Why do we resist when making certain decisions? or why do we allow ourselves to procrastinate, pussy-foot or avoid, making positive change?
We don’t actually make decisions consciously. We might think we do, but 95% of the decision is driven by our subconscious mind. While the prefrontal cortex (cerebral cortex covering the front part of the frontal lobe of the brain) plays a role in our decision-making process, we aren’t actually rational robotic beings. Our decisions are predominantly guided by our emotions.
Here are some key reasons why we have barriers that prevent us from moving forward and making positive change.
- We believe our negative thoughts to be true. “I am not good enough”, “I am not creative”, “I can’t get out of bed, what’s the point, I have no purpose.” As human beings, we have a propensity towards the Negativity Bias.
- Each of our thoughts, whether positive or negative, hold a past emotional experience often held deep in our subconscious mind.
- It takes more effort and energy than just ‘thinking’ you want to make a positive change, to begin to take action towards making that positive change.
Creating energy to make change
There are many studies around the relationships between the heart and the brain (Martin Howard of HeartMath has some interesting discoveries around heart intelligence), and the association with emotions being held not only in the heart but other organs as well. For example, fear in the adrenals, hate in the liver.
A lot of traditions, such as Yoga and Taoism, talk about the energy centre being in the belly. In the location of your digestive system, navel centre and solar plexus. In new research released in 2017, scientists discovered a new organ they call Mesentery. This organ is a continuous set of tissues that attach to the intestines and abdominal wall and could be seen as the ‘controller’ of the abdominal organs involved in digestion, absorption and elimination.
Now it is important to remember that the human body is complex, and you can’t just isolate areas. However, for simplicity sake, I’m just focusing on areas that I feel are most key in explaining why we have barriers blocking us to make change or break habits, and their relationship with one another.
Communication Between Body & Brain
The communication between our organs and brain are via the Central Nervous System. From what I can gather, when it comes to decision-making, this communication is via our Autonomic Nervous System; which is made up of the Parasympathetic Nervous System or PNS (rest & digest), and the Sympathetic Nervous System or SNS (fight or flight).
To keep it as simple as possible, the PNS begins at the cranial nerves and the Spinal Cord (emerging from the sacrum) and uses the vagus nerve* to communicate to and from the brain, and the SNS uses the Spinal Cord emerging from the lumbar and thoracic parts of the spine.
In short, the vagus nerve runs from your brainstem, across the throat, chest and into the abdomen. So when you feel ‘butterflies in your stomach’ or tightness, when you feel a pain in the heart associated with heartbreak or an immense feeling of love, and tightness or tension in the throat, it is likely your vagus nerve is communicating with your brain based off an emotion.
Now our Mind lies to us. I mean this in the sense that we can often believe our thoughts whether they are true or not. When we do this, the body reacts. If you’ve ever had a panic attack triggered by what you consider an ‘irrational fear’, and thought “why am I reacting like this, I’m an adult, this is an irrational fear, but I cannot control my body”… which begins to ‘shut down’ in some cases. Your body is only preparing you to take action (SNS triggered) to protect you. And it is likely the emotional response is from a fear created from a past experience.
So, how do we breakdown our barriers and make a positive change?
You need to tap into your person power, and your personal power comes from the collective of the Body, Mind and Soul.
I talk about these three areas in the following ways:
The Body – the physical body, in this case I’m focusing on your energy centre, the navel centre and solar plexus; your abdominal area.
The Mind – part of the brain, the witnessing of the Self, the part of you that you train through meditation and breathwork (to control ‘prana’ aka energy, using the breath).
The Soul – your heart, the creator of emotional energy, the controller of blood pressure and hormonal influence.
To create positive change, you have to have a clear intention. A clear intention can only arise out of a balanced state of being where your emotional heart is open and ready to receive.
The Body – Finding Your Personal Power
Our energy centre, or our digestive system, is where our will power is created. It is the fire in the belly (or our digestive fire), where we turn food into energy, where we activate the physical parts of the body used to store and create energy. You can control this through physical movement, particularly with a focus on the abdominals, or through the breath (if you think about the dynamics of breathing, you’ll know our belly moves when we breathe deeply and/ or powerfully). All of this stimulates our navel centre, solar plexus (and of course, the vagus nerve – a relaxed belly in a slow breath tells the brain we are safe).
The Mind – Creating Space For Insights
Sitting and chanting a mantra, focusing on or controlling your breath or moving into a yoga pose or sequence, means you are focusing on the present moment. This takes a tremendous amount of effort, because the Mind can be turbulent. However, allowing the breath, mantra or physical feeling in the body to attract your focus, will help to slow the mind, bringing you to a place of balance. Once here, you are ready to deepen your focus.
The Soul – Opening Your Heart, Discovering Your True Intention
To begin to create an intention, you take your focus to your heart and qualities such as compassion, love, kindness and forgiveness to yourself or others. When you feel you’re in an elevated state, you write down your intention to commit to something you want to change. The key thing here is being in the elevated state, your heart is beginning to open.
Why the heart? Well, it is more intelligent than you think. According to the research by Howard Martin at the HeartMath, the heart has a more complex set of nerves than the brain and communicates more to the brain than the brain does to the heart. It does this through blood pressure and heart rate (among other things). We can control our heart rate most effectively through our breath. When we slow it down, we reach a level of coherence.
So how does this all come together?
By stimulating the energy centre through physical movements of the belly (can be with breath), finding a point of focus that works for you (mantra, breath or physical feeling) to be in the present moment, and then taking your attention to emotional qualities such as compassion, you elevate your state of being.
This removes negative thought patterns as you begin to observe them as being untrue and not a definition of you as a human being. Allowing you to have the space to create a true intention to make a change in your life that will benefit your overall wellbeing.
The issue is…
… You can’t just do it once, and think it will fix it. It requires work, a daily commitment to rewire your brain.
Remember, these unhealthy, unhelpful and/or unwanted behaviour and thought patterns have been part of you for years and years. With a habitual repetition of negative self-talk and self-limiting beliefs, or by living a life of complete routine.
If you’d like to know more about how to change a habit pattern, and breakdown your mental barriers, then have a read of my previous article ‘Changing Habits Using Mindfulness Meditation’.
*as well as the oculomotor nerve, facial nerve and glossopharyngeal nerve.
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