With commitment, dedication, and focus, we can rewire our brains. We can train our brains to challenge our recurring thought patterns, and to block new negative patterns from coming in, says Dr. Christina Plaskos.
Many of us have tried a detox at one point or another. Conventional detoxing follows dietary elimination of certain foods to allow our bodies to naturally purge toxins accumulated in tissues. Like a body detox, detoxing the mind follows the same idea. If we consider mind toxins to be the negative thoughts that are unhelpful or destructive to optimal mental health, a mind detox aims to eliminate these thoughts. In practice, however, detoxing the mind is much more complex. We cannot simply say, “I will not think a negative thought for five days and Voila! Mind cleanse complete”. Our brains don’t quite operate this way, so we need a different approach.
First, we must identify the source of the negative thinking and how these thoughts make a home for themselves in our mind. The way we experience ourselves, others, and the world in general is determined by our thought patterns. Thought patterns, in turn, are the result of our genetics, childhood experiences, upbringing and environment, and they are entrenched as habits by the time we are adults. When the thoughts are not supporting our optimum health and wellness, they are “toxins”. Unfortunately, unhelpful thought patterns are self-propagating because just as soon as they are triggered, they summon old feelings and memories. These emotions from our past reinforce the current negative thought, making us feel worse and perpetuating the negative thought pattern. The good news is that we are not chained to our negative thoughts, and we can break free. With commitment, dedication, and focus, we can rewire our brains. We can train our brains to challenge our recurring thought patterns, and to block new negative patterns from coming in. The first step? Awareness.
“If we consider mind toxins to be the negative thoughts that are unhelpful or destructive to optimal mental health, a mind detox aims to eliminate these thoughts.”
Thwarting negative thoughts is more challenging in practice than abstaining from dietary toxins because our thoughts are automatic; they begin circulating and wreaking havoc before we realize they are there. Imagine trying to avoid fried food when it is already in your stomach! Therefore, the first step to detoxing the mind is to simply pay attention! We must observe our thoughts, as well as notice the situational triggers that caused them to come up. Just as a soccer goalkeeper must read the field and position himself in net to deflect incoming shots, we must notice our environment, our thoughts borne from that environment, and prepare to challenge those thoughts. And just as a goalkeeper spends countless hours perfecting their craft, awareness of our thought patterns is a skill requiring focus and practice to be mastered until it is second nature. Once we are aware, we begin to remove the thought’s power over us, and we open ourselves to our innate wisdom to analyze whether the thought is valid and whether it belongs. Often, the thought does not belong and we can use this awareness to choose another thought, or to drop the unhealthy line of thinking altogether.
Along with detoxing the mind, detoxing our body and healing our gut is extremely important. The gut-brain connection is a crucial element in the functioning of our brain’s neurotransmitters which are responsible for our mental health and well-being. Studies have shown that altering the gut microbe results in changes in emotional processing which include reductions in anxiety and depression. In order to detox our body and heal our gut, I recommend a 7 – 21 day detox protocol along with healthy food and probiotics. This metabolic reset helps patients increase awareness of their food habits and gives their gut a break to rejuvenate and restore itself. Longer programs can be followed as a patient progresses. I often discuss timeframes such as 120 days to change a habit, 365 days to change a lifestyle, and 1000 days for epigenetic change.
For optimal health, we need to address the body and the mind. We need to make sure we are putting in the right food and supplements to heal our gut which will allow for our neurotransmitters to function properly. We also need daily brain training to ensure that our thoughts originate from a place of positivity and gratitude. A total detox will give you a sense of empowerment in your life, along with the clarity to see what is not truly serving your health and wellbeing. Investing in detoxing the body and mind is an investment in your own happiness and in the achievement of realizing your full potential.