Can You Really Change the Way You Think While You Sleep?

FIONA BRENNAN, author of The Positive Habit, believes so and explains why …

 

Can you really change the way you think while you sleep? Yes, you can. Jack Canfield, motivational speaker, corporate trainer and bestselling co-author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series said: ‘Whatever goal you give to your subconscious it will work night and day to achieve.’ Your subconscious mind is continuously absorbing stimuli, even while you sleep. Knowing the power of your subconscious and making it a habit to shape it according to your desires allows you to join the ranks of the supremely positive people in this world. Your subconscious has been recording your life from the moment you were born until this very moment. That is a significant amount of data and in order to process this, the mind uses filters which are the result of our childhood and cultural conditioning. Identifying your personal filters will help you change how you see the world; you will be able to realise opportunities that you haven’t previously seen because of the prevalence of negative filters. As a result, your life will become richer, brighter and happier.

The beauty of changing negative filters to positive ones while you fall asleep is that it is effortless. I recommend listening to morning and sleep time audios (free when you purchase a copy of The Positive Habit) as you develop the habit of listening to these audios, your feelings and behaviour organically become more positive: it is a well-acknowledged fact that repetition and practice begets success. As this effortless transition is at a subconscious level you may be pleasantly surprised to notice that your behaviour changes to reflect your growing positivity levels. For example, you may find yourself feeling more confident and volunteering to do things that you would usually have avoided, such as giving a speech or booking a holiday to somewhere new. You may find yourself feeling calmer in situations that caused you stress in the past and finding that you have more patience with people you find challenging.

Matthew Walker, author of the bestseller Why We Sleep, is the leading expert on sleep science today. He explains how crucial it is for the brain to have a full eight hours of sleep each night; the less sleep you get, the shorter you live. Many people ‘get by’ on as little as five or six hours a night and Walker clearly outlines the risks involved in such an approach: ‘The leading causes of disease and death in developed nations – diseases that are crippling health care systems, such as heart disease, obesity, dementia, diabetes and cancer – all have recognised causal links to a lack of sleep.’

When you put it like this, it seems fairly black and white. Not surprisingly, sleep deprivation also has a major impact on our mental health. REM (rapid eye movement) sleep is when we dream, and dreaming provides us with nature’s most potent self-therapy programme. As Matthew Walker states: ‘The best bridge between despair and hope is a good night’s sleep.’

Can you identify with that feeling of going to bed feeling anxious but when you wake the feeling has softened and it does not have the same intense rawness to it? This is no coincidence: it is not just the passing of time that has helped, it’s the fact that the anxiety-inducing neurochemical, norepinephrine, is shut off while we dream. In any 24-hour period, REM sleep is often the only time we have had a break from the ‘fight-or-flight’ neurotransmitter and the stress hormone of cortisol circulating in our bodies. This ‘golden’ window provides the brain with a calm and safe time in which to process some of the complicated and frightening thoughts and events that have occurred during our waking hours. Simply put, a good night’s sleep is essential for your emotional and physical wellbeing.

Listening to positive suggestions will help you to drift off to sleep more easily and even if you have disturbing dreams, don’t be alarmed, be grateful and do your best to learn from them – your subconscious is healing your mind so that you can be at your best the next day.

Studies have indicated that many patients, either under anaesthetic on the operating table or in a coma, can hear and understand conversations around them, even if they appear to be unconscious. The American anaesthesiologist George Mashour writes, ‘the unconscious mind is not this black sea of nothingness [but an] active and dynamic place; one might imagine the anaesthetised mind as a concert hall in which the conductor is missing but the orchestra still performs.’

‘Crystallised intelligence’ is the term that Joshua Waitzkin, former chess prodigy and tai chi world champion, uses to explain how he utilises the first ten minutes of his morning to tap into his subconscious power rather than to check his smartphone. He finds a quiet place, meditates and then writes whatever comes to mind in his journal. This is a good time for being creative. Many world leaders and influential people are acutely aware of the transformative potential of the early hours.

A useful habit is to keep a notebook beside your bed and before you go to sleep each night write down any questions you have. Whether you are struggling to make a decision or seeking a solution to a problem, this technique is invaluable. It works to cleanse your mind and puts the power in your subconscious mind. When you wake in the morning, look at those questions; your subconscious mind may have revealed the answers to you as you slept.

This is an edited extract from The Positive Habit: 6 Steps for Transforming Negative Thoughts to Positive Emotions by Fiona Brennan. Published by Gill Books, priced at €16.99, it is available in all bookshops and online now.

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