The combination of social science and neuroscience is powerful; it helps us to understand the more complex effects of concepts like gratitude, trust, and positivity. The expanding knowledge and implications are far reaching. The field of neuroplasticity, a branch of neuroscience, proves scientifically that the brain can be rewired intentionally.  We can change for better or worse.

The brain is pliable, like a plastic bag. It’s possible to remove those old neuron networks and create newer and higher performing pathways, or the reverse is true too. The old adage, use it or lose it, applies here. If we don’t keep using a particular neural pathway, it becomes weaker, still there but well hidden.

It’s like speaking up in meetings or not speaking too much.  To keep doing what you do, it’s easy. The less frequently you do something (speak up or not), the harder it is to initiate doing something different on the fly.  The adage practice makes perfect also applies here. The more someone speaks out, the better and more comfortable it gets, a new pathway is created.

Neuroplasticity is science backed and offers hope that change is possible. Change in the form of rewiring our brain, our neural networks. Changing our behaviors, changing our thoughts, and changing our physical body, a person can rewire their brain to be more gratitude based. An organization can shift to a culture of gratitude and count on the authentic contagious aspect of gratitude to aid in its spread. Gratitude can be learned via practice and it’s contagious.

Imagine you’re sitting in a meeting and a senior executive comes at you, belittling and disrespecting you and your team for no apparent reason. Unconsciously our instincts call upon us to fight back, yell at him, deny or discredit, get defensive, or in the rare case throw a punch. My instincts used to be to freeze and say nothing and wait till it’s over. Other people will simply take flight; leave the meeting or the job.

Since the beginning of time and our life, we unconsciously have gone into a threat response mode of fight, flight, or freeze. While our brain is in that survival mode, we are in a type of lock down that won’t let anything else happen until we are assured of our survival and the threat is gone. The body is wired to survive and takes all threats seriously.  Our body classify unconsciously someone disrespecting us in a meeting as a threat.

We can rewire our brains to override survival mode. I learned to not freeze when an executive yelled at me. I was motivated because I knew if I didn’t deal with it my career would forever be stalled. At the time, I changed my self-talk to ask the question, what’s the worse that will happen if I say or do that? Today when I recognize my brain in a survival mode, my self-talk question has become, what am I grateful for in this situation. What each person’s brain determines to be a threat is unique. In order to rewire your brain and change, the first step is to be able to recognize when you are operating from a survival mode.

I’m curious how have you and how do you rewire your brain?