An expert has revealed how you can combine science and positive thinking to achieve your goals.
Neuroscientist, life coach and psychiatrist Dr Tara Swart, who teaches at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and King’s College in London, explains in her new book, The Source, how six principles could be used in our everyday life to ‘make things happen.’
These are based these on ‘neuroplasticity’ – the brain’s ability to change itself during adulthood.
According to Dr Swart, it is possible to ‘rewire our brain,’ or to change our attitude in order to succeed. She explains we can train ourselves to become the person we need to be in order to provoke positive change in our lives.
She follows the concept behind the Law of Attraction – the belief that positive thinking will lead to good things while negative thinking will attract negative outcomes – and argues that changing the way we think can have a physical impact on our lives.
These six principles allow us to unlock what Dr Swart calls ‘The Source,’ or the full potential of the brain, which she describes as the harmony between the cortex – which is responsible for higher thought processes such as speech and decision-making – and the limbic system – which deals with emotions, memories and stimulation.
A neuroscientist and psychiatrist explains how you can train your brain to adopt a more positive attitude and achieve your goals (pictured: a happy woman who’s thriving in life, stock picture)
Dr Tara describes ‘abundance’ as the belief that there is enough of everything to go around. She defines it in relationships with ‘lack’, explaining that whether we believe in one or the other will have different consequences on our lives.
For instance, those who believe in abundance will develop resilience through tough times thanks to the trust that things will get better. She believes they also exude generosity, which is infectious and leads to human connections.
On the other hand, those who operate on the basis of ‘lack’ will be primarily motivated by fear, and tend to think in negatives.
This is why she believes adopting an abundant mindset is an essential part of the Law of Attraction.
Understanding ‘The Source’
‘The Source is the incredible, complex and sophisticated thing that is our whole brain – not just the cortex and our planning and data-driven decision-making abilities. The true power of the brain lies in being able to integrate what we think with how we feel – the cortex and the limbic system together – with what our gut tells us and what we sense throughout our entire bodies.
This creates an experience of life of which we can take true ownership; one that is filled with a trust in our own amazing ability to navigate circumstances with every part of us aligned and fully immersed.
Life does not have to be about fear and half-measures or what ifs and regrets. We each have the capacity in our brains to live life fully, boldly and without shame or sadness. I have come to learn, through the combination of my cultural heritage with modern medicine and neuroscience, that if we access the full potential of our brains, we can live life very, very differently to the way we have before today.
At the heart of The Source is developing a level of awareness about our neural pathways and the patterns in their activity that dictate how we unconsciously react to triggers and events – like losing our temper versus shutting down, comfort eating or reaching out for help. Becoming more aware of our responses and behaviour can help us shape our reactions to the challenges we encounter in our lives. This awareness of our own mental state and that of others governs our most complex and critical social interactions: to make sense of the cognition of others is known as ‘theory of mind’ and we use this to interpret, under- stand and predict the actions of those around us.’
Extract from The Source, by Dr Tara Swart.
One particular aspect of this fear is detrimental to our long-term success and happiness: the fear of change.
Dr Tara explains that often, people stick to relationships, jobs or other situations they’re not happy with because they fear being alone, or change as a whole.
The reasoning is that fear is a strong emotion that occupies a large part of our brain, and triggers, through bad memories of past failures, red flags telling us we need to run from risk, run from change.
A person with an abundant mindset is therefore more likely to be a risk taker.
Dr Tara admits that the concept of ‘manifesting success through positive thinking’ has often been dismissed by other members of the scientific community.
And she concedes that thinking of a good thing doesn’t necessarily mean that will make it happen.
Instead, she explains that manifestation is about constantly trying to make our dream happen, however big it may be. It requires that we are true to what we really want, and focus on this, instead of chasing other goals.
For instance, one could work hard to obtain a promotion and reach financial stability, when the dream was really to retrain.
Manifestation is about channeling your ultimate goal in everything that you do. Scientifically speaking, manifestation works by literally ‘breathing’ what you want. It’s focusing all your senses on imagining it and visualising it – what it looks, feels, smells and tastes like.
This, Dr Tara explains, makes the dream more tangible in our brain, therefore more attainable.
It also requires to slowly build the mindset and skills necessary to making the leap.
3. Magnetic Desire
More than positive thinking, magnetic desire is the strength of conviction that leads you to achieve something that was thought achievable.
Dr Tara explains that studies on optimism have shown that ‘an individual’s mindset and determination to achieve their goals dictates what happens to them.’
It’s a combined effort of channeling optimism that we can indeed make good things happen to us, as well as the emotional intensity that gives us the strength and confidence to turn our optimism into reality rather than hoping in vain.
In practice, magnetic desire requires building up one’s confidence to see the change through research, vocalising what we want and visualising it as well.
Dr Tara describes it as nurturing the seed of ambition our dream carries.
It also demands making concessions and go through possible set-backs in order to move forward.
Like every project, building the skills to achieve our goals and working on our attitude towards life does not happen over night, which is why Dr Tara explains we need to be patient with ourselves.
By vocalising and visualising our dreams, we ease the brain into thinking they are indeed attainable and that ‘we can do it.’ The act of repeating to ourselves that we have the strength it takes to reach out for what we want will take time.
However, even though it’s tempting to give up when our progress seems to be stagnating, Dr Tara says it is important to not throw in the towel.
At the core of rewiring our brain is the idea and the mind and the body need to exist in perfect harmony in order to bring all the chances to make our dream come true.
This will give us the balance and mindfulness to make good choices that advance our goals.
Harmony between our logical brain (the cortex), our emotional brain (the limbic system) and the gut, and understanding the signals they send us, is at the core of unleashing our brain’s power, Dr Tara explains.
And we can only truly understand them if we’re in harmony with our mind and body.
The expert advises to keep a log of what happens when we follow our emotions instead of doing what’s expected of us in a journal. This can help us identify when we need not compromise.
Compromising, Dr Tara says, can drive us away from what we really need and from achieving our deepest goals.
Pictured: Successful woman at work, stock picture. Dr Tara Swart explains that we can rewire our brains in order to be more successful in life
6. Universal connection – being connected with people and the world
Universal connection is the idea that we’re all connected to each other and the universe.
It is about the way the world impacts on you, and the impact you have on the world, Dr Tara explains.
Living in harmony with the world produces a sense of belonging and purpose which is beneficial to the brain. Compassion and collaboration with other releases oxytocin and dopamine, which contributes to pleasure.
Universal connection also suggests that it’d be more advantageous for us to be pro-active about our lives rather than be the victim of unforeseen circumstances.
There are many ways to tap into the potential of universal connection, from volunteering to raising awareness on social media about issues you care about.
The Source – the whole brain – also relies on our interactions with our friends in order to thrive. The quality of our relationship have a massive impact on hour mood, way of thinking and behaviour.
The Source: Open your mind and change your life by Dr Tara Swart is published by Vermilion.