Growing a New Mind & Life

“From Breakdown to Breakthrough; From Setback to Comeback”. In the beginning of the year I wrote these words on a (physical) notepad that is permanently on my desk. Little did I know what setback will come my way so early in the year.

Last week I received the news that I urgently need open heart surgery for a triple or quadruple bypass. The procedure will mow be done this coming week.

You can imagine what a challenge all of this presented me with. By grace, I received the news with great peace and calmness, and my prognosis of full recovery is 99%. Then the battle in my mind started. Denial, negotiating, reasoning, rejection of the truth, stress, panic and anxiety – all of those had their turn. But, the physical reality is what it is.

I often asked myself this question: how can a person re-set his thinking, and emotional and behavioural patterns – for good? In other words: how can we change in a sustainable, more permanent way – from toxic, negative, unhelpful TO healthy, positive, helpful functioning. Because I know for sure, our internal world hugely impacts the external physical world!

Now, let’s get back to my heart operation. I needed a practical, self-help tool to deal with this, calm down, re-set and prepare myself for the major operation. Mere motivational words or Bible verses won’t do it. Dr Caroline Leaf (“Switch on your brain” and “Cleaning up your mental mess”) developed a five step process that can turn your life around. I tried to adapt and simplify it for my own use (my apologies if I diluted the impact).

So, here is my “ARWIP” version of the 5 steps of the 21 day neuro cycle – adapted from and with acknowledgment to Dr Caroline Leaf. You have to do these 5 steps EVERY DAY for 21 days to capture one new brain path or thought pattern at a time (steps 1-4 should take 7 minutes daily):

  1. AWARENESS: Calm down, take a deep breath, and become aware of your emotions and thoughts – where, how, what do you feel. Recognize and acknowledge this. Also sense where the physical signs of those emotions are in your body (stomach, shoulders, legs, etc.).
  2. REDESIGN: Reflect on your thinking and emotions, reinterpret it and redesign and envision a better way to think and feel. Kindly talk to yourself, address those problem thoughts and emotions. Discover and speak the truth into them. Make an intentional and conscious choice for new thoughts and truths. Open your mind and brain to new, better perspectives and beliefs.
  3. WRITE: Put these new, healthy, good thoughts on paper (your mind renewal journal). It can be a few strongly and clearly worded declarations and belief statements. Maybe read yesterday’s declarations as well.
  4. INTERNALIZE: Own the truth, reflect and meditate and pray about it, feel the new thoughts, imagine and see life through that lens, experience it. Use visualization, drawings, and even embodiment (such as “power pose” by standing or sitting up in a physical pose, feeling the emotions and expressing the words that go with your new “position” on the issue).
  5. PRACTICE: Live the truths all day, tell someone, apply it, do some things deliberately differently, refuse to give in to old thought and behavioural patterns, see and experience and celebrate the good consequences and success. And be gracious if it’s not 100% today. Remember it’s a journey. Tomorrow is another day!

After 21 days the new neural paths should set in (and take more time if you need to). Now, take another 2 cycles to intentionally reinforce it into you automated sub- and non-conscious minds for good.

So far, this is working for me – I mostly sense gratitude, peace and calmness. I trust it can work for you as well. It takes just 7-10 minutes per day but can change your life.

When you read this, please say a prayer for me (I ultimately trust in Him). But, perhaps more importantly, decide what you want to do with the information and tool above. In my case, I know, my future life depends on it. But, I suppose, the same is true of yours.