My new relationship with the news, mindfulness, vision boards & neuroplasticity… How are these things connected?!

I go back and forth with watching the news and distancing myself from it.  At times, watching/listening to the news has made me feel very depressed and angry; thus, it is often not helpful for me to engage in it in any way, shape or form.  Lately, I have been drinking my morning coffee in bed, and watching the news for a good hour before I start my day. I’ve noticed some of the familiar moods and emotions cropping up and it’s interesting how I see my emotions fueling me instead of bringing my day to a screeching halt or starting my day on the “wrong side of the bed”. 

Through mindfulness practices, I am able to notice that in my human experience, I’m feeling “anger” or “sadness” or “jealousy” without judging it.  My internal dialogue might be something like, “Oh, well, that’s interesting. I’m feeling pissed right now.” Also, the new thing is, “What can I do about it?”  There are countless triggers for my sadness and anger when I watch the news and of all things, my vision board is something that comes to mind as I consider the change in how I allow the news to impact my day.  

I started making my vision board with my clients as they were making their own late last year.   Vision boards are taken very seriously by some but I thought my use for them was just a fun little crafty project for kids to visualize whatever inspired them.  Was it goals? Was it a quote? Something that made them happy/smile? I was fine with it simply being a tiny reminder of my time with them.  

My vision board stayed at work until brought it home earlier this year.  It was in my bedroom for a while, in a place that I passed by repeatedly, so I had to look at it. I moved it to my kitchen table because that is where my desk was during the reno of the Creative Therapies office space.  It has since been framed and placed on the wall in the reception area of Creative Therapies because I sincerely want to “BE THE CHANGE.” I also have a sticker on my little car that reminds me, and perhaps others, to “BE THE CHANGE”.  

It’s just a shift in perspective, but, as it turns out, that is kind of a big deal because I can reframe my thinking quickly instead of getting ill.  Instead of getting pissed off {Again… Over the SAME thing: the news/media in general…}, I have been thinking, “How can this situation best serve me and/or others?”  Shifting my perspective helps me thwart off unplesantries and redirect any “negative” emotions. (BTW, negative was put in quotes because in utilizing mindfulness practices, emotions are neither positive nor negative, they are just emotions.)  My experience in having new automatic thoughts, in response to the news, is a great example of this thing called neuroplasticity.  

Neuroplasticity is basically this scientific deal that says that your brain can and does change.  You (yes, YOU) can cause your brain to create new neural pathways, if you repeat a certain thought, mantra, visualization, behavior, etc… Over a period of time, your mind will easily go to that repeated item.  The brain is finding reward in going to that particular place and it does so quicker and easier the more often it’s repeated. This is basically the brain’s job. When it is rewarded by feeling better by thinking a new thought, it’s going to want to do it again.  In addition, when the brain is rewarded by a behavior, it’s going to want to do that again as well.  

This is good news AND bad news.  The good news is that we CAN create new neural pathways which can make us feel emotionally better, and allow us to get along easier in the world.  The bad news is we can also make too many choices that create feel good neurotransmitters that only temporarily make us feel better, and in fact, make us feel worse in the end.  Those choices can turn into full blown dis-ease and dis-order including eating disorders, substance use disorders, excessive spending, pornography addiction and any other high-yield dopamine activity you can think of.  

The moral of the story:  Choose wisely on the things you repeatedly expose yourself to and engage in.  Evaluate whether or not those things that you repeat offer short-term or long-term help and adjust accordingly.  Your brain is monitoring everything that you do. It’s crafty. You either control it, or it controls you.  

Aside from using vision boards, it’s an interesting experiment to see what happens when you take away something OR add something to your life on a consistent basis.  Even if it’s small.  Maybe try something that you think that might be insignificant.  No need for major changes. (I think that’s where folks get overwhelmed and give up.)  Just try baby steps, folks. Be gentle with yourself.  

If you find yourself not able to do the tiny thing, then maybe you need to take away something instead of adding something new.  Take away something no longer serving you that you think might be just a *tiny* thing. Just for kicks. Seriously. Don’t discount little changes as they can yield big results!  

Thanks for reading my ramblings. Wishing you a great rest of your day!


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