Christine Schader (AKA: Smiley) is a neuroscience nerd, an inspirational speaker, author of "The Happiness Connection", and a heart centered life, happiness, and money coach (holding some of the highest credentialing in the financial industry and owning her own financial planning firm). She is passionate about sharing the science behind Health, Wealth and Happiness, and how to apply that science to achieve your goals, dreams, and desires while simultaneously tapping into expanding joy, happiness, and bliss daily. Christine lives with purpose and passion and loves inspiring and empowering women to achieve their greatest versions of themselves and teaching them to not be afraid to Shine and brightly at that.
She views herself as a lifelong student of God, love, and happiness. She has a beautiful retreat center on the Lake in Sandpoint, Idaho, has been married for over thirty-five years, and has two amazing adult children. In her spare time, you can find her hiking in the gorgeous Pacific Northwest, enjoying life with her friends and family, or clicking away at the keyboard on her next book. To reach Christine please email her at SoulTuned@outlook.com, her book is available at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B075C5L7VD
Could you stand to be just a little bit healthier? How about a little bit Wealthier? Maybe even Happier? Well this article is for you! As a life, happiness and financial coach and author on these subjects, I’ve been sharing the science behind happiness and success for decades and it all really boils down to this…
Oh, now, come on—that stands for “where’s the focus?” not what you were thinking!
What you focus on, is what will grow. Think about it this way: you move toward what you think about. If you’ve ever taken a defensive-driving course, the instructor probably told you that if you hit a patch of ice or have an emergency circumstance, you should look in the direction you want to go, not where you don’t want to go. You end up moving the vehicle in the direction you look.
The same holds true with your thoughts. You move your life in the direction of your thoughts. Therefore, you want to prime yourself to have thoughts that create the happy successful life you want.
Happiness and success are skills. You actually have to train your brain by strengthening the neuropathways to fire for what you want.
Scientific research has given clarity about how we can rewire the brain for happiness and success; and with a basic understanding of this science we learn how our thoughts and words literally become reality.
Neuroplasticity shows that many aspects of the brain can be altered throughout life. Our brain is not rigid and set but rather malleable like plastic. Scientific research teaches us that this neuroplastic change can happen when we change our behavior, environmental stimuli, thoughts, and emotions.
In other words, you can actually physically change and rewire your own brain simply by changing your thoughts.
Hence, we want to help select our thoughts. —and one of the easiest ways to select our thoughts or “prime our life” is to influence our thinking using affirmations, affirmative prayer, visual reminders and intentions. We want to “set” ourselves up for success by wiring our brains. The brain is incredibly influenced by priming. For example, if I were to say “wash” and then show you “so_p,” you would likely fill in the missing letter with an a, creating the word “soap.” On the other hand, if I said the word “eat,” you would likely fill in the missing letter with a u to form the word “soup.”
That’s because our brains are fast, jumping to conclusions based on previous experiences and programming. This is due in part to the reticular activating system (RAS).
The RAS is a small part of the brain—a set of neurons and neuro-fibers located in the brain stem—yet it plays a vital role. It allows us the ability to focus and filter information that is let into our conscious mind.
Our brains take in incredible amounts of information every second and the RAS helps screen what parts of that information we actually need to pay attention to. We are created to filter down to what is really important and focus on it. The brain is designed to pay attention to things that keep us alive. We are also crafted to seek pleasure instead of pain. The RAS is helpful in filtering what gets through, deciding what’s important.
The thing is, our thoughts help set up the parameters of what we decide is important. Here’s an example of your RAS in action: Have you ever noticed that when you decide to get a new (to you at least) vehicle that you start noticing that same make and model all over the place? There are not more vehicles of that make and model, you just told your brain to start noticing them.
Our brains are amazingly powerful, so use your brain for yourself instead of against yourself. Now you know that what you focus on grows, and that you should prime your life. BUT…
How do you tell your brain what to think about while you are in the midst of a tragic situation, a crisis, or a stressful moment? Here is where a great deal of the magic of designing a happy life exists.
Between 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.
—Viktor E. Frankl
I could not agree more. I’d also add that mastering the space is where a considerable amount of your happiness lies. So how do you do that?
You want to exercise and train your brain to pause before you immediately respond. To have an opportunity to choose what thoughts you want to run with.
Why do you have to learn to pause? Because if you don’t, your brain will hijack you.
Remember that it’s our thoughts that create our emotions, which create our perceptions, which create our beliefs, which create our responses and behaviors, which affect things like our relationships and ultimately shapes our entire life.
Therefore, the secret to sustained happiness is to learn to expand the space (create a pause) between stimulus and response so that you can decide how you want to respond instead of having your fast brain decide for you.
You have over 60,000 thoughts per day, and most of those are the same thoughts you had yesterday. If you want to change your life, you need to change your thoughts. In order to do that, you need to learn how to create a pause, in order to allow yourself time to decide what you want to think.
Remember, the brain has this amazing ability to do some awesome editing. It then presents an immediate response due to all your years of programming and your RAS. As a result, you view that response as reality, the only truth. In fact, though, that was only one option or way of seeing the world out of literally tens of thousands of choices.
We can actually retrain our brain to respond differently. We can program it to pause between the immediate situation (the stimulus) and our response. Then we can decide which response we want instead of going with the first edited choice presented by our fast brain.
How do we do that? We slow down our fast brains so we can create the space to choose. We exercise and strengthen the ability to pause between stimulus and response, and we allow ourselves to see several ways of looking at the situation and deciding carefully which choice we want to feel and which way we want to lean.
The magic lies in the pause and realizing you can change how you are feeling at any moment, even while in the midst of a situation.
And how do you create the pause? You need to craft and master “interrupter skills.”
What do I mean by that? You need to be able to purposely construct an interruption to stop the current thought flow and ultimate reaction so that you have the ability to have another thought—any other thought.
If you do not pause, you will continue to feed your current thoughts, emotions, and feelings. And more and more chemicals to match those thoughts will be dumped into your body, which will create even more feelings and thoughts and more chemicals.
So next time, when your mind is doing a number on you (a mind freak-out or more bluntly a mindfu@k), how do you interrupt your brain so you can even entertain a new thought? I have developed several MFI (“mind freak-out interruption”) skills.
For example, when in a situation with another person, one of my favorite MFI skills is to remind myself that I am the author, star, and director of the Christine show and to ask myself how I want my star actress to respond in that moment. How do I want this happy ending to happen? How would my highest self, respond? And then I can shift. Sometimes, I actually say “plot twist” out loud and choose a new scene.
When my mind is simply playing over and over a situation and continually feeding a response that results in a feeling I don’t want, I seek to interrupt that cycle. I may just need a distraction from the situation, so I get up and go for a walk, see a movie, pick up a book, or call a friend. Other times, I imagine I have a large “pause” button in my brain that I can push at any time.
Do anything to stop the negative, unwanted self-talk or thoughts so that you can allow another possibility to be entertained.
Shopping for Happiness
So now, you’ve mastered the pause. You’ve created and are practicing your own interrupter skills. Now what? How do you choose another thought?
This is the easy part: you get to go shopping! Shop for how you want to feel. Shop! Woohoo! Shop to your heart’s content! Shop, shop, and shop some more!! It’s the best shopping ever, because you are shopping for happiness.
Creating the interruption allows you space for another thought or way of looking at things. You now have the ability to ask yourself, “Is there any other way to look at this? How could this be useful? Are the things I am telling myself true? Is there another way to interpret this? How can this be useful? What else could this mean? What can I learn from this?” When you can change your perceptions, you can change your life.
Perception is active not passive. YOU control your thoughts. You get to choose how you want to look at any situation. Remember, situations do not have inherent meaning. You assign a situation meaning based on your fast brain. Past experiences, values, and beliefs about yourself and others determine how you interpret the event. When you shop for happiness you allow yourself the ability to choose another way to look at the situation, to see things differently and to lean into how you want to feel about it. You get to choose how you view it and pick what serves you, what feels good. In coaching we call this ability to shop for happiness- reframing. When you can shift how you look at things you can shift your experience of it.
Give yourself at least four or five other ways of looking at it before choosing. Often, I suggest throwing out the first and second thought and continuing to come up with alternative options until you find one that moves you in the direction you want.
I’m not talking window shopping here. I want you to actually try the thought on, see how comfortable it is. You know, when you go shopping for a new pair of jeans, you most likely don’t buy the first pair you see. If you are like me, you take a dozen pairs into the dressing room. You put them on, and you see if they stretch and move with you, if they’re comfortable, if they’re a good match for your body type. You try on pair after pair until you find the one that fits just right.
Well, I want you to do the same for your thoughts. Try them on. Do they feel good? Do they make you feel expansive, light, better? Or are they tight, constrictive, and limiting? You’ll most often find that you want to lean into the good.
Keep in mind that all of life is energy, and that energy is expansive. If you want more joy and happiness in your life, you need to lean into that energy. I will most often choose to lean into the good—not always, mind you, but most often.
So, give yourself a chance to shop for how you truly want to feel.
Remember, it is never the thing, it is always what you think about the thing!
Once you understand that every thought you think, every word you speak, and every belief you hold is a brushstroke in the painting of your life, you begin to see the magic you bestow upon the creation of your life’s masterpiece.
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This Guest Blog will feature contributions from experts & other advocates on topics that speak to integration of mind, body & spirit wellness.