Have you ever experienced your day and your mood getting ambushed by circumstances outside your control?
But first, let me set the stage.
I’ve been watching a fly go crazy against my screen window for the last five minutes. If it would merely fly around the corner, there’s an open door without a screen leading to freedom.
Instead, it continues the same strategy, flying circles and buzzing against the screen without success.
I can’t help but wonder if you and I are like that fly with our chance of emotional freedom just around the next corner and out of sight?
If only we would relax and look around, might we find a new route leading towards everything we want in life?
The reason we don’t is that we’ve literally blinded ourselves to seeing anything new. We hang out in our old habitual thought patterns unable to see outside this box we call our life and continue to run the same circuits of the brain keeping us stuck in stressful and reactive beliefs.
When we’re stuck in our old familiar ways of thinking, it’s impossible to consider something new or change emotionally.
It’s impossible to feel happy when we’re stuck in an emotional rut.
I recently did some international travel and what I discovered surprised me. It wasn’t so much the break from work that relieved my stress and gave me feelings of happiness, it was the constant sight of something new right in front of me.
New people, new food, new routes to walk, and the complete break from everything I’ve grown accustomed to in life.
Science has proven that when we are stimulated by the sight of something new, an area of the brain called the left pre-frontal cortex pulls our attention from the limbic system. The limbic system is the seat of our emotions. It’s where we hang out when we’re stressed, on auto-pilot, or in a fight or flight reaction mode. (This is where we exist when we’re crabby, feeling insecure, stuck in hopeless thoughts, bad habits, or negative thinking).
The only way out of this stressful area of the brain where our habits and stressful patterns reside is to stimulate the left pre-frontal cortex. We do this by experiencing something new.
Before you roll your eyes and think: but I’ve got no time for a vacation, stay with me here as I share up 3 easy and inexpensive ways to pull yourself out of your self-defeating thought patterns and create some fertile space for happiness.
1. Brush your teeth with your non-dominate hand.
When we do this, we’ve immediately got the attention of our pre-frontal cortex because we’re doing something outside our normal routine. The minute our brain thinks, “What’s going on here?” we have left the limbic system offline and entered into new emotional territory.
The minute our mind thinks, “Woah, this is odd,” we have the pre-frontal cortex’s attention and we’re ripe to receive a new message. Consider thinking to yourself: I no longer enjoy smoking, I am beautiful, I am healthy, I am loved, I am safe, I have enough money, I am creative, I am abundant, I am happy, etc.
2. Take a new route.
Just like being a vacation, the new sight of a different route stimulates the pre-frontal cortex and pulls us out of our reactive stressful limbic system. If there aren’t any alternative routes to work in the morning, consider frequenting a new grocery store, take a walk in a new neighborhood or try out a new gym. Even rearranging a room in your home can stimulate fresh new perspective and feelings of happiness because the limbic system is quieted by the sight of something out of the ordinary.
3. Mix up your plate.
Stuck in the same old food rut meal after meal? So is your brain. When we eat food we don’t normally eat, not only are we giving our body a new source of vitamins and minerals, we’ve piqued the interest of the pre-frontal cortex. Try it. Feed yourself and your family something new. My bet is you’ll be surprised by the thoughts that cross your mind and the conversation you experience with your family as you see, smell, prepare, and eat something new.
There’s an old saying: What you see is what you get.
When we see and experience the same old day after day, we reside in the limbic system of the brain stuck in old patterns and thoughts. We literally go on auto-pilot, going through the motions of our life. When we can activate and get the attention of our pre-frontal cortex by experiencing something new, we can literally create a new story and a new life experience, not to mention, a new mood, like happiness!)
Life is too short and way too long to stay stuck. I hope you’ll free yourself by mixing things up.