Between psychology, medical science and neuroscience, we have never known so much about the human mind. Recently I’ve been amazed at the number and quality of studies which are showing us the amount of pure power our brains have; powers that are truly amazing. Powers that change the meaning of the old phrase, “put your mind to it.”
Here are a few of my favorite discoveries of what our brains can do:
- Build muscles and increase your metabolism: In a study by Ranganathan, et al., 2004 a group of people who listened to guided imagery of themselves going through a strength training work-out built almost as much muscle mass as people who actually did the work-outs. Scientists think that the mental process of imagining a work-out releases the same hormones to build muscle that are released during an actual exercise session.
This worked similarly for calorie burning. In a Harvard study, a group of hotel housekeepers were told that their job provided an excellent work-out. When compared with a similar group who were not told this, the “believing group” lowered their body fat, blood pressure and BMI far more than housekeepers doing the exact same job but who were not led to believe it was excellent exercise.
The Takeaway: Your brain is far more powerful than scientists ever knew. It is capable of building muscle and raising your metabolism, by sheer force of your belief and imagination.
- Turn a weakness into a strength: A fascinating study by Wesnousky, et al, 2015 found that when people believe there is an upside to their personality flaw, they begin to show it. For example, when subjects were told that they were impulsive, but that impulsiveness has the upside of being more creative, they then performed much more creatively on subsequent tests.
The Takeaway: Be careful what you believe about yourself, because your brain will make it so.
- Drastically improve performance, just by imagining it: Multiple studies have shown that from athletes to surgeons to musicians, repeatedly imagining oneself performing a complex task, vividly and with realistic detail, leads to greatly improved performance. Many who are called upon to conduct high-pressure performances use the power of their imaginations to excel and perfect their skills.
The Takeaway: Your imagination has the power to significantly improve your ability to perform a complex task.
As a psychologist whose business is helping people change, I am not surprised by these findings. Every day I see people harness their brain powers to make profound changes in their personalities, their relationships, and their lives.
Here are Three Ways to Harness Your Brain’s Power to Change Your Life:
- Own your power to change: Many people use their own power against themselves. If you believe that you cannot change, your brain will make it so. It is vital to flip that false notion on its head. Claim your power. Own it. And start using it.
- Decide how you want to be different, and then vividly imagine yourself that way: For example if you want to become more extroverted, repeatedly picture yourself laughing and talking with a group of co-workers, or socializing animatedly at a party. Combine the mental practice with actual practice in real situations. Your progress will likely be faster.
- Believe in yourself: Scores of lovely people walk around this world feeling unworthy, invalid, or invisible (a result of Childhood Emotional Neglect). Others may feel unlovable, anxious, angry or hopeless. If any of these words describe you, you can begin to use the power of your brain. Picture yourself in vivid color, exuding confidence and strength. Imagine yourself being and owning who you truly are. See that you are worthy and that you bring value to those around you.
Of all of the things in this world that you can believe in, none are as important as you.
So make a conscious decision. Wish it, believe it, imagine it. Your brain can make it so.
To learn more about the causes of Emotional Neglect and how to heal from it, see the book Running on Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect.