Changing Habits of the Mind – What Thoreau Knew about Neuroscience


“As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind.  To make a deep physical path, we must walk again and again.  To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.” – Henry David Thoreau

Henry David Thoreau, naturalist, philosopher, and mindful guy

This quote beautifully illustrates how we can change troublesome habits of thought through mindfulness.  By coming back to the present moment again and again, refraining from judging the wandering mind, we can regain control over our thoughts, our nervous system, our life.  The real question is, how did Henry David Thoreau know so much about neuroscience?  This is a rhetorical question of course.  Thoreau lived long before we new about neuroplasticity and our ability to change our thought patterns and the structure of our brain, not just as young children but throughout our life.  But Thoreau was a well-known contemplative, who studied the nature of his native New England as well as Eastern philosophy.

I will try to apply Thoreau’s quote to my life.  We are moving this summer, and I’ve been thinking over and over again what a drag it’s going to be, how I don’t have the time or the energy, and how moving is going to cut into our summer fun.   I wonder what would happen if I thought over and over again how refreshing it will be to clean out all my closets and simplify my life?

What thoughts do you think over and over? and how do they get in the way of or enhance your life?  Please join in on the conversation.

For more on this topic, check out this amazing article by Martine Bachelor on mental habits.

We wish you twenty minutes of mindfulness every day!




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