4 NLP Tips to Rewire Your Brain
Let’s face it: Change is hard. Why do so many of us struggle to go from intention to action?
For example, let’s imagine you want to quit smoking. You say to yourself: It’s such a bad habit – I need to stop. But wait, my birthday is coming up in a few weeks. I should wait. I know I’ll be too tempted. I don’t have time to make any progress between now and then.
Do you see what happened there? In a matter of seconds, your thoughts spiraled out of control. As you started to think about a goal you wanted to achieve, you jumped extremely far ahead. Since you felt stressed, you procrastinated. You decided not to take action.
From a scientific perspective, procrastination is our brain’s way of managing stress. Designed to protect us, our brains stop us from doing things that could be dangerous – things we perceive as being a threat.
To create change, we need to change the way we think. With neurolinguistic programming (NLP), we can rewire our thoughts and behavior.
What is NLP?
Neurolinguistic programming is a methodology that uses communication techniques and language processing to change behavior patterns. “Neuro” refers to the brain, “linguistic” refers to language and “programming” is the way we process that information. To put it simply, NLP is how verbal and non-verbal communication affect the human brain.
One of the main responsibilities of an NLP practitioner or therapist is to identify a person’s preferred representational system (PRS) – a person’s preference towards one sensory system. This can be determined through language. For example, if you tend to say phrases more along the lines of “I hear what you’re saying” versus “I see what you mean” that indicated you have more of an auditory PRS rather than a visual PRS.
The five representational systems include:
Our language reflects our subconscious perception of ourselves and the world around us. If our perception is incorrect, this creates a false internal belief system. Since our thoughts directly affect the way we think and behave, positive lasting change starts with rewiring your brain.
“The thing about beliefs is they are like a program that keeps running, where you keep checking things against whether it matches your beliefs or not, says Dr. Richard Bandler, co-creator of NLP. “And when your beliefs say that things are possible, and things will make you feel good, then what’s going to happen is it is going to affect you physiologically in a very different way than if you believe it’s impossible. When you believe that things are impossible, you do not actually try and you certainly do not try with every fiber in your soul and every cell in your body.”
Your beliefs are more powerful than you realize. When your beliefs are strong enough, you can literally change your biochemistry. “When you believe that a medical treatment is actually going to heal you and actually work, then you open yourself up to every possibility,” Bandler explains.
Are you ready to close the gap between where you are and where you want to be? Here are a few effective NLP tips you can try today:
1. Practice positive affirmations
The reason affirmations are so effective is because they work at every stage of goal-setting. For example, let’s say your affirmation is “I am optimistic about my love life. I am confident I will find someone who will make me feel happy and loved.” When you meet someone and enter the relationship stage, your affirmation will change to “I am in a healthy and loving relationship with mutual respect.”
Saying the affirmation in the present tense is important because your subconscious mind will work to turn the positive intention into reality; hence, rewiring your brain faster.
Affirmations increase your self-awareness. Through repetition the new thoughts replace the old ones, becoming ingrained in your mind. With enough practice, you can change your belief system. This technique is helpful with addiction, such as the smoking example mentioned above. When it comes to change, your brain needs to get on board first, and then over time your body will follow.
Fun fact: According to a study published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, practicing affirmations helps you perform better in the workplace. Participants who repeatedly reminded themselves of their job strengths performed with more confidence under pressure in their work environments.
Did you know that your brain can’t tell the difference between something imaginary and something real? In other words, if your imagination is vivid enough, you can trick your brain into experiencing the positive emotions that go along with a positive memory or mental image.
Ask yourself: What images align with achieving your goal? To continue with the example above, if you are looking for romance, you should envision what being in a relationship will feel like. Be as specific as you can and try to get as many senses involved as possible. Smell, taste, sound, touch, whatever you can - the point is to completely immerse yourself in the visualization so it feels as real as possible.
Abigail Brenner, M.D. explains, “Thought precedes creation; the idea guides energy in the physical world in order to create certain behaviors.” In order for visualization to be effective there are three requirements, which include “1.) the desire to create what you have decided to visualize, 2.) the belief in what you have chosen to attain through your visualization and the certainty that you will attain it, and 3.) the acceptance of having whatever you have visualized as your goal.”
Visualizations bring clarity to your dreams. The more positive visualizations we have, the more positive thoughts we have, which will ultimately lead to positive behavior.
3. Content Reframing
Everything is surrounded by the meaning we give it. Think back to a time when you feel angry or upset. For instance, let’s say you lost your job or ended a relationship. When you think about it, you most likely feel negative emotions. To transform your negative emotions to positive, you reframe the situation.
For example, you’re now open to a job or relationship that’s a better fit. You have the freedom to explore new options, and you have emerged from this hardship as a stronger, better version of yourself.
It’s natural to panic when you lose a job or break up, but this only creates more emotional turmoil. By shifting your focus and changing your perspective, you will be feel more at peace.
In one study, researchers examined a group of nursing and midwifery students who were separated into two groups. NLP training was given in five 2-hour sessions and the groups were analyzed.
Both the nursing and midwifery group “showed a significant difference in the scores of mental health, physical signs, anxiety, social function and depression.” Results concluded, “NLP strategies are effective in the improvement of general health and its various dimensions.”
This NLP technique involves connecting a positive emotion or thought to a specific phrase or gesture. This trains your brain to associate the positive feeling with the phrase or gesture.
First, think about what emotion you want to experience. Do you want to be more confident? Happier? Calmer?
Next, imagine the last time you felt that emotion. Make this mental image as vivid as possible.
Then, choose an anchoring phrase such as “I am happy. I am calm. I am confident” or clench your fist.
Repeat every day until eventually you can say the anchoring phrase or clench your fist and your mood shifts to happy, calm, or confident almost instantly.
“Each time you make a new choice that is in alignment with your future, you are priming your brain to install the neurological hardware to actually think, act, and feel like the person you want to be in your future,” says Dr. Joe Dispenza, researcher and author of Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself. “If you keep firing and wiring those networks in your brain, the hardware eventually becomes the software program and making choices that are in alignment with your future becomes more automatic.”
Repetition is everything. The more you practice these techniques, the more they will become ingrained in your mind. When you think, feel, visualize and act in accordance with your intention you will break the cycle of negative habits.
Most importantly, remember these techniques are simply tools. You have to continuously put the work in to experience the positive effects. In order to change, you have to truly want to change.
“You do not drive a ratchet wrench. You use it to tighten an engine and the tools that we created are the tools to be able to tune up your mind and optimize your thoughts so you get the maximum out of your neurology,” says Bandler.
More specifically, you can use your sense of smell as an anchoring technique. Did you know Jordan Belfort (more commonly known as the Wolf of Wall Street) uses anchoring? When he closes a sale and experiences the incredible feeling that comes with success, he takes a whiff of his essential oil inhaler to anchor in that positive emotional state.
Are you ready to create positive lasting change? Follow these NLP tips and watch how it transforms your life.