21 Apr The Gratitude Protocol: How to Disrupt Anxiety
You have the power to train your brain!
I’m going to give you an exercise to train your brain to focus where you want it to focus. Especially during times of unpredictability, our brains normally begin to focus upon danger and what’s not working. It’s called the Negativity Bias. There’s been a lot of research on this phenomenon, and many attribute this bias to the fact that our brains haven’t changed much in about 100,000 years. The theory is that those of us who survived and evolved had a brain that would look for danger first. So naturally, at this point in time, many of us may experience being flooded with anxiety as we are drawn to read new accounts of the spread of a deadly disease. The point is: where do you want your brain to focus? Wouldn’t you want it to listen to you when you direct it to go from anxiety to a steady state of calm? One of the brain structures, the amygdala, has a central role in anxiety responses to stressful situations. According to research, it is possible to train the brain to disrupt this anxiety. This article will show one way that has been very effective with people all over the world. I will use the metaphor of training an animal to begin with because it provides the clearest and simplest way to look at what happens when our brain is and is not under our control. This metaphor is a good point of departure as we look at how to disrupt anxiety. Imagine you are walking down the street. On one side you see someone with their dog on a leash. The dog tugs at the leash, barking at everyone who passes by. The owner tugs back, yelling “No, stop!” in an effort to get the dog to be quiet. At the same time, on the other side of the street is someone with their dog on a leash. But here, the dog is walking calmly beside their owner, who lets them stop and sniff at occasional tree trunks. Because that’s what dogs do. However, the dog returns to the owner’s side whenever it’s called back, and the two continue down the road. In which scenario are both the dog and master happiest? It’s obvious: the second one. Even though the dog isn’t given total freedom to run around wherever it wants, research indicates that this well-trained dog is, in fact, enjoying the walk more than the one in the first example. It is taking cues from the master about where to focus. It is experiencing certainty. In certain respects the dog considers the master to be the “alpha,” in other words, the dominant one in the relationship.
Why training your brain works
In order to begin this brain-training procedure, here are a few ideas you need to consider in order for this to work for you:
- First, you are not your brain. You have two eyes, a nose, a mouth, and a brain. You are that who has the ability to observe what your brain is thinking and the power to direct it where you want it to focus.
- Second, although your brain thinks brilliantly (for the most part), it is primarily an organ that serves as the centre of the nervous system. It has the capability to think brilliant thoughts, and as an organ, it is possible to train. It can be trained in a way similar to the way other animals are trained, a fact that lies at the heart of both scientific and spiritual research.
- Third, in order to train your brain, you must convince it that you are the master so that it will take cues from you about where to focus. This isn’t much different from teaching a dog that you are the alpha.
If you’re willing to entertain the above, then you’ll find what comes next to be as amazing as it is simple. You are going to teach your brain to deliberately think about something that makes you feel anxious, and then purposefully focus upon something that makes you feel grateful.
In other words, you are going to show your brain that you are the boss!
And you will do it with a gentle, powerful, and compassionate training protocol. See the next article, I shared the step-by-step instructions for exactly how you can do this protocol each day. I’ll give you a hint: it starts with gratitude. Wishing you all my best,