ZEN TIP TUESDAY #2
I’m excited to present to you the 2nd contribution to Zen Tip Tuesday which comes from a fellow Brisbanite – Lee Lee. Lee writes on a topic of great interest to me and I hope that you’ll find it interesting too. Neuroplasticity first became known to me when I took part in Mindful in May in May 2018. Specifically I learnt of it from an interview with Michael Merzenich (the pioneer of neuroplasticity) on Day 10, Week 2. You can learn more about Lee and how to connect with him at his bio at the end of this post. Thank you Lee for sharing your story with us!
Doing visualisations to promote wellbeing is nothing new, but with a few little tweaks they can become something quite extraordinary. They are easy to do and can be done anywhere you like. All you need is some time and motivation.
Early in 2018 I found myself in a bit of a slump. A long period of less than desirable health lead me to disconnect with friends and family and had me stuck in a hole that I didn’t know how to climb out of. I was suffering with anxiety and what I would call a constant negative chatter going on in my head. I didn’t feel ready to jump on the treadmill of doctors and psychologists and so I started looking around for something I could do for myself.
By sheer chance one day I wound up watching a YouTube video about ‘Neuroplasticity’. It had nothing to do with me (or so I thought) but I found it all fascinating.
“Every time we think in a certain way, practice a particular task, or feel a specific emotion, we strengthen this road. It becomes easier for our brains to travel this pathway. Say we think about something differently, learn a new task or choose a different emotion; we start carving out a new road. If we keep travelling that road our brains begin to use this pathway more”.
I heard the women on the video recite those words and a light bulb lit up in my head. She was saying that by repeatedly feeling a specific emotion we strengthen the associated pathway in the brain. So by repeatedly feeling happy, happiness would become the default emotion. You can watch that YouTube video here:
This concept of neuroplasticity made so much sense to me that I instinctively knew I had found something of great value. I just needed to work out how to implement it. I knew it needed to be done in a structured and disciplined manner because the key to success would be repetition.
I began to compile a list of ways to induce a state of happiness – watching sitcoms on TV – listening to music – going on holiday – being with friends. Good ideas but they were all a little difficult, you can’t just meet up with friends everyday or be on holiday everyday, and TV and music require you to be in a specific place and time etc. But what occurred to me was that thinking about previous holidays and times I had spent with friends also made me feel really happy.
I felt truly amazing!
I set about making my plan of action. I wrote a list of positive memories. Things I had done, places I had been and people I had loved. I committed to spend an hour every day thinking about these memories. I would find a quiet space, sit and close my eyes and just start remembering. It was extraordinary! After the first hour I felt really revitalized and I was eager for more. Over the following week I kept up the practice and each time I felt truly amazing afterwards.
It didn’t take long for me to get through the list of memories I had written, and so I started using the memories several times over. To my surprise this was even better. Each time I revisited a memory I remembered more detail and pretty soon I actually felt like I was right there in the moment again. I had all the fine detail, the way the light reflected off the buttons on a friend’s shirt, the sound of the waves breaking on the shoreline, the taste of that ice-cream sunday, or the smell of the onions cooking on the BBQ. With all those details also came the genuine feelings of love and happiness.
The more I worked at it the more memories that came. I started to remember many beautiful things from my childhood that had long been forgotten, and all in great detail. Old pathways in my brain started to open up and brought a huge flood of incredible memories.
Within weeks my anxiety and negative thoughts were a thing of the past. It was easy to continue my practice because it made me feel so good. It was a pleasure to do and it became the favourite part of my day.
I continued to experiment and expand upon what I was doing by incorporating imagined scenarios. I imagined myself visiting new places and being with new people, or even meeting up with important people from my past again. This worked just as well and I now do half an hour of memories and half an hour of imagined scenarios.
It’s 8 months since I started my practice and I can honestly say I feel more love and happiness than I have ever experienced in my life. The consistency and repetition is the key. I practice every day without fail. It’s the best thing I have ever done for myself and I would encourage others to give it a go.
Lee Lee – Brisbane, Australia.
A middle-aged man who has lived life like it’s a roller coaster. Now enjoying quiet times and finding joy in the smallest of things. Music and art are ongoing passions. Excited by the uncertainty of the future.