How to Change Your Brain Without Meditating
Research is proving that meditation can alter your brain, but are there easier ways of accomplishing the same?
Why yes, there are. And I'm living proof.
If you followed my stories through the years, you know I became a master of thought technology because of a crippling mental health crisis. It felt like my brain just ceased to function. I could no longer process information correctly, and disappointing outcomes were all I could imagine.
This lead to a couple of mental illness diagnosis and complete financial and career ruin. It was devastating for my family, and many of them withdrew from my chaos. Eventually, I attempted suicide several times.
But alas, I failed. And I realized no one was going to fix my brain but me.
So I began my journey of understanding how thoughts affect everything, and I learned how to change them.
Not far into my recovery, I testified before Members of Congress on what it felt like to have a brain that didn't work. Accompanying me on stage was an expert on neuroscience, Dr. Robert Friedel. His speech featured slides of neuro-imaging and this was my first introduction to the topic of neuroplasticity; the brain's ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections.
After a lengthy conversation with him and many hours of research, I came to realize that we can, indeed, change our brains.
This was good news for me, since receiving a diagnosis of "mental illness" felt terrifyingly permanent. But what I came to understand is that many mental illnesses, and even trauma to the brain, can be "cured" by brain rewiring exercises.
I set out to learn practices to retrain my brain and soon began coaching others to do the same. And though my claim to fame is that I am now a master-level meditator, most of my clients will not try meditation.
Ahhhh, but there are so many other ways to retrain your brain other than meditation.
I list eleven of them below.
When choosing an exercise, the principal thing to remember is that it will make your brain stronger when what you are thinking will make you feel better, not worse. That's also your gauge to see how close you are to good mental health. Another question to ask yourself is "do my thoughts create behaviors that make my life better?"
In my coaching practice, because I know my clients so well, I can suggest practices that meet them right where they are. I can give them exercises that have the biggest bang for the buck, and improve their life (and brain) the quickest.
I can't promise you a full-on coaching session, but if you email or message me with a question on which practices are best for you, I will respond.
But what I know I can do for you right here, right now, is offer you a list of things you can do to start rewiring your brain each day, without meditating. All of them have been empirically proven to help reconfigurate the brain. Here is the caveat to all of these: some will feel good to you, some won't; so be your own guide on which ones to chose:
1. Focus on feeling compassion for someone, or a group of individuals.
A key benefit of meditation is connecting to the greater good. Abraham Maslow is famous for his "hierachy of needs", with the pinnacle of the human experience being self-actualization. But he later amended his work to say that our chief goal is self-transcendence; giving to some higher goal outside oneself, in altruism and spirituality.
I can tell you from my experience, that achieving this state is not only the best feeling place, but also the attainment of the highest cognitive capabilities.
2. Look for opportunities to serve.
Doing this will accomplish the same as in point number one.
3. When you are feeling lost in minutia, back up and look at the bigger picture.
If "the devil is in the detail," as the adage states, then God is in the big picture. When you feel angst, go way more general when considering solutions. Answers become clearer up where you can breathe.
4. Find a better feeling thought.
As the founder of rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT) Albert Ellis said, "stubbornly refuse to make yourself miserable" by changing bad feeling thoughts. This is everything, trust me.
5. Remember that all things work out for you. Always.
My southern momma always told me, "Tambralyn (my given name), this too shall pass" when I was upset about something. The benefit of my experience has shown her wisdom to be true. If you want more on why this is true, see how problems always greater a brighter future here.
6. Be mindful of simple abundance: the air you breathe, electricity, food.
This little exercise always re-grounds me into the abundance I have surrounding me. If all these things are provided to you without you even asking, isn't there so much more available just waiting to assist?
7. Hocus pocus refocus.
This little beauty is my small children's favorite because it is so easy to understand. When they are fretting, I will mimic the expression on their face, then wave my magic hand in front of my face, say "hocus pocus refocus" and reveal a happy smile. This little act makes them remember that they can change their mind, and their mood, instantly.
8. Look for signs and symbols that the Universe/God is taking care of you.
Mine include heads-up pennies (from my dad who is now in heaven), clouds shaped like hearts, little leaves that look like they have happy faces on them. Love comes to you all day in all ways. Look for it.
9. Play a song that makes you feel better.
Note: a song that makes you feel better. Not a song that meets you where you are, but makes you happier than you were before. The key here is to find a song that makes you feel just a little relief and then work your way up to songs that make you feel better and better.
10. Visualize the good that may come from the situation.
Not only will this make you feel better, but it will also open up your brain to new solutions that you couldn't see before. The result will be actions that will lead to a more preferred outcome.
11. Daydream. It’s bliss.
We create our reality with our minds. Open up your imagination and see infinite possibilities of how you can manifest anything your heart desires!
How I use these under stress:
If a very stressful event is happening in my life, I take many, many moments throughout the day to use these practices. It seems counter-intuitive to stop taking action when you have a lot to do, but you want to access the highest wisdom and to achieve as much as possible. When you take the time to center yourself like this, you will have peace that you're always on the right path and you will be the most effective with your time.
Oh, and if you decide you'll like to try meditation, the mother of all practices, see my post here.