November 10, 2021

The Science Behind Changing Thoughts

I'm Melissa
I'm a Career and Leadership Coach for Women in Pharma/Biotech. I've been where you are, and I help you create the career you want without working more hours or settling for good enough.
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Neuroplasticity is the science behind changing thoughts and in this episode, I am talking about the neuroscience behind changing thoughts.

You’ve heard about mindset, you’ve even heard me talk about mindset before, but this episode is about the science and the evidence that you can identify and change your thoughts, you can change how you feel and ultimately change the results you have in your life.

In this episode I am breaking down the facts behind changing those negative thoughts into positive ones and overcoming what has you stuck so you can align your thinking to your goals.

What You’ll Learn

What neuroplasticity is and how your experiences change your neuro-pathways

How you can replace negative thought patterns with positive ones

The power of a growth mindset

Specific activities you can do right now to optimize your brain functioning

Featured in This Episode

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Dr. Carol S. Dweck

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Welcome to Navigating Your Career, the only podcast that blends personal development, professional skills and psychology to help you get happy at work and live the life you want. If you want to stop feeling stuck and start feeling better, this is the place for you. I’m your host, Melissa Lawrence. Let’s get started.

Hello. Welcome to this week’s episode of the podcast. I am so excited to get into this topic. This is one of my favorite topics. So this week I thought we could do something a little more technical and get into the science behind changing thoughts.

How you think about a situation is going to influence the results that you get. And I’ve talked about mindset before. But if you’ve been listening to me for a while now, you know that I really am fascinated by how our brain works, the psychology behind it, and how it can be rewired to create a different experience. And my clients tell me this is one of the most valuable things I do with them is show them how their brain works, teach them brain hacks and help them rewire their thought patterns to get different results.

So in coaching, I help clients with tangible career strategies.

But a lot of what I do, I think the most important part of what I do is to help you see all of you, your thinking, your emotions, how they show up, and how you can create awareness into how they are creating your current results, but also how you can influence them to build positive neural pathways in your brain, which ultimately changed your life experiences. It is so cool. So let’s get started by talking about neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is basically the brain’s ability to adapt and change and tell us that with practice we can replace negative thought pathways with positive ones.

This is huge.

If you think about all of our life experiences, beliefs, and influences over the years that have shaped us. If you think about trauma, we all have the part of our brain that is attached to our spinal cord that is responsible for our fight or flight response. This is responsible for things like shutting down for being triggered by others and sending us into a spiral making negative conclusions because our brain is being triggered by a painful past experience and it is trying to protect us from it. Now, whether or not that danger currently exists.

But a formal definition by Dr. Celeste Campbell is that neuroplasticity refers to the psychological changes in the brain that happen as a result of our interactions with our environment. From the time the brain begins to develop a utero until the day we die, the connections among the cells in our brains reorganize in response to our changing needs. This dynamic process allows us to learn from and adapt to different experiences. So neuroplasticity has been studied in its earlier forms for almost 100 years, but it was only since the 60s that it was discovered that neurons in our brains can reorganize after a traumatic event, which is so cool.

So what does this mean?

Let’s say that you’re abused that trauma literally has reorganized the neurons in your brain. This learned experience. It changes the way that you think, which changes the way that you feel and behave. But the opposite is true as well. With practice and specific exercises, you can also reorganize the neurons for a positive pathway leading to positive thoughts and emotions.

There is even some research that suggests that stress kills brain cells. So that is all the more reason to really prioritize your self care to meditative, practice, walk breathing exercises to really manage your stress so that you can optimize your brain’s function. So these discoveries in neuroscience are really important to the scientific community, but it’s also really important to the field of psychology. I have a master’s in psychology, and I’m not a psychologist, but as a career and life coach, I work with my clients to build awareness of their thought patterns and learn to create new thought patterns that better align with the results that they want to create.

And this goes way deeper than mantras, affirmations or any of those things you might have heard about.

When we have negative experiences, our brain builds pathways that are almost hardwired and can hold us back from living our best life. It’s why we self sabotage think we aren’t good enough. This shows up in all sorts of ways. If you think about a relationship. If you’ve been cheated on before, for example, your brain remembers this and it’s difficult to give your new partner trust.

Your brain is always watching for the signals you may have missed to protect you, but that pattern is actually hurting you because it is robbing you of what you could be having now, which is a loving and trusting relationship with this new person.

It also can show up. And if you’ve heard people talk about how they attract people that are not good for them. So in the situation where this person has been cheated on, maybe they attract other people that cheat on them. That can also be part of your brain’s way of processing by thinking, I need to attract this type of person and then fix them or overcome this or create a different outcome and that will heal that initial wound. Right.

So it’s all your brain pathways and thinking at work, mostly in your subconscious, to try to protect you. Now, if you’ve been overworked and let’s say you’ve been working for some really crappy bosses going into a new job, you may be hesitant. You may think that more money means more work. That your job, even if it’s good now, could change at any moment. It is just one organizational change or boss away from being your worst nightmare.

That’s another example. And these types of thought patterns are there to protect you. But because of neuroplasticity because your brain learned based on your experiences of this pain and is trying to protect you from it. Trying to heal you from it prevent you from being in that same situation again. It’s actually holding you back and you don’t really know it because it’s all happening in your subconscious.

But the same way that this is true, you can also practice positive thought patterns, have a growth mindset, foster continuous learning and those behaviors will over time create new neural pathways that can replace the negative ones. Are you as fascinated by this as I am? It is so interesting and granted, this is like my life’s work, but I just find this really interesting and thought it would be so good for you to hear just the science behind this work that I do so that you can really understand that it is possible to make these changes.

Now I do want to say that I’m not in any way suggesting that if you have a mental illness, if you have a medical diagnosis that I’m saying just change your thoughts and it will go away. I do believe that it can help, but medication and other treatments may also be necessary.

So if this is you, please speak with your doctor. Okay, so let’s talk about learning. When you learn something new, it has the potential to create new neurons and reorganize your default thinking what you can essentially unlearn negative thought patterns by learning new ones that can replace them. This is another reason that the growth mindset is so important. There is a great book on growth mindset that I suggest.

It’s called Mindset by Dr. Carol S. Dweck. It’s really foundational book. When you hear growth mindset, it’s really all coming from this work by Doctor Dweck in this book called Mindset.

So definitely pick it up. It’s a quick read and it provides a lot of great examples and strategies for practicing this mindset philosophy. But growth mindset is essentially the belief that you can get smarter, be more talented and skilled with practice and dedication. A fixed mindset would be one where you think you know all there is to know or that you have doubt in yourself that you can actually get better or be better in a certain topic or area. Now applying the growth mindset to your life is being able to always ask what you can learn and to strategically choose the things you want to learn and practice.

I did an earlier episode on the importance of curiosity, which really applies here too. That is another way that you can practice. Having a growth mindset neuroplasticity doesn’t just benefit the thoughts and feelings, but also has other benefits to the brain too. Studies have shown that it helps with recovery of strokes and brain injuries that when you lose a sense like hearing, it can strengthen another sense like sight, that it can enhance your memory, help you with cognitive abilities, and help you be able to learn more effectively.

We know that traumatic experiences change the wiring of your brain. We know that stress and anxiety can kill brain cells, but we also know that positive thinking and applying a growth mindset can actually change the wiring of your brain. Cognitive behavioral therapy tells us that thoughts trigger an emotion and emotion triggers behavior and their behavior is connected to our results, meaning that the stem little brain joke there of our results come from our thinking.

So the results come from our thinking. So to get different results, we have to change our thoughts. Neuroplasticity tells us that we can with practice, replace negative pathways and thought patterns with positive ones, which would then help us live a Fuller and happier life. It helps us create the results we want to have in our lives. There are a lot of ways that you can practice rewiring your brain with neuroplasticity, and here are some ideas, brain games and apps like brain teasers, traveling, seeing, and sensing new areas, listening to different types of music, artwork.

Like if you want to observe artwork or create art dancing, which I love that this is on the list because I am a random dancer everywhere in my life, and so that is apparently helping me and my brain getting good sleep, which is something I’m also working on right now. Not just time and bed, but good quality sleep, memory games, yoga, exercise, crossword puzzles, mindfulness meditation, healthy eating, learning a new language. All of these things are good for your brain and optimizing its function so that it can manage stress and anxiety.

Better use a growth mindset and overcome some of our negative thought patterns. Mindfulness meditation is one of my favorites.

Well along with dancing and getting a good night’s sleep. And I used to think it was silly and I used to have a really hard time sitting with my thoughts during these meditation practices. But I would tell myself that meditation is in fact a practice and it’s going to take time. Just incorporating five to ten minute guided or musical meditation throughout the week has really helped me feel more centered, be clear headed, cut down on stress and think more clearly and sleep better. It’s pretty incredible, and mindfulness meditation can actually change the brain through neuroplasticity.

When you meditate, your brain is being rewired, and the more you meditate, the more rewiring occurs, the more you react to your life. And with that same calmness and awareness you have during the practice. And I have really found this to be true. And I know a lot of you may be interested in this. I know my clients when we talk about meditation, they mostly haven’t done it before, but they’re curious, but they think I don’t want to take this time.

They’re skeptical. They think it’s just a waste to just sit there and relax for these five to ten minutes. So I’m actually going to do a whole podcast episode on the science behind this and how to get started so that this can be a tool that you use, especially as we get closer to the holidays and your stress may be rising. I think that is just a perfect time to start utilizing this practice. So tune in for next week’s episode where I’m really going to talk about meditation and I might even drop a bonus meditation that I will guide you through as a bonus so you can get some practice.

All right. That is all for this week’s episode. I hope you find it as fascinating as I do and now have some hope that if you’re struggling right now, you can make the changes you want to so that you can feel better and have the results that you want in your career and also at home. And if you want help, just head to my website to apply for one on one coaching. We’ll hop on a call and see if we’re a good fit.

It’s the best development tool out there to do this work and to take the action to get you where you want to be in no time. So just head to  We’ll put a link in the show notes. Have a wonderful week.

I get asked all of the time. How do I know if I’m in the right career? Now you can find out. I created a free quiz using my criteria for what makes a great job fit. You can take the quiz at my website and in less than three minutes, you’ll know the answer so you can stop guessing and take some action. And as a bonus, if your job isn’t a great fit, you’ll get some resources to help you decide what to do about it. Head there now.

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No longer settles for “good enough”

Hi, I’m Melissa.

Career & Leadership Coach for Women in Pharma/Biotech

I'm a former Talent & Development leader in Pharma/Biotech turned CEO and Certified Professional Career & Life Coach. I also host the podcast, Your Worthy Career.

I've been where you are, and I help you create the career you want without working more hours or settling for good enough.

I'm leading a movement of women in the industry who are figuring out exactly what they want and shattering the glass ceiling. The very real ceiling in the industry, but also the one that we impose on ourselves. 

So long, imposter syndrome and overthinking. It's time to step into the impact and life you're worthy of having.

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