In that famous scene from The Matrix, Keanu Reeves’s character, Neo, learns the art of kung fu in a few seconds through a synthetic memory that Morpheus uploads to his brain. We’re not quite there yet, but thanks to the brain’s highly pliable and adaptive nature (scientists call this “neuroplasticity”) we now know that it’s possible to train the brain the same way we train muscles in the gym.
It works like this: Thoughts produce emotions. Those feelings trigger chemicals in the brain that cause responses in the central nervous system such as stress, exhaustion, the fight-or-flight response — all enemies of the immune system. So learning how to cool off this stress response cycle is super important.
In Buddhism thoughts are regarded much like a “sixth sense” (just another source of feedback, but still distinct from the individual). Activities such as writing, meditation, and prayer can help to slow down and harness thoughts. Affirmations, like mantras, are another tool to get your brain working for you. Here are some easy ways to get affirmations into your day:
1. On your car’s rearview mirror, write an affirmation with a dry-erase pen. It will register in your brain every time you glance at the mirror. Speak the affirmation out loud. Use caution while driving.
2. Write another affirmation on your bathroom mirror, using a bar of soap or dry-erase marker.
3. If you have a smartphone, record a voice memo containing a list of affirmations. Say each affirmation twice, slowly. Listen to this recording while jogging, working out, or at work. As you listen, say the affirmation out loud the second time.
4. Create repeating calendar events at random times each day with your affirmations. They will pop up on your computer or smartphone and break up your day.
5. Place a Post-it note on your door so you’ll see it as you come and go.
6. Get a small tattoo that is symbolic of your affirmation. Be sure the ink is easily visible to you so it can be a reminder.
7. Make rotating, self-changing desktop patterns for your computers at home or work.
Remember to rotate the affirmations every week. Your level of focus and engagement with the affirmations directly affects their impact. The more engaged and thoughtful you are, the more these messages imprint on the brain.
Plus’s wellness editor Sam Page is a fitness trainer and lifestyle expert in Los Angeles.