Mastering Pattern Interruption & Brain Stimulation for Mental Health
10 tips to interrupt thought patterns and stimulate the brain with natural activities for a better mood
Do you sometimes feel stuck?
Admittedly I do. But, I can get myself unstuck effortlessly and swiftly.
I have been using pattern interruption and brain stimulation to design my happiness. But unfortunately, my active, well-educated, and disciplined brain still constantly produces nonsense thoughts if I don't interrupt them deliberately. I learned to stop rumination.
The brain defaults to creating thoughts as a natural survival mechanism. So, I accept the situation. But I don't surrender to my recurring thoughts as they are not real even though they are useful signals to detect risks for my survival.
I introduce ten proven and practical techniques in this article. These techniques are so simple and easy that anyone can do them. We don't need a therapist, coach, or mentor to lead us.
These are self-instantiated and natural techniques that we can do by ourselves without being told by authority figures. We don't have to spend money, and no need for a prescription. They don't take too much of our time either. And none of them would hurt us.
People tend to underestimate the value of simple and easy techniques, but they might be the most powerful ones to help us change internally. Big habits are a combination of tiny ones. Habits have tremendous effects on managing our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.
I came across the terms "pattern interrupt" and "brain stimulation" during my cognitive science studies. They looked noteworthy scientific terms as they were narrated in convoluted academic papers.
Studies on animals like mice were interesting, and of course, they are essential for scientists and healthcare practitioners to design drugs and therapies. However, average and healthy people would not need to read hundreds of scientific papers to practice these common-sense items.
When I understood the real meaning behind those concepts, I noticed that they are simple lifestyle habits that anyone can do. We have been using them for centuries.
So, I cut the academic chase to save time for you and turn them into practical and straightforward tips that you possibly already know. However, you might need a bit of inspiration which is the purpose of this article.
Introduction to Patterns
Our brains work on patterns. These patterns are part of our survival system and serve protection us and have energy-saving purposes. However, when we live our lives with these patterns, we remain pessimistic, reactive, and non-productive.
We experience thousands of thoughts daily with or without our awareness. Some are conscious, and some are unconscious. If we are not aware of our thoughts, we can get stuck. On the other hand, we can deliberately generate positive emotions or address our negative emotions with awareness of our thoughts.
Awareness of our thoughts and breaking patterns purposefully, we can change our behavior. I use pattern interrupt for various reasons. I also use brain stimulation incorporated with pattern interrupting. You can use two techniques separately or together.
Even though I use both techniques in my professional and personal life, in this post, I only focus on the ones related to physical and mental health that became lifestyle choices for me.
I used pattern interruption to manage my stress. As a person suffering from emotional and chronic stress, I needed creative ways to address these challenging situations.
Let me introduce ten simple activities that helped me interrupt thought patterns and stimulate brain chemistry effectively. I share my personal experience of using these techniques to maintain my mental health, especially to manage my mood and behavior.
These techniques helped me feel good for no reason.
Simple yet effective pattern-interrupting and brain-stimulating tips
Here are ten easy and proven tips that you can use when you get stuck.
1 - Mindfulness
A mindful approach to anything gave me instant relief. When I feel down, the first thing I check is my thoughts. I ask myself what I am thinking about now. Most of the time, I find myself either dealing with a past situation or a future concern.
As soon as I interrupt these thoughts and focus on the present moment, I see my feelings get at ease. Then, after a few minutes of focus on the tasks at hand and naming them, the vicious thought cycles are broken.
Making a mindful approach into a habit and lifestyle choice helped me recognize thought patterns easily and empowered me to break them. Thoughts and emotions are tightly connected. By changing a specific one, you can also change another one.
2 - Deliberate Smile and Laughter
This might sound odd, but we can interrupt our thoughts and create instant positive emotions if we try to smile or laugh deliberately. We know that laughter can rewire our brain.
It is possible to smile and laugh for no reason. But, interestingly, the brain cannot detect whether we manufacture a smile or laugh unless we start judging ourselves, like saying this is a silly smile or fake laughter.
Smiling and laughter can change our brain chemistry. For example, some kids start laughing when they hurt themself, and they quickly forget about the pain. It happened to me many times in my childhood. Now, as an adult, I use this pattern interrupting technique which also stimulates my brain.
3 - Appreciation and Gratitude
Appreciation is deliberately recognizing good things in our lives and enjoying those good qualities. It reflects our perspectives. It is possible to see the good side of anything. The metaphorical silver lining is an example.
Gratitude and appreciation are closely related, but they are also different. The main difference is that while appreciation is an action, gratitude is an emotion. We can define gratitude as the feeling of thankfulness and appreciation of good things and people in our lives.
By recognizing good things, we can feel grateful. Leveraging this action and emotion, we can interrupt thought patterns and generate positive emotions.
4 - Tiny Celebrations
While many of us celebrate special occasions, we don't think much about celebrating usual events. Every culture has a way of commemorating important events. Rituals give pleasure to individuals in a group.
But we can create our rituals too. For example, we can use celebration as a brain trick. I love scheduling fun.
In my opinion, every individual should find ways to celebrate small gains. By celebrating every minor achievements, we can produce good feel hormones intentionally that can interrupt thought patterns and stimulate the brain with dopamine and serotonin spikes.
For example, in my writing practice, I celebrate when I draft a piece of writing. I celebrate again when I complete self-editing and publishing. I also celebrate when I receive feedback. By making the celebration a habit, writing always motivates me. I never see it as a chore. Instead, I see it as fun.
5 - Singing an Humming
Many benefits of singing, such as aerobic capacity and longevity, are well known. In addition, singing promotes physical and psychological well-being by changing the neuro-chemistry of the brain.
Singing and humming can be an ideal pattern breaking and brain stimulation activity. When we deliberately sing, especially when we are in a rut, we interrupt our thoughts and stimulate our brain because it releases endorphins.
Since singing and humming relate to breathing, circulation, and muscles, they are psychosomatic activities. Many of centenarians, such as 105 years Algor, whom I observed closely, keep singing and humming when they do chores because these activities uplift us by generating positive feelings constantly.
Our body and brain love movements. Moving the body and the brain is essential for our survival.
Movement can also be used as a pattern interrupting and brain-stimulating technique. Movement is also psychosomatic activity. When we move, our muscles get activated with energy, and the brain changes its chemistry.
Aerobic movements and short high intensity activities are excellent for the brain to increase BDNF (Brain-derived Neuro Factor). In addition, making movements as a habit can help us break thought patterns, especially when those thoughts don't serve our purpose.
My favorite movement techniques to break patterns and stimulate the brain are joyful exercises such as walking, dancing, jumping on a trampoline, pull-ups, push-ups, squats, and planks. You may check this story why centenarians love dancing.
7- Inspirational Reading
We read to learn and have fun.
However, we can use reading as a pattern-breaking and brain stimulation technique. Reading is also physical and mental activity. I found reading physical books a better pattern interrupter.
When we find ourselves ruminating and feeling negative, we can change those thoughts and feelings if we deliberately read a few pages of an uplifting book or an inspiring article.
8 - Self Conversation
In my opinion, self-conversation is an indication of self-compassion, self-love, self-confidence, and self-esteem. It is a creative and compassionate way to connect with our inner self.
When I find myself lost in thoughts, I stop and ask myself intimately what I am really thinking right now. Asking questions related to the origin and meaning of thoughts bring me to the present moment.
When we observe and verbalize our thoughts and remain in the moment, we use our frontal cortex and calm our amygdala. This approach is an excellent way to understand and address our negative emotions such as anxiety, fear, and anger.
9 - Expressive Writing
Writing is another physical and mental activity.
Writing is an ideal pattern interruption and brain stimulation technique. Whenever I find myself in a challenging psychological situation, I talk to myself and write my answers using both hands.
Expressive writing has many scientifically proven therapeutic benefits, as mentioned in this story. One of these benefits is pattern interruption and boosting the whole brain as expressive writing is a physical, cognitive, and emotional activity.
The easiest way for me is to carry a diary with me. Then, if I don't have anything, I just write on my phone by opening a text file. Even jotting down a shopping list can be a helpful pattern interruption technique.
10 - Intentional Breathing
I left the most important and the easiest to the last so that you can remember this one easily.
Of course, everyone breathes every moment. But my point is intentional breathing to change the neuro-chemicals in the brain easily and instantly.
When we use intentional breathing techniques, we can alkalize the blood with oxygen. In simple terms, too much carbon deoxidation increases acidity and causes inflammation.
We know that Yoga breathing lowers inflammation. By taking a few deep breaths you can easily break the thought patterns, reduce inflammation, and stimulate the brain and the body with good feel neuro-transmitters and hormones.
The quality of our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors determines our physical and mental health. By interrupting thought patterns intentionally with simple activities, we can manage our emotions better and change our behavior as we desire.
By interrupting our thoughts and stimulating the brain to create good feel hormones, we can improve our mental health. Many mental health problems are caused by chronic stress. Excessive thinking such as rumination can increase daily stress load and turn into chronic stress if they persist.
By using these simple, proven, and practical techniques, we can gain immediate relief and rewire our brains in the long run. Pattern interruption and brain stimulation are excellent ways to design our happiness. Moreover, we can do them by ourselves without input from others and learn to feel good for no reason.
Thank you for reading my perspectives. I'd be delighted to obtain your feedback.
Disclaimer: Please note that this story is not health advice. I shared my research and perspectives for information and awareness purposes only. If you have mental health disease symptoms, please consult your health care professionals such as a psychiatrist or psychologist referred by your primary healthcare practitioner.
The original version of this article was published on another platform.
If you are a creator, you may find Vocal a great platform to find your voice.
About the author
I'm a writer and published author with four decades of content development experience in business, technology, leadership, and health. I work as a postdoctoral researcher and consultant. My background is at https://digitalmehmet.com.