Hey there, I’m Dr. Chad Larson. Today, I want to delve into a topic that’s close to my heart – the neuroscience behind stress and anxiety management. In our fast-paced world, finding ways to handle these emotions is more important than ever for our overall well-being. One effective approach, which I’m excited to share with you, revolves around the power of controlling our thoughts. So, let’s jump right in and explore the strategies that can help us develop the grit needed to take charge of our minds and conquer life’s challenges.

Rewiring the Brain for Success

When it comes to managing stress and anxiety, one of the most potent tools at our disposal is cultivating positive thoughts. Now, this isn’t just some self-help notion; it’s deeply rooted in the science of neurobiology and neuroscience. Here’s the deal – our brains tend to cling to negative thoughts more than positive ones. But here’s the good news: research shows that about three positive thoughts can counteract the impact of a single negative thought. Pretty fascinating, right?

Positive thinking isn’t about wishful thinking; it’s about reshaping our neural networks and boosting the production of neurotransmitters associated with happiness and well-being. So, the next time you catch yourself dwelling on negativity, remember that actively focusing on the positive can create a mental environment that wards off the pervasive influence of negative thinking.

Nurturing the Mindset of Appreciation

Let’s talk about gratitude practice – an incredibly powerful tool in our stress and anxiety management toolkit. Now, you might think this sounds like something from the New Age playbook, but trust me, it’s firmly grounded in scientific evidence. I’m all about practical ways to integrate gratitude into our lives, so here’s what I suggest to nurture the grit needed for controlling our thoughts.

Imagine maintaining a gratitude journal. It’s as simple as jotting down a list of ten things you’re grateful for. But here’s the twist: don’t just go through the motions. Feel the gratitude as you write each item down. This practice isn’t just about listing; it’s about cultivating a mindset of appreciation that has a ripple effect throughout your day.

Taking your gratitude game up a notch, consider expanding on one of those items. Write a heartfelt paragraph about something you’re grateful for. Immerse yourself in the experience, allowing your brain’s neural pathways to soak up the positivity. And hey, how about writing a thank-you note? It’s a tangible expression of gratitude that not only refines your positive thinking skill but might even brighten someone else’s day.

Exercising the Mind for Resilience

Now, let’s dive into mindfulness – a practice often associated with the New Age scene. But trust me, it’s more rooted in science than you might think. Think of it as a mental exercise, much like hitting the gym. You’re not just doing it for the sake of the exercise; you’re building mental resilience that translates to your daily life.

So, what’s mindfulness all about? Picture focusing on a word or an object – it could be as simple as a candle flame or the serene sights during a walk in nature. What’s happening beneath the surface is fascinating: you’re training your central nervous system to steer clear of unwanted thoughts and stay laser-focused on what you want. It’s like giving your mind a workout to strengthen its ability to ignore distractions and stay on course.

The Nexus of Thought Control and Resilience

As we wrap up, let’s tie it all together. Developing the grit to control our thoughts isn’t just about mental gymnastics; it’s a key aspect of building resilience and mental strength. By mastering this skill, we equip ourselves to handle challenges, tackle stress head-on, and keep anxiety at bay. While these strategies – positive thinking, gratitude practice, and mindfulness – might sound simple, they’re deeply rooted in the intricate workings of our brain and are backed by robust scientific research.

By weaving these practices into our daily routines, we open the door to transformative benefits. Positive thoughts don’t just uplift us; they reshape our neural pathways for success. Gratitude practice instills a deep sense of appreciation, turning our brains into positivity-seeking machines. Mindfulness exercises our minds, giving us the power to control our thoughts and navigate life’s twists and turns with unwavering resilience.

In a nutshell, this insight sheds light on the fascinating interplay between neuroscience and stress management. By harnessing the power of positive thinking, gratitude, and mindfulness, we can reshape our mental landscape and empower ourselves to lead happier, more resilient lives. So, here’s to taking charge of our thoughts and embracing the journey to better well-being.

Control Your Thoughts

Hey there, I’m Dr. Chad Larson. Today, I want to delve into a topic that’s close to my heart – the neuroscience behind stress and anxiety management. In our fast-paced world, finding ways to handle these emotions is more important than ever for our overall well-being. One effective approach, which I’m excited to share with you, revolves around the power of controlling our thoughts. So, let’s jump right in and explore the strategies that can help us develop the grit needed to take charge of our minds and conquer life’s challenges.


Move More

This is similar to my previous video, the first part in this series that I’m doing on Grit. We talked about the grit of perseverance and the different components of that. I said that physical perseverance is a great way to build a neurobiology with which you can improve your mental perseverance. Physical perseverance means things like exercise, such as increasing the amount of weight that you can lift or the number of repetitions. Or if you do some kind of cardiovascular activity, it means going for more mileage or climbing a hill or exercising for a longer period of time. We’re trying to improve our neurobiology and develop neural networks that help with increasing our perseverance. Then when something in life throws an obstacle in our way, we already have the acquired neurobiology to overcome that obstacle, and it makes it a heck of a lot easier if we kind of build up that skill over time.


Similarly, the grit to control our thoughts allows us to avoid certain mental distractions and focus the brain on what we want.

This can be really helpful when we’re trying to achieve a goal or acquire a skill. But it’s also important while we’re still in this global pandemic, because the number two risk factor for a poor outcome, according to the CDC website, is anxiety and fear disorder. And that’s basically the ability to control our thoughts. Anxiety and fear disorders are oftentimes neurobiologically based issues, and this could be part of it. It’s something that we can develop over time.


So how do we develop it?

There are some things we can do to help us control our thoughts, some skills and activities that we can incorporate in our lives, hopefully on a daily basis, to bolster that part of our brain and develop that grit skill.

  • First, positive thoughts.

We’re inundated with negative thoughts, and experts have shown that it takes three positive thoughts to kind of override one negative thought. So positive thinking sounds New Agey, but actually it’s not. This is based in neurobiology and neuroscience. And it’s very clear, there’s lots of really good data on this fact. It’s not New Age and it’s not really psychology, although psychology is kind of wrapped into it. It’s neurobiology and it’s neuroscience. And it’s about improving the neural networks of the brain and creating the neurotransmitters to foster this type of development. So that’s number one: positive thoughts.

  • Along that same line is gratitude practice.

Again, this sounds kind of New Agey, but it’s based in absolute, clear science. And what is meant by making this into a skill is, for example, you can write down a list of ten things that you’re grateful for. But you can’t be emotionally flat about writing down those ten things. You want to actually feel the gratitude as you’re writing them down. That’s what helps to instigate and nourish and develop the mindset, helps to develop the neural chemistry and the neurobiology of gratitude. If you do this on a daily basis, your nervous system starts to hunt for things to be grateful for. Throughout the day the brain is thinking, “okay, he’s gonna ask me to come up with a list of things that I’m grateful for,” so then your brain starts collecting things to be grateful for. This is a way that we can really start to develop the skill and the grit to control our thoughts.

  • Expand your gratitude and write a paragraph.

Another easy gratitude practice can be to take one of those ten things on the list and you expand on it, write a paragraph about it. And again you really want to put yourself in a state of gratitude for the thing that you’re expanding on. Another gratitude practice is writing a thank you note. For someone or something that you thought of before, just write a note. Whether or not you send the note is up to you. That might be a little bonus. If you send it to somebody, they could feel the appreciation of the gratitude. But writing it is really the skill you’re practicing, is the way to develop this gratitude which in turn helps to develop this grit skill.


In addition to positive thinking and gratitude practice, there’s also mindfulness.

Again, I know, it sounds New Agey. But it’s steeped in very clear scientific understanding. There’s a certain neurobiological thing that happens when we practice mindfulness.

But what is mindfulness?

It’s kind of like exercising at the gym or going for a run. You’re not just exercising in the gym to get stronger at gym exercises. You’re getting stronger in the gym so that in your daily life you have the strength to pick up that heavy object, or to handle some kind of stress or carry a mental load. Maybe you have the kind of work environment that demands that you’re able to stay strong in your everyday life. You know, one of the things that can really age a person is losing grip strength. Grip strength is actually a metric to measure aging, sort of a longevity marker. Losing grip strength can be a sign of the aging process. My point here is that practicing mindfulness is similar to exercising at the gym in that you’re building skills you can then take into daily life, so that you can ignore the distractions and focus on the things you’re trying to focus on. Mindfulness is just a way of developing that particular skill.


It can be something as simple as focusing on a word you come up with, whatever word you like, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t have to be some fancy mantra, although you could do that if you want to. It could be some kind of object like a candle flame. You could do it while sitting in a total meditative environment. Or you can do it while going for a walk in nature; that’s one of my favorite ways of doing it. But you come up with an object or a word to focus on. And what you’re doing is building up a skill to train your central nervous system to avoid unwanted thoughts and to focus on the things you want to focus on. Then you’re not allowing other thoughts to jump in there and take over.

-Dr. Chad Larson


So the things that we ignore and the things that we focus on are a result of developing the grit to control our thoughts.

These are a few skills for that, and the more you practice them, the better. You should at least try to practice them more days than not, and daily would be ideal. That way you can really develop the skill. Last time, we talked about the grit of perseverance. This time we talked about the grit to control your thoughts. Again, we’re inundated with negative thoughts and things that distract our ability to focus. And this is really what we need to do on a regular basis to get back in control of what we’re thinking about, and to avoid things that we don’t want to think about. I will keep reading the studies and bringing you the information. Until then, keep it real.


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