Recently science has proven that what you think actually creates the physical shape of your brain. Scientist now know that as a the brain fires off a neural sequence repeatedly over time, the brain cells involved wire together so the sequence can run more efficently. The upside is this process of hard wiring in the brain helps the brain conduct routine business more efficiently, however the down side is that most people are not actively choosing how their brain, their life, is getting wired to operate.
An example of an active use of this principle would be an athlete, or a piano player, who enhances his performance by visualizing the sequence he needs to perform. The necessary brain wiring, or neural sequence, becomes stronger by thinking though the performance because the same neural pathways used to visualize it are used to perform it.
Given that the same thing happens with ALL your thoughts and feelings actively making choices about what you focus on starts to make a lot of sense. If you are constantly stressed and overwhelmed your brain becomes wired to be very good at being stressed and overwhelmed. It will then trigger the stress sequence in your body at the first thought of trouble, real or imagined.
If you began thinking negative critical thoughts about yourself in puberty (and who didn't!) every day those thoughts have run through your mind unchallenged they have become more entrenched and more real. Ever notice how that Critical Voice in your head speaks with absolute authority, those negative thoughts are deeply reinfored.
Thousands of years ago the Sages of India knew this was how humans operated and their teachings are full of references to “mental grooves”, “patterned thinking” and "conditioned exsistance". Liberation from this mindless, repeating of sequenced thoughts, behaviors, and/or actions is what meditation is meant to do.
Beyond the science that supports the existance of "mental grooves", there is a study out of China that now shows the oldest brain exercise, meditation, remains the best for maintaining a positive outlook, off-setting stress, and keeping your brain “young” .
Meditation not only can bring a person to a state of calm, it promotes a more positive outlook. As time is spent in a calm, positive, state this is what becomes wired into the brain. Each time you meditate your ability to mindfully, willfully, shake-off life's stresses and return to a state of ease grows stronger.
If you would like to give it a try, check out the free audio down loads of mediations at UCLA’s Mindfulness Research Center. I recommend you start with the 5 minute Breathing Meditation or the 3 minute Loving Kindness Meditation.
If sitting quietly watching your own breath sounds like science-fiction consider acupuncture treatment or yoga as a starting point. If those options are not realistic, please read my post on practicing Gratitude and use that to get yourself moving in a positive direction.
Or simple set the intention that you want a calm, more positive mind, and know that every mindful breath you take while holding that thought is a step in that direction.