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Retrain Your Brain

brain-bulbThere’s a very distinctive sound that you hear in a weight room: the cranking of weight plates slamming together. Somebody’s loading up the barbell to do deadlifts. Or squats. Or rows.

True confession? I absolutely love that sound.

Before I lost 120 lbs. and found a love for fitness, I might have recognized that sound, but it certainly wouldn’t have held any special meaning for me. It sure does now. Know why? I spend a lot of time in gyms, and at home, messing with weights. I like to lift, partly for the challenge of it, but partly because strength training is the best workout there is, in my humble opinion, both for weight loss and muscle development.

I have developed a positive association between the sound of weights clanking and my own health and happiness.

We all know that sights, sounds and smells can trigger feelings. Even though Cinnabon no longer holds any particular power over me, the smell certainly triggers some residual feelings of anxiety. And movie theater popcorn? Need I say more?!? No, I’m sure you understand exactly what I’m talking about.

The sights, sounds and smells of food can trigger feelings of anticipation, excitement, and pleasure, but they can also trigger feelings of fear (being out of control), guilt, and that familiar anxiety that is triggered in me at the first whiff of cinnamon.

But somewhere along the path of my weight loss journey, I retrained my brain.

It didn’t happen all at once, but the powerful sensory triggers that used to draw me in no longer hold me in their grip.

Besides the sound of weights clanking, I confess I love the smell of chlorine. I have so many positive experiences swimming that the smell alone is enough to make me smile. Then there’s the heat that reaches out and embraces me as I walk into the room at my yoga studio. Or the sight of a huge, life-sustaining salad, all green and inviting.

Ah, good stuff!

Negative triggers are gonna happen. But the more you become aware of them and the power they hold over you, the more power you have to change your reaction to them. Better still, the greater your opportunity to replace negative triggers with positive associations.

Seek out and affirm the good feelings you get from the sights, sounds and smells in your new, healthier activities.

I retrained my brain to seek out positive associations with new sights, sounds and smells. (Truly, this is not something I did consciously; it just happened somewhere along the way.)

I haven’t just to lost weight; I am a different person in many ways.

The power of change never ceases to amaze me.

I wish I had a magic formula and could tell you how to retrain your brain too. I don’t. I can tell you that the more you are aware of those negative triggers the better you get at spotting them. It’s that moment of recognizing them that is really critical. That’s the moment you get to choose – are you going to be ensnared by them, or are you going to choose differently?

I say we create new pathways, in our brains and in our lives.

C’mon, we got this!

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