Sometimes, the brain can build up excessive recurrent thoughts, some good, but also some that are harmful. As discussed in the Wake-up Call of Courage, the intentional development of good habits is a key component of developing and strengthening your courage. But what is also needed is to eliminate and reduce the impact of negative thought memes, also known as thought viruses . The best way I've found to reboot the brain is by going through the following exercise, based upon a system by John Reese.
You need to have approximately one hour to complete a reboot of your brain. Make sure you are in a quite place where you won't be interrupted. Have available your favorite writing tools, perhaps a pen and paper or an online, private journal.
First, write down everything that you need to do. Some people call this a brain dump, others call it the to-do expedition. Your task is to make the list complete. Keep going until you cannot think of anything else. Concentrate on this task for at least 10 minutes before moving on to the next step. This is your to-do list. When you are done, put your list aside and take a short break of 5 minutes.
Now, write down all of your dreams, wants, and desires. Write these down regardless of the financial costs. For now, don't worry about how much effort it will take, or how likely you think it is possible for you to achieve. Just get these desires out of your brain. Write down your perfect life as you picture it. Write down the physical things, and also the metaphysical things. These are the physical and spiritual things that you really, really want. Completely empty your thoughts on this topic. This is your goal list. Keep going for at least 10 minutes, then take a short break.
The third step is to confront your fears in writing. Put all of your fears down on paper. It doesn't matter how small, how large, how real, or how imagined. The important thing is to put it all down. This is your list of fears. Again, keep working on this for at least 10 minutes then take a 5 minute break.
Now it is time to read out loud all of your entries from each of your three lists: a) your to-do list, b) your goals, and c) your list of fears. Read them aloud in the order you wrote them down. When doing this, if any new thoughts occur to you, write these down on the appropriate list.
Closely examine your fears, and while doing so, think about solutions that could help you overcome these fears, or decrease the fear. If you think of a complete solution, then add this to your to-do list and strike the fear off of your fear list. For example, maybe you are afraid of premature death. You come up with the idea that by walking for 20 minutes a day, you will greatly diminish this fear because you know you are taking active steps to improve your health. Write down "walk for 20 minutes a day, more days than not" on your to-do list.
Next it is time to closely examine your goal list. Think of possible solutions. Also check to see if you have any fears associated with any particular goal. As your ideas come forth, write them down on either the to-do list or the list of fears.
Finally, prioritize and begin work on your to-do list. This is the final step in your brain reboot. This completes the process, because now you can relax knowing that you have begun definite action steps to move you towards your goals and away from your fears. This builds up your courage by helping you become a person of action, not just words or thoughts. After performing a brain reboot once, it becomes much faster the second time. Do this on a regular basis as part of your personal improvement system, and watch your courage grow as your fears and anxieties decrease.
REFERENCE: Lofland D. Thought viruses. 1997.
Published by Tom Heston MD 4/2/2012
Tom Heston MD is a Johns Hopkins trained physician who practices clinical medicine in the Pacific Northwest.