What is brain priming? How does brain priming work and why is this brain hack so effective in managing negative thoughts? Brain priming is the number one tool I use to help women overcome negative thoughts and cultivate a positive mindset – especially when they feel stuck in toxic thinking ruts and they just can’t get out.
Once we’ve discovered some of the core thought patterns (especially around worth, love and being enough) we use brain priming to help women transform their negative thoughts about themselves. Brain priming literally prunes away old neural networks associated with the toxic thoughts and creates new neural networks that support the biblical truth. Brain priming is the heart of the work we do in the Christian Mindset Makeover, so I can’t wait to share more about this powerful neurological technique!
IN TODAY’S PODCAST EPISODE:
- [1:47] A brief description of brain priming
- [2:26] Why brain priming is so effective in overcoming negative thoughts
- [2:52] Using brain priming to prepare your mind for future plans and goals
- [3:29] Using brain priming to rewire thought patterns
- [6:45] Brain priming as a means to help our minds line up with God’s truth
- [8:19] How brain priming works
- [10:43] How the subconscious mind works to strengthen new habits
- [12:40] What separates brain priming from positive affirmations
- [17:57] How I use brain priming in my coaching practice and the Christian Mindset Makeover
- [21:07] The science and power behind brain priming
- [24:45] How brain priming lines up with scripture
- [28:45] Testimonies of women who have gone through brain priming
[1:47] A brief description of brain priming
Brain priming is a neurological technique that allows us to create new neural pathways in the subconscious mind for inner transformation or for increased future performance. I know that sounds kind of vague, but we’re going to dig down into that and talk about how to apply it, how it relates to scripture, what we use when we’re doing brain priming, and more.
[2:26] Why brain priming is so effective in overcoming negative thoughts
The reason why brain priming is so effective is that it utilizes what we know about how the brain hardwires and imprints thoughts. Brain priming allows us to use the brain’s own processing to create the thought patterns we want.
[2:52] Using brain priming to prepare your mind for future plans and goals
Brain priming can be used in two main ways that we’ll discuss today. First, it can be used to prepare your mind for future goals and plans. It can prepare your mind for something you’re trying to increase performance on, such as athletic performance. High-level professional athletes use brain priming as a way to lay the foundation in their brains of what is to come. When a future event happens (one that an athlete has been priming his brain for), the brain already has that neurological structure in place. The pre-existing neural pathways make it easier for the brain to take in what it needs to increase performance. That kind of priming is what we call “priming forward”.
[3:29] Using brain priming to rewire thought patterns
In my work I use brain priming to rewire past thought patterns, or thought patterns that are still active but are based on past or present circumstances. I call these “soundtracks”. These “soundtracks” are core beliefs, or those deep-seated truths we’ve developed that drive our subconscious mindset patterns. These broken core soundtracks are thought patterns that are no longer helpful to us surrounding our feelings of worth, feelings about being loved, or feeling enough.
Ongoing mindset patterns such as anxiety, shame and perfectionism are often formed by these core broken soundtracks as a response to our circumstances and the people we have interacted with. The core of our thought patterns are formed around ages 9-13.
The brain is always trying to streamline. It’s always trying to keep us safe and alive. It takes in information and attempts to streamline it and create pathways of gathered information like a supercomputer. It runs a program, versus having to logically think through every step every time. The prefrontal cortex is our logical center to the subconscious mind, and that is a storehouse of these core soundtracks–the different ways we process information and view the world.
Brain priming helps us create the results we want because when we change the subconscious thought programming we change the decisions and thus the actions. A thought formed in the brain can fuel an emotion, and a thought and an emotion together can become a belief. When that belief is acted upon, it becomes a decision. From that decision, we take action and that action creates a result.
So, if we want to create a different result, we can go all the way back to thoughts and work forward to create a different result.
Anyone can use brain priming to change their thought patterns. I work with Christian women in this area, but there are many neural coaches who use these techniques in different capacities.
[6:45] Brain priming as a means to help our minds line up with God’s truth
As Christians, we want to use brain priming to help our minds line up with God’s truth so we can be confident and understand who we are in Christ. We can live out His truth. We can obey Him. We can be in line with the Holy Spirit. This is the power of brain priming for Christians, and it allows us to be stronger, more effective, more in line Christians who love Jesus.
This allows us to be free from those mindsets that are keeping us from being bold for God, or from finding healing in the ways that God wants us to get healing. There are so many things that keep us from that full, vibrant life that Jesus talks about in John 10:10. I’d like to think of brain priming as a powerful “how to” behind Romans 12:2, which is one of the most famous verses on renewing our mind. In the New International Version (NIV), that verse says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing, and perfect wealth.”
So when we change our thoughts, we are being transformed from the inside out, of course, but that transformation is affecting our actions. This is what scripture says, and it is also what we see in brain science. We also have an added benefit, in that we will be able to be more like Christ so we can better understand and approve what His will is. We can understand what God is asking us. We can be free to step out and to live in the way he wants us to live.
[8:19] How brain priming works
Brain priming works because it’s based on a few core brain science concepts. I’ll outline those quickly, because I want to give you a quick understanding of the brain and the mind.
Our brain is different from our mind. Our brain is the literal organ inside our heads that pulls all the information in. It’s the storehouse, and it’s part of our physical body. The mind is our ability to stand outside the brain, to reason, to choose what to think, and to decide what we want to focus on.
It’s such a gift to have both a brain and a mind because as humans we are the only creatures in the world who have the ability to be able to “stand outside” our thoughts and make decisions about what we will focus on. Brain priming allows to us to refocus what drives our subconscious thoughts so we’re using the power of the mind to harness and use the brain in a different way.
This idea is based on the concept of “neuroplasticity,” or the fact that our brains are constantly changing. Your brain is not the same this year as it was last year, and every single day we encounter factors that impact our thoughts. The brain is constantly in flux.
Scientists used to believe that our brains were given a certain way – you had a certain mind and a specific capacity, and that was it. In the last 20-30 years, however, there has been an extensive amount of neuroscience research conducted. We have learned that the brain is “plastic”. Neuroplasticity indicates that every single morning there are new neurological cells, new neurons, that are given to us. I like to think of this as part of that verse in Lamentations that His mercies are new to us every morning. Every morning, we have a chance to start over. We have the opportunity to develop a new way to think about our lives. We have new pathways to form for what we want to learn, and what we want to be. Every day, God gives us that opportunity. Our brains are continually moving and changing, so we can do things like brain priming to change the internal structure of the brain.
[10:43] How the subconscious mind works to strengthen new habits
Our thoughts are hardwired in the subconscious mind, and this is another reason why brain priming is effective. The subconscious mind is a supercomputer that wants to streamline information and actions. What is repeated is reinforced. The thoughts that are given glucose are strengthened. Neural networks that are straightened continue to grow. The pathways that are ignored or not used are pruned. The brain literally removes them, because you aren’t using them anymore.
This pruning process is so powerful, because we know that it takes about 67 days for one process to fully replace another in the brain. It takes that long to create a new habit. Scientifically speaking, it takes around 67 days for that old neurological network of thoughts, feelings, or whatever it is that we’re trying to remove, to be pruned away and replaced by a new thought.
You may have heard that it takes closer to 30 days to make a habit. That is true, to an extent. As an aside, here is what’s happening from a neurological level (it’s fascinating!). At about day 20 to day 27, we find that some of the old network has been pruned away and most of the new network has been built. Around 50% of the time, however, the brain continues to choose the old network. Without it being enforced to the full capacity, there’s a greater chance that it won’t last. That’s why 67 days is the full amount of time for truly creating and solidifying a new mindset.
[12:40] What separates brain priming from positive affirmations
Let’s talk a bit about what brain priming is, and what it is not. Brain priming is NOT an affirmation. You may have heard of positive affirmations or “feel good statements”. Brain priming, however, is a customized script. In my coaching and in the Christian Mindset Makeover, brain priming is an individualized script that is targeted to help you rewire core soundtracks in your mind.
People often share that they have a statement or a mantra they repeat every day, and that’s good. It’s definitely helpful. It’s not going to have the same effect as brain priming, however, because it’s not removing that core negative thought process. It’s laying another layer on top of it, but what we really need to do is remove that and replace it.
It is also really important that brain priming be in the language of that person. And I don’t just mean literally, like English, Spanish, or German. I mean the language as in the vernacular, the colloquialisms, the phrases, and the words that you would use. That is what will resonate most in your brain. These words are like a soothing balm. You might hear God say them to you, or you would say them to someone else to comfort them. They are different for every single person.
Brain priming is also most effective when it’s done after working with a coach who understands the process and has helped you to discover your ultimate goals. You need to talk through the core soundtracks, and what you’re trying to remove. Once you find the underlying cause of the core soundtrack, you can use brain priming to rewire your thoughts.
Creating a brain priming isn’t always the most pleasant work, because we are often looking at difficult circumstances and dealing with emotions that have not been dealt with or thought about for a while. There is such a blessing on the other side of that, though, because when you can get through all of that and see what has really been causing all of this, then you can see where you want to go and what God has for you. Brain priming leads to radical transformation, and I’ll be sharing some transformations with you soon. I want you to learn how it works for real people and why it makes such a difference.
I’ll be real, that first part can be tough. As part of the Christian Mindset Makeover, I encourage clients to be very clear with themselves about why they are doing it and what the importance is behind it. I want you to really buy into and understand the weight of what happens when you do this work. There is so much value. It can change you, your relationship with God, your relationship with others, your marriage, your ability to show up in the world – so much is affected when you change these inner scripts that we all struggle with.
There is great power in brain priming, but I would encourage you to work with someone who understands that process and who can help you get the results that you want.
[17:57] How I use brain priming in my coaching practice and the Christian Mindset Makeover
In my coaching, I use brain priming as a customized script where clients acknowledge their broken soundtracks and determine what is true and what is not true about them. Then they state what they want that core soundtrack or core belief to sound like instead. Again, it’s unique to each client based on their needs. We get to the root of the issue and address these deep core beliefs.
Once the brain priming is recorded and written down, clients record themselves saying it and then they listen to that recording twice a day: first thing in the morning and right before they go to bed. The subconscious mind is most open to new ideas and new thoughts at those times of day. We do that twice a day for 67 days, and then I also help clients walk through that process to help them understand and work through some of the mindset issues that come up as we’re rewiring and recharging these core thoughts in our brains.
The accountability and support are so crucial during this process. I try to encourage my clients to release the need to have it perfect. There is always flexibility, and a lot of room for grace in this. Sometimes we need to make adjustments along the way, but most importantly we want the brain priming to resonate with them.
[21:07] The science and power behind brain priming
I am frequently asked, “who uses brain priming? How long has it been around? Is it scientific?” I’m going to run through these things quickly, because I could spend so much time on this and all the different scientific studies that have been done to show the evidence of this kind of work in our brains as effective. It’s been around for decades. There are hundreds, maybe even thousands, of studies to confirm its effectiveness related to neuroplasticity.
I personally have seen it in my own life as well. Brain priming was the root of the transformation that I had that finally allowed me to transform my motivation and perspective on how I wanted to live my life. I had to break out of perfectionism and workaholism, and fears around being enough. I had struggled with these things for so long, and brain priming allowed me to break out of that and have a different mindset.
I have seen tremendous effectiveness in all the clients I have worked with in the past. When we do it in a group, I notice the changes in them right around the same time. It’s so beautiful to watch them transition to this new mindset, as they see themselves making different decisions in a situation that would have previously been dictated by their broken soundtracks.
[24:45] How brain priming lines up with scripture
Brain priming absolutely lines up with scripture. This is an important question for us as Christians especially because we don’t want to use any part of our body in a way that is in opposition to scripture. I want to assure you that I believe brain priming and the Bible go perfectly hand in hand. This is a tool we can use to renew our minds.
Romans 8:5-6, Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit, think about things that please the spirit. So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death, but letting the spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.
What is in control of our mind? Is the Holy Spirit in control of our mind, or is it our sinful nature that’s in control of our minds? Letting the Spirit control our minds leads to life and peace. If we can control the things we think about and line them up with the spirit, it’s going to be that much easier for us to step into life and peace and to let the spirit control our minds. We’re using the power of our minds to choose to step into what God has for us – to choose to let it line up with God’s promises.
2 Corinthians 10:5 (NIV), We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
The way I use brain priming is to identify these core broken soundtracks – these core things inside of us that are not true about our identity or our worth, or how we need to appear or perform in order to be loved. It’s seeing what those are and then demolishing that argument – literally demolishing the neurological pathway that’s causing it, because it has set itself up against the truth of scripture. It is a lie that has been stuck in our head. We have not been able to break it because it’s on a subconscious level, and brain priming now makes that obedient to Christ. So it’s exciting.
Philippians 4:8-9, Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and admirable. Think about such things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me – everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.
We’re commanded to fix our thoughts. How can we fix our thoughts? As I shared in the beginning, we can try to fix our thoughts just by repeating positive affirmations. But it’s going to be way more effective for our thoughts to be changed if we are able to remove the negative that’s there, or the stuff that’s no longer serving us and isn’t in line with God’s truth, and replace it with positive. We can cast all our cares on God, but if we haven't put the good thing back in it where we’re thinking about the good things He does, it’s all for naught. So when we’re fixing our thoughts on God, they’re going to be that much more effective when we’re getting rid of the things that are no longer in line with God’s truth.
[28:45] Testimonies of women who have gone through brain priming
I wanted to conclude by sharing some testimonies of women who have gone through brain priming. These are women I’ve had the privilege to work with in coaching, and who I have seen have incredible transformations. Every single time I go through group or one-on-one coaching, or the Christian Mindset Makeover, brain priming is always the highlight, because it’s truly the most dramatic transformation my clients see.
Kathleen: I now have a profound sense of peace. Because of the brain priming and other mindset exercises that Alicia taught me, I feel unyoaked from the slavery of anxiety. I am now in a position to tell my anxiety, “No,” when I feel it rise up and give it back to God. And before, I didn’t have control of that.
Kathleen was able to get rid of what was keeping her in that anxious spot, and put in the truth instead. So now, should anxiety come back up again and strike (because we’re not saying that these thoughts are going to completely go away and never come back), she has different structures inside her brain to accept it and to deal with it. She has the ability and strength to handle that when it comes. Kathleen feels more confident, and she has the brain patterning to say, “No, this is not what I believe. This is not how I am anymore.”
Samantha: I’ve struggled with a harsh internal critic for my entire life, and that’s led to overthinking and tons of anxiety. Alicia helped me learn how to not only notice when these thought patterns were happening, but to know how to lovingly address them and replace them with God’s truth using brain priming. She helped me to see this part of me with bravery, with kindness and compassion, and that has helped me to make wiser, calmer decisions in the moment.
Samantha is also a great story of someone who was really stuck in this pattern of anxiety and was able to find and step into this new, wise version of herself. In brain priming, it’s really critical that we include the elements of kindness and compassion because this is not just yelling at ourselves and telling ourselves to be different. This is understanding and acknowledging why we’re there and the transformation it takes for us to get to that core root. A lot of compassion has to happen first, so it's a way for the brain to absorb it in a gentle way – in the way of conviction, and not condemnation. God speaks to us in a loving, kind way, and so that makes a huge difference in how we structure our brain priming.
Tanya: Before working with Alicia, I described my intellectual self as ‘taxed’. And now I describe it as full of thoughts that are positive and empowering. Before, I felt like I was drowning in my emotions and now I’m calm, happy, and I know that God has a solution. Brain priming and the mindset materials that Alicia shared have made a huge difference in my life.
That ability for her to take control of her emotions and to let God be her safe haven was key for Tanya. We were able to work through and help her to understand and sympathize with some of the reasons why she felt unsafe and had difficulty trusting God. We rewired those reasons from the inside out with a new, different pattern making it easier to cultivate positive thoughts. Tanya has peace and confidence, and it’s powerful.
Last, I wanted to share something from Amy. This is a little bit of a longer story, but there was so much transformation in Amy and so much great explanation of what happened in her that I wanted to be sure you got the picture.
Amy: I’ve spent most of my life beating myself up, always trying harder to be good enough. I tend to overcomplicate things and I do not like not being in control. However, after working with Alicia, I have seen a massive transformation in how I approach everything from work projects to how I show up as a mom and wife. I am so much more calm. Before, I felt like I was a slave to my emotions and my anger. Now, I feel much more able to separate myself from my thoughts and to release control to God. My anger levels have gone down 75% and that has done wonders for my parenting and family life. My kids are even calmer and happier too, because of how I respond to them. My emotional self is much more in line with my intellectual belief that God is in control and that everything is okay.
So, I want to pause here for a second. “My emotional self is more in line with my intellectual belief”. That is a huge thing for many women, including me. Brain priming can really help if you have an intellectual belief about God or about how you should be, but your emotions don’t line up with it.
Amy (continued): I can’t even share the difference that these mindset materials and especially brain priming have made in my life. It’s been amazing to see how having these new thoughts in my head and these mindset tools in my arsenal have allowed me to be more patient with my kids, more calm during work projects, and overall more willing to surrender what was out of my control to God.
It was so amazing to hear Amy share this information, because when she came into our group there were some issues that I thought were outside the scope of the program – especially issues on anger and how to speak to kids differently. Yet I had a hunch that if we worked on some of these deeper core belief issues and rewired them, there would be some change in those areas. And that’s exactly what happened. She was able to create a different kind of confidence, a different kind of calm, a different kind of belief in herself and a belief in who God said she was, that changed all the rest of that. Amy didn’t have to show up a certain way or perform to be liked. When she got her core beliefs turned around, it shifted her perspectives in many ways.
These are just a few of the stories of brain priming and how making these mindset switches to be able to overcome negative thoughts really does make a huge difference.
If this has been interesting to you, I want to invite you to join us for the Christian Mindset Makeover, a nine-week course that goes through this process of understanding core beliefs, working through false beliefs, and how it all lines up with the word of God and our identity in Christ.
OTHER PODCAST EPISODES ON OVERCOMING NEGATIVE THOUGHTS:
- Ep 92: What to Do When You Feel Spiritually Lost
- Ep 105: Letting Go of Bitterness for a Healthier You with Clare Davy
- Ep 127: Mindset Coaching: “How can I stop thinking I’m not good enough?” with Heidi
- Ep 129: How to Identify Toxic Thinking Patterns and Break Free from Negative Thoughts
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