You’ve probably heard about the human brain being compared to a computer—they’re both complex machines that run on electricity.
Is this a good analogy? Yes and no.
Your brain does indeed run on electricity. It processes information, stores memories, and carries out commands, similar to your phone or laptop. But that’s where the similarities end.
Here’s the deal: a computer operates on hardware, designed and built by an engineer for a pre-determined set of functions. It’s made of chips and wires that are set in place.
Our brains, though, are living and dynamic. The hardware—the tissue and neurons—can be rearranged. In fact, new wires can be created. This is true for anyone, in any phase of life, no matter your age. The key to understanding and harnessing this power is knowing how to master your mindset.
What is Mindset?
Your mindset is a collection of thought patterns and beliefs that shape your view of reality. It’s a story that you tell yourself about your identity and about the world around you.
Here’s how it develops.
When we are born, we come into this world with a “virgin” mind. It is absolutely clear of thoughts. As babies, we do not think in words. We experience new to us stimuli, feel emotions associated with them, and express the way we feel in a non-verbal way: we cry, we smile, we laugh. As babies, the mental processing of emotions and life around us does not exist – we go from experience directly to our honest reaction.
As we grow up, we learn to verbalize our feelings and reactions by imitating those around us. We observe adults around us, what they say when they feel different emotions, how they explain the world to us and soak it up as a sponge. The thoughts are being “put into” our heads. As we grow up more, we learn the concept of self, as separate from those around us, and start distinguishing between our feelings and thoughts and those of people around, yet still very much influenced by our surroundings. We soak up thoughts and concepts from our parents, family, school, friends, TV, internet.
Whether our families talk about values explicitly or not, we learn things about life just by watching and relating to them. If our parents work hard, make a lot of money, and value success, then chances are, we also hold the belief that monetary success is important to life. It’s a part of us. If our parents don’t talk about emotions, practice healthy conflict, or worse, punish and hurt us when we express our emotions – we learn that we need to keep everything bottled up inside and that it’s not safe to let it out.
The more we think the same thoughts over and over, the more ingrained they become into our mindset. These thoughts literally form pathways in our brains by connecting neurons over and over again. It’s like a well-worn path through a field. If you walk the same path over and over, you’ll wear down the grass in that particular path. The same thing happens in our brains as we reinforce certain neural pathways through repeated thoughts.
Mindset and Mental Health
So, what does all of this have to do with mental health?
Your mindset works as a foundation for your experiences in this world. The same events can happen to different people, and everyone will react differently – based on the mindset they hold.
You have full power over your mindset and the thoughts you think in response to your life. The only questions remain:
- Does your mindset support you and your spirit or does it depress you?
- Does your mindset empower or disempower you?
- Does it create anxiety?
- Does your mindset help you learn from your experiences or does it convince you that “you are not enough and that is why…”?
The exciting thing about the mindset is that it can be changed. You can challenge and replace your underlying assumptions about life. You don’t have to stay stuck where you are now.
In fact, the simple act of learning about your mindset can alleviate depression and anxiety. One study showed that after a single 30-minute session on growth personality mindset, teenagers with depression and anxiety showed higher levels of internal control and a better ability to cope with stress. They learned that they are not a victim to their circumstances.
When you take responsibility for your life, you can recover from trauma and stress and move past it. When you understand your mindset and challenge your thoughts, you liberate yourself from being controlled by what you think. You realize that your thoughts are just thoughts: they don’t determine what is, you do.
In our blogs to follow, we will teach you exactly how to change your mindset, how it all works on the neurobiological level, how to determine whether thoughts serve you or hurt you, and how to simply re-frame your experiences to process emotion and move on. Additionally, in January, we will host a free community workshop on Mindset for mental health, where our CCO and a psychiatrist, Brent Lawliss, MD will teach you about the power of your mind and leveraging it to heal depression, anxiety, PTSD, and create health and mental strength to serve you for a lifetime. Keep an eye on the details here.
We hope this blog was helpful, and we are excited to hear about your experiences in the comments.
And for now, until next time.