Neuroscientists over the last few years have come out with amazing research showing us that we actually have the capacity to rewire our brains. They are showing us that what we focus our attention on and how we focus it has significant impact on how our brains work. In other words, whatever we focus our attention on is reinforced in the wiring of the brain. They call this Neuroplasticity and it’s changing the way we view the power we have with our own mental health.

We are coming to understand that have the ability to make a choice to shift our attention onto things that support our happiness and well-being. Well, you might say “easier said than done, I don’t feel like I have a choice with my intrusive thoughts or my pain, it just arrives and takes hold of me.” This is very true. However, you do have a choice in how you relate to the thoughts , emotions, and pain. Most of us are simply don’t have the tools that can help us relate differently.

Acclaimed author and Psychiatrist Victor Frankl, M.D. said, “Between a  stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom”.

Most of us are simply unaware of that space in between the moment we become triggered and the moment we react. The problem is when we get triggered or something becomes distressing, we immediately try and “fix it”. Our mind goes into a state of urgency adding stress onto our current lot of distress. In other words, just compounding it.

We can learn how to pay attention differently to our distress. Instead of trying to fix things we might just acknowledge the discomfort and bring attention to the breath and attempt to “be” with it instead of trying to “do” something about it. It’s in this ineffective habitual strategy of “doing” that compounds the issue. When we can learn to be with it, we also start to realize that the discomfort isn’t permanent and it passes, like everything else. When we come to realize this, over time, it doesn’t seem to trigger us as much anymore.

It’s important to say that this is easier said than done and takes intentional practice. Although you can practice this on your own, I often recommend practicing with a guided CD or a trained professional to help understand the process of approaching and being rather than avoiding and doing.

In doing these practices we can change the shape of our brains and reinforce a more effective approach to relate to our pain and stress.

As always, please feel free to comment and share your thoughts and questions. Your interaction here creates a living wisdom for all to benefit from.



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Hanna Wiszniewska (February 2, 2009)

Brian Shamberger (April 8, 2009)

From Psych Central's World of Psychology:
This Emotional Life Begins Tonight | World of Psychology (January 4, 2010)

This Emotional Life… « Free Associations of a London Psychotherapist (January 4, 2010)

From Psych Central's Dr. Elisha Goldstein:
Your Brain on Thanksgiving | Mindfulness and Psychotherapy (November 22, 2010)

Your Brain on Thanksgiving | A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook (November 25, 2010)

    Last reviewed: 29 Jan 2009

APA Reference
Goldstein, E. (2009). You can train your brain to be happy!. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 30, 2015, from


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