Train your brain! Let kindness lead the way

Posted by Karen in Personal Development | Self-compassion | Wellbeing

In July, we looked at how practising self-kindness can spare us from getting caught up in the negative emotions that we experience when we criticise and judge ourselves harshly. Self-kindness can make us more emotionally robust and mentally resilient, it can also help us to learn from our actions rather than think we have failed.

Most of us have a tendency to err towards negative thinking, our ‘negative bias’ as it’s commonly referred to, is an innate part of us all. However, if we train ourselves into a pattern of thinking more positive, kinder thoughts, over a period of time, the connections (called synapses) between brain cells in the part of the brain that process these kinder thoughts, strengthen. Each repetition of a kind thought, each small change, if repeated enough, leads to changes in how our brain works.

The changeability of the brain is known as neuroplasticity; it is one of the most exciting discoveries in neuroscience this century.

In much the same way as training our bodies for a physical endeavour, we can train our brains and the pathways we use most frequently, become stronger, and those we don’t use, fade away. This is physical basis of why making a thought or action over and over again increases its strength. Over time, it becomes automatic; a part of us. I love the analogy of an indirect path in the park, which over time, as it’s used more often, becomes more defined and direct.

Change for good

So, when we change in any way, we change our brain. And if we bring more kindness into our life – by repeatedly practicing bringing a kind, respectful, friendly attitude to ourselves and others, then we will bring about chemical and structural changes to our brain that will help to establish kindness circuits. That way we can wire our brain for more kindness. And that in turn increases the amount of positive emotion in our day-to-day experience which can help us better deal and move through difficult and rough periods in our life (mental and emotional resilience).

Here are some tips on how to practice kindness:

If you’re prone to thoughts like ‘It’s in my genes, there’s nothing I can do about it’, or ‘That’s just my personality’, recognise these thoughts and try to commit to regular kindness practice – remember, you wouldn’t expect to be able to play the saxophone without regular, committed practice or run 10K without training.

We can all change.

Let’s work to replace judgement with understanding, suspicion with trust, hostility with empathy, complaints with gratitude….

  • Practising kindness to yourself for 10 minutes or more daily – see my resource sheet on how to do this
  • Do 1-3 kind deeds for others and yourself daily – we already do kind deeds but here we are making the kind actions more intentional, conscious and regular rather than keeping them random. For example, sending a friend or loved one a message saying you are thinking of them, giving someone a compliment, carrying someone’s bag, offering our seat to someone, smiling at people on the train, tube, bus, giving time to someone, buying ourselves a bunch of flowers or a massage, taking regular breaks, slowing down…
There are some great ideas on this older Action for Happiness calendar.
  • Remember the good qualities of someone you find difficult as well as your own in moments when you don’t like yourself or want to judge yourself harshly. Negative or unhelpful thoughts, i.e. unhelpful to our well-being and happiness, can be replaced by positive ones; harshness with kindness, judgement with understanding and friendliness, suspicion with trust, hostility with empathy and complaints with gratitude…The bottom line is that we are all human beings; we all want to do well and be liked.

As always let me know, how you are getting on. And if you need a little help with becoming your own best friend, why not book a free initial coaching discovery session?

This month, I am offering 20% off on all coaching programmes booked between 15 -30 September.

With warm wishes, Karen

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