My favorite commercial on TV starts off with a man weighing himself at the gym. He gets off the scale, does a lap around the weight machines and rushes back to the scale. He weighs himself again looking very surprised and disappointed to see that there is no apparent change. I can relate closely to this well intentioned man. I have so many examples in my life of times when I make a change for the better and then get discouraged because it didn’t work fast enough or the results weren’t dramatic enough. It’s hard to keep doing something just because research shows that it is statistically likely to help.
The Power of Repetition
Most of us have heard of the “power of positive thinking”. This is not very profound, as it is simply another example of how living beings learn through repetition. My driver’s ed teacher used to say “Seat, seatbelt, mirror” at least three times at the beginning of every lesson, and then I heard him say it another three times when we picked up the next student. I’m not sure when my brain and muscles cemented this memory, but I now do it so instinctively that I’m completely unaware of it. This is the power of repetition at work.
The Power of Patience
There are many remarkable research findings on neural plasticity. For example, stroke patients’ brains are able to rewire neuro pathways in order to regain movement. The hardest part to remember is that it takes a lot of time for our brains to change. It might be many many months for a patient to be able to wiggle one finger, and likewise it might be many many months before a positive affirmation comes to our brain before a negative one.
But it will happen. (If we keep at it)
Maybe this is obvious, but maybe it is not. We tend to listen to our brains even when they are lying to us as a result of repeated messages we have heard time and time again. These messages might come from sources such as critical caretakers, societal stereotypes or anxious thoughts. There will need to be many many (many many) repetitions of positive attributes in order to successfully re-wire our thinking, but it is possible.
Now Is a Good Time to Start
Whether you’re trying to slow down your life a bit, feel less anxious or depressed, or just want to be kinder to yourself, remember the importance of practicing patience, keeping in mind our friend who ran one lap around the gym.
Choose an attribute or two from the list below or write your own and repeat them ten times a day for ten days as a starting off point. When negative thoughts arise, repeat your affirmations to protect you from the harm of the negative messages that have been fed to you for so many years.
- I have enough; I am enough.
- I love my life, I love my (job, spouse, house…complete the sentence with what’s important to you).
- I am here. (Pause to feel your feet touching the ground as you think)
- May I be happy, may I be free.
- Wherever I am, I am home.
- I’m doing my best and that’s enough.
- Suffering is only temporary.
- Always compassion.
- I am stronger than I know.
- Life is a gift.
- Not tomorrow, now.
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