” adjective, as I am getting rather fed up with typing it solely for fun) brain has become hard-wired, literally, to believe, and know, that she can, and will, successfully achieve her goal of weight loss.

Moral of the Story?

Do not downplay the power of your brain and your thoughts. While it may seem ingenuine at first, get in the habit of saying things, out loud, which describe the way you want yourself or your life to be. “I will lose ten pounds in five months”. “I will fit into my old jeans again in 2 months.” “I will gain enough muscle to fill out that t-shirt in the back of the closet.” Etc. Your brain will recognize this as a logical thought. And when a behavior matches that logical thought, you will receive brain candy, and more brain candy, and soon enough, the bridge to ten pounds lost, wearing old skinny jeans, or a tightly fitting shirt will be that much more reliable, and that much more real.

Thought for Thought: (why do they say food for thought, after all?)

If you keep thinking you can’t, you won’t.
If you keep thinking you can, you will.

Think positive for positive results.
Think negative for negative results.

Think what you want, believe you want, get what you want.

20130204-215038.jpg[envision yourself at the top, you will get to the top]

source: PTAGlobal Personal Trainer Bridging Certification Course – Behavior Change

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