How to Break Bad Habits & Create Lasting Change | Nicole Vignola

Nicole VignolaHave you ever wished you could hit the reset button on your life? What if I told you that you have the ability to rewire your brain and fundamentally change your thoughts, behaviors, and ultimately, your entire existence?

My guest today is Nicole Vignola, a neuroscientist and organizational consultant who has made it her mission to make neuroscience tangible for everyone. In her groundbreaking book, Rewire: Break the Cycle, Alter Your Thoughts and Create Lasting Change (Your Neurotoolkit for Everyday Life), Nicole provides a revolutionary approach to harnessing the power of neuroplasticity – the brain’s ability to reorganize itself and create new neural pathways.

Drawing from her expertise in neuroscience and organizational psychology, Nicole offers practical tools and science-backed methods to help you improve your mental health, optimize your reflexes, and reach peak mental performance. With a BSc in Neuroscience from the University of Bristol and an MSc in Organizational Psychology from the University of the West of England, she has dedicated her career to empowering individuals and organizations to unlock their full potential.

In this captivating conversation, we’ll dive deep into the fascinating world of neuroplasticity and explore how you can break free from limiting beliefs, negative thought patterns, and self-sabotaging behaviors that have been holding you back. Get ready to embark on a transformative journey where you’ll learn to rewire your brain and create lasting change, paving the way for a life of fulfillment, purpose, and boundless possibilities.

You can find Nicole at: Website | Instagram | Episode Transcript

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Episode Transcript:

Nicole Vignola: [00:00:00] The brain will rewire itself on consistency even just five minutes a day, because you’re just repeating and through repetition. That’s how the brain creates and strengthens these synapses. So you have to make sure that you’re doing it on a regular basis. And what that means is that eventually motivation will wear off, and you’re going to have to rely on that consistency as well. So I always suggest people to kind of hone in on that motivation time. When you’ve got it, really go for it if you can, and set up a practice where you’re doing it on a regular basis, because that is what’s going to help create those pathways. Anything that requires you to put in work and effort will raise your dopamine levels, but then sustain them over time.


Jonathan Fields: [00:00:40] So have you ever wished that you could just hit the reset button in your life? What if I told you that you had the ability to rewire your brain and fundamentally change your thoughts, your behaviors, your habits, and ultimately your entire existence? My guest today is Nicole Vignola, a neuroscientist and organizational consultant who has made it her mission to make neuroscience tangible for everybody. In her groundbreaking book, Rewire, Break the Cycle, Alter Your Thoughts, and Create Lasting Change, Nicole provides a really revolutionary approach to harnessing the power of neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to reorganize itself and create new neural pathways. And drawing on her expertise in neuroscience and organizational psych, Nicole offers practical tools and science-backed methods to help you improve your mental health, optimize reflexes, and reach peak mental performance. With a BS in neuroscience from the University of Bristol and an MSC in Organizational Psychology from the University of West England, she has dedicated her career to empowering individuals and organizations to unlock their full potential. And in this conversation, we really dive into the fascinating world of neuroplasticity, what that actually is and isn’t, and we explore how you can break free from limiting beliefs, from negative thought patterns and self-sabotaging behaviors that have been holding so many of us back. So get ready to embark on a transformative journey where you’ll really learn to rewire your brain and create lasting change, paving the way for a life of greater fulfillment, purpose, and possibility. So excited to share this conversation with you! I’m Jonathan Fields and this is Good Life Project.


Jonathan Fields: [00:02:25] So fundamentally, you’ve been studying and talking about how the brain works with a focus on this thing that a word that I think so many of us have heard, neuroplasticity. It’s a way to rewire your brain, a way to change your life, a way to do all these different things. But maybe let’s start in a simpler way with the question, really, what is neuroplasticity when we’re talking about neuroplasticity? What are we actually talking about?


Nicole Vignola: [00:02:50] Absolutely. So firstly, thanks for having me. I’m very excited to finally meet you. But neuroplasticity is the ability for our brain to change pathways. So for a long time, we thought that after the age of 25 we were doomed. And whatever we had adopted until then was sort of set in stone, thereabouts. In the 90s, we figured out that actually the brain is still capable of change well into old age. So the brain can reorganize itself, create pathways, undo old ones, which means that we can undo bad behaviors and habits that we don’t serve us. And we can also carve out new pathways to adopt habits and behaviors, maybe thought patterns that we would like to. And the brain does that by essentially creating new synapses. So you have a neuron. And then on the sort of neuron, the synapses which are connections. And the more one connection communicates with another part of the brain, the stronger that connection becomes. And if that connection doesn’t communicate, then it can weaken over time.


Jonathan Fields: [00:03:46] Um, is I mean, it strikes me that that there’s something really different about the brain and the other vital organs in the body. And that when you think about the kidney or the lungs or the heart, you don’t think about an organ that has this ability to constantly rewire itself, to reorganize itself, to create new connections and then prune old ones. Is the brain really the only primary organ in the body that has the ability to do this?


Nicole Vignola: [00:04:10] Our peripheral nervous system will be doing the same, which I guess is still part of the nervous system, if you will. So we have the central nervous system, which is your brain and spine, and then peripheral nervous system, which communicates nerve signals to the rest of the body. And those can rewire as well. So what that means is that you could have somatic connections that are either strengthened or weakened. And what that means is that something that may have caused you stress in the past may be weakened over time as well. And the way that you are triggered by stress through the whole body could change as well. So yeah, as far as I know, I think it is the only organ that can change. I mean, I know that the heart and the liver and the kidneys do regenerate, but I don’t think they rewire and reconnect as far as I’m aware anyway.


Jonathan Fields: [00:04:50] I think when we talk about the brain, most people think about, you know, that that organ that sits up in our head. But I’m also hearing a lot of conversation over the last decade or so about what people often call the second brain or the enteric brain, the sort of the set of neurons that exist in our gut and how the environment in the gut affects that. What is the connection or the feedback mechanism between that, quote, second brain and the brain that most of us think about when we talk about the brain.


Nicole Vignola: [00:05:17] As far as I, it’s still very understudied, but it’s a very exciting part of neuroscience because, yes, as you said, we’ve started to realize that there’s this whole enteric nervous system within our gut and that the gut microbiome has its own sort of mind of its own and quote unquote, right, which is actually aiding the body and the brain and every function we’re seeing functions of the gut microbiome dictating mental well-being the way that we digest, of course, serotonin production. Now, serotonin production in the gut does not correlate to serotonin production in the brain. That’s a big misconception. But what serotonin and the gut may or may not do, we’re not entirely sure yet, is help communicate information from the body to the brain. So a healthy gut-brain connection can actually improve various functions in the brain and body.


Jonathan Fields: [00:06:04] Yeah, no, that makes a lot of sense. I think there’s a lot of potential around neuroplasticity, and we’re going to go a lot deeper into that. But my sense is there’s also a lot of hype around it also. Yeah. So one of my curiosities is I hear the phrase often, well, you know, we’ve learned that the brain is neuroplastic, meaning essentially you can just completely rewire this thing, but is that true? Or are there parts of it that are more susceptible and than not, you know, like, can we really, you know, make wholesale change in the brain or is it more selective.


Nicole Vignola: [00:06:35] To some degree? You know, there are parts of the brain that can’t change things that are hard-wired, like vision, speech. You know, you’re never going to lose your accent, for example, and your native accent, but you can potentially learn a new one. Now, the way that plasticity works is through attention. So Doctor Michael Merzenich was one of the lead researchers in the area. And back in the 90s, he discovered that there had to be attention. There had to be norepinephrine and acetylcholine present in the brain for plasticity to occur. What they did is they did a tactile discrimination activity where individuals were recording plasticity in the brain whilst touching a barrel that was turning, and when they asked them to focus on something else, there was no plasticity. And when they asked them to focus on what the finger was feeling, that’s when they started to see plasticity. So what they realized is that we have. To drive attention to the things that we want to ingrain as adults. When we’re children, we can absorb things through, you know, not osmosis, but, you know, through our environment, through watching our parents. That’s observational knowledge. But as adults, we have to physically tell the brain what is and what isn’t important. So the more attention you put into something, the bigger the spike and norepinephrine, the bigger the spike in acetylcholine. And then you need repetition. So to some degree, I mean, you know, it’s arguable you can’t change your entire brain because that would require a lot of energy and a lot of effort to do so and a lot of attention. And we have things that we need to do on a daily basis, like, you know, get to work and have these wonderful conversations so you could acquire potentially, you know, five skills a year, maybe it’s ten skills a year, depending on how much effort you put in, and then depending on how much consistency you put in as well.


Jonathan Fields: [00:08:17] Um, I’m curious to it sounds like when and you wrote about this in the book, actually, like when you’re really young, it seems like your brain is just so much more capable of taking in so much more. And as you described, it’s almost like, you know, we’ve got the width of the lens of attention is just so much broader and allows so much more in. And then your brain integrates that. Whereas you described as an adult, it seems like it becomes a much more sort of like, I have to do this. Like, do you have a sense for why that that shift happens over time?


Nicole Vignola: [00:08:48] I would imagine that it’s because, you know, as between the ages of zero and 25, that’s the most critical developmental stage where you learn rules of how the world works in theory, by 25, you should kind of know how the world works. And perhaps skill acquisition would have been, you know, done within your primal years. Again, I put that in, quote unquote. I don’t want to think that over the age of 25, you’re doomed. But it is an amazing thing to learn that we can rewire our brains up until old age as well. So they actually there’s research to show that we’re using neuroplasticity as a therapeutic intervention for dementia patients to help them alleviate of cognitive decline. So improve their symptoms. You know, they may not ever be able to fully recover, but maybe even stave off the neurodegeneration. Now, just a side note. When we have we have neurons and we have synapses. We don’t create new neurons in the brain. When those die off, there’s no turning back. But we can create new synapses. And that’s the premise of neuroplasticity in terms of therapeutic interventions for dementia, is that by keeping these synapses alive and keeping them regenerative, they can help stave off further decline.


Jonathan Fields: [00:10:00] So just to make sure I understand and for our listeners, would a sort of a simplification of that be like the neurons are sort of the cells of the brain? Yes. And the synapses are these little things that connect those cells to each other, so that effectively, if a cell is gone, it’s gone in your brain. We don’t have the ability to regenerate that, but whatever is left can rewire in different ways to maybe replace or change functions so that we can still preserve a lot.


Nicole Vignola: [00:10:26] Yes. And you can create multiple synapses as well. So you can increase the abundance of the synapses too. So it’s actually synaptogenesis scientifically correct. Not not neuro neuroplasticity would be the correct term. Synaptic plasticity just it’s more of a mouthful for people to understand.


Jonathan Fields: [00:10:42] Yeah. Yeah. I’m wondering as you’re describing that, you know, whether there’s and I have no idea if you know this or not, whether there’s research going on these days to try and to ask the question like, is there some modality, some new idea or mechanism that would actually be able to generate new neurons themselves?


Nicole Vignola: [00:11:01] There is a lot of research. There’s speculation that we can regenerate in two areas of the brain. One is the hippocampus, which has been proven in rats but not in humans. And the other area, I believe off the top of my head is the ventral tegmental area. But I could be wrong. It’s, um, slip of mine. But those two areas, there is speculation that we could. And if we can at the moment, it’s a very minor. Does it mean that we could induce neuroplasticity in other ways, like, you know, we have stem cell regeneration maybe. I’m not sure yet, but it’s exciting.


Jonathan Fields: [00:11:33] It makes me curious about I remember years ago reading some research about and you write about this to a certain extent, also the impact of exercise on your brain and how, you know, through scans, measuring sort of before and after over a window of time, it seemed like certain areas in the brain actually grew in size, gray matter in the brain, actually, there was a higher volume of that matter. So but I guess then what you’re describing is you’re not necessarily growing new brain cells, but maybe that increase in, in matter is coming from is that then just laying down a ton of new synaptic connections?


Nicole Vignola: [00:12:07] Yes, exactly. And it’s condensing them if you will. So the surface area is becoming more. Yeah. Volumise like a dense.


Jonathan Fields: [00:12:14] Yeah. No, that makes sense. So you mentioned by about 25 or so we tend to have our model of the world. Like we kind of like, well we think we know the rules of the game.


Nicole Vignola: [00:12:23] [laughing]


Jonathan Fields: [00:12:24] And then we realize we know nothing. And then everything changes eventually. Like. And it ties into this word you described to a certain extent, which is heuristics. Yes. You know, the sort of mental shortcuts. Take me a little bit deeper into what these are and why these help us function.


Nicole Vignola: [00:12:40] The heuristics are mental shortcuts. So it’s how your brain arrives to a conclusions or decisions in the brain without having to think about it. So if you don’t think about how you walk into the door and turn on the light or open the door or make your coffee, you just do it automatically because the brain is trying to save energy for more cognitively demanding tasks. If you had to spend your time thinking about all these things, it would take too much energy and then you’d probably be depleted before lunchtime. So the brain acquires a set of sort of rules and heuristics as to how the world works and how you operate based on what’s been ingrained, based on what’s been repeated and based on your environment as well. So those heuristics could be good for most people. For some people, it means that they adopt behaviors that don’t serve them based on what they learned as a child. So it’s a classic example is when individuals come from, you know, maybe an emotionally abusive household, and then they carry that pattern into their life, even though they know that it’s morally incorrect on a conscious level. But the subconscious brain, which governs the majority of our operations, about 90 to 95% of our processes are thought to be subconscious. So what happens is that they carry those same patterns, even though consciously 5 to 10% of their brain, they know that it’s wrong. But the patterns are still ingrained because neurobiology doesn’t really have morals. It doesn’t understand the difference between right and wrong. It just knows what’s been repeated. And if this is the sequence of neurons that, you know, fire in sequence to get you to a particular action, and that’s what’s always been repeated. That is what the brain is going to know best.


Jonathan Fields: [00:14:17] Yeah. And the way you’re describing it, I think a lot of people would sort of probably recognize some of those things in themselves looking back or maybe examining the present, but they might think, well, okay, so this is a pattern. I have it and it’s a quote, behavioral thing. But what you’re describing is not just a behavioral thing. This is a physiological thing as well.


Nicole Vignola: [00:14:35] Yes, exactly. And it’s one of the reasons why I use the hardware analogy in the book, because the hardware is your brain, the software is your mental health and your patterns and habits and behaviors. But essentially you need the hardware to be in good working order for the software to upgrade. And yes, it is all down to physiology and it’s all energy as well. So every single piece of communication is neurotransmitter release, which requires energy to be released. So the brain is going to take the least energy-demanding path so that it can save time or energy for more cognitively demanding ones.


Jonathan Fields: [00:15:12] Now that makes a lot of sense. So when we think about we have this ability to rewire the brain. When we want to do that, we need to do it on a fundamental physiological level so that it then can change the way we think and the way we feel and the way we behave and the way we interact. It ripples out into our lives. Right?


Nicole Vignola: [00:15:29] Yes.


Jonathan Fields: [00:15:30] When you have the conversation around neuroplasticity, why do we care so much? Like what does knowing that we can do this? How does this open up or give us a sense of possibility or change in our lives that maybe we didn’t really feel like we had a grip on before?


Nicole Vignola: [00:15:46] I think it reinstates hope because a lot of people have lost that, especially if they don’t understand that they can change. And when you explain it to them, you can kind of see this. When I explain to people anyway, I can see this kind of like, ha, sense of relief. You know, it doesn’t necessarily have to be like this. For some people. It may be puts blame on them, and I don’t want them to feel like that. I don’t want them to think that now the emphasis is on them to change, but it does give us the opportunity to reassess the things that don’t serve us and give us hope that we can change them so that we can live a better life and reach peak mental well-being.


Jonathan Fields: [00:16:21] Yeah, as you’re describing that. Also, I think the blame thing is a really important element here because oftentimes people hear, where are you saying whatever state you’re in, it’s quote, your fault. And, you know, like there are a lot of contributors to how we each land in any moment in life. And yes, some of it is environment, some of it is systemic, some of it is culture and family culture, like there’s so many things that were their containers that were living within. But I think what I’m hearing from you also is that part of the hope is that even if you’re in a container or an environment or an experience where you feel like it’s not easy to extract yourself, that maybe there are things you can do internally to literally change the brain the way that your brain experiences that circumstance, so that, at least for the moment, it becomes better. Even if you don’t have the capability to really fix the external circumstance quite yet. Is that right?


Nicole Vignola: [00:17:08] Yes, yes, I would completely agree with that. And I think it gives people the understanding that they can change the trajectory of whatever was programmed for them. Because if you think about it, our programming is down to our environment, you know, social, socioeconomic circumstances, religion, and for most of the part we should keep, you should hold on to those things. But for some people they programming wasn’t modeled very well, but then they it sort of sent them on a trajectory of their life, which always blows my mind when I think about that. We’re programming children, we’re programming people and then sending them off into the world. But it’s nice to know that we can take back control of that if we wish to.


Jonathan Fields: [00:17:47] Yeah. Is there a genetic component here that to a certain extent, both determines what the opening wiring of the brain is, and then also how neuroplastic any given individual’s brain is or isn’t?


Nicole Vignola: [00:18:03] Yes. And that would come down to the BDNF gene. So how much BDNF can you produce? You know, we’re all capable of some may be genetically more predisposed to having more or less. There’s so many other genetic factors at play. Anecdotally from example, I can tell you I have a COMT mutation, which basically means that COMT is an enzyme that breaks out dopamine. And I have a not an abundance. What’s the opposite of abundance? A deficit in these enzymes, which means that my brain doesn’t break down dopamine as quickly as it should. So I’m very dopaminergic. I’m very high-functioning. I can get 70 things done at once. And that’s really interesting because I don’t have struggles with motivation, but it’s because of this mutation in my genes.


Jonathan Fields: [00:18:46] Oh that’s wild.


Nicole Vignola: [00:18:47] Yeah. It’s interesting.


Jonathan Fields: [00:18:48] So basically the enzyme doesn’t break it down as quickly or as much as us, so that you effectively have more of a residual or a reservoir of dopamine that just stays in your brain longer. And it gives you these almost kind of like superpowers to a certain extent.


Nicole Vignola: [00:19:02] Yeah, exactly.


Jonathan Fields: [00:19:03] That’s fascinating.


Nicole Vignola: [00:19:04] Yeah. It’s the reason why I can get overwhelmed and irritable quite quickly as well if there’s too much stimulation. So I wear a lot of sort of earplugs and stuff, because too much information can kind of send me in a frenzy.


Jonathan Fields: [00:19:15] Yeah. Is there I mean, now I’m curious, is there because I’m sure other people will have like varying levels of this as well. When you have something like that, where there’s a genetic basis for it, are there things that you can do? Are there behaviors that you can do that will in some way alter? Let’s say you become hypersensitive to certain things or stimulus because of that. Um, is that response viable or is that sort of like your genes are what they are.


Nicole Vignola: [00:19:40] So we’ve got epigenetics, which means that basically in a cell you have your entire genome in there, but the the cell is going to switch the genes on or off at certain points in the sequence, because it needs to encode for an eye cell versus a muscle cell versus something else off muscle cells, for example. So what tends to happen is that sometimes they get switched on or off either incorrectly, which means that we can we can alter the genes to some degree. Now, I’m not a geneticist, and it still blows my mind, but to some degree you could change some parts of your genes. But what I would say is more important is learning how to work with what you’ve got. So, for example, I am not one of those people that can scroll on my phone and then turn around and go to sleep. My partner can do that, and that’s great for him. But I have to be very meticulous. But knowing that, and I know why, it’s because I’m so dopaminergic that something like Instagram is too stimulating for me at night. If you’re the opposite, then perhaps maybe adopting a practice that helps you raise your dopamine levels in a less volatile way might be more healthy for you as well.


Nicole Vignola: [00:20:46] And what I mean by that is things like social media, smoking, alcohol, you know, things that are quick hits that are easy to attain. There’s no morals on dopamine, but the rule for dopamine is that there needs to be an effort put into for the reward. And if you put in effort, dopamine will rise, but then it won’t drop as quickly. The problem is, social media is that it’s very quick so it can raise your dopamine very high, but there was no effort involved. So then it drops down really quickly and then you need more to feel good. So then you go on it again and again and again and you sort of doing this to just stay above threshold and feel normal and things like exercise, cold water exposure, sauna, breathwork, any, you know, working on your goals, anything that requires you to put in work and effort. Choosing to cook versus ordering food will raise your dopamine levels, but then sustain them over time. So if you’re somebody that maybe struggles with motivation, the catch 22 is that it’s going to feel better to want to grab your phone. And I can appreciate that. But maybe adopting practices that are more sustainable for the way that you operate.


Jonathan Fields: [00:21:48] Yeah, I mean, that’s fascinating. You also mentioned this other chemical, BDNF brain derived neurotrophic factor, which I’ve heard described as sort of Miracle-Gro for the brain. Describe a little bit more what this is and how it works and why it matters for us.


Nicole Vignola: [00:22:03] Yeah. So BDNF is a molecule that is released. It’s a protein actually that is released when we are children. So when we’re learning it’s released throughout life, we can sort of bump it if you will, through learning and through exercise. Now the interesting thing is that when we relax and contract our muscles under tension, we release muscle based proteins. Called myokines, and these myokines then cross through the blood-brain barrier into the brain and have positive effects on the brain. There’s a wide variety of myokines, but BDNF is one of these and it actually induces neuroplasticity. It can help increase it and amplify it, which is incredible. They’ve done research where they looked at the post-mortem brains of older individuals, and so they looked at them under a microscope. And basically the individuals that were active throughout later in life, they had more presynaptic BDNF in the synapses versus the individuals that didn’t, which then they correlated to higher synaptic integrity, more cognitive integrity as well.


Jonathan Fields: [00:23:05] Yeah. And I love that. As you described, you know, we actually it’s not the type of thing where it just goes away over time. As you age there are things that you can do, like through movement, through learning that will, you know, bring more of this back into you. And it creates almost like this benevolent cycle. Yes, between all of it. And we’ll be right back after a word from our sponsors. So in your book, you basically lay out what’s effectively a sort of like a three-phase process to rewire your brain. Let’s say there’s something that you’re struggling with, or let’s say there’s a behavior change or a relationship, whatever it may be, that you’re dealing and you’re like, you know what? I would love if my brain acted differently so that I behave differently so that, like, the outcomes in my life were different. And so you lay out this sort of three-stage approach to it. I’d love to walk through some of the ideas. And this, you know, like starting with the over-encompassing idea of phase one is ditch the negative and you dive into this notion that negative thoughts have a very real impact. And I think a lot of us have heard this, and a lot of us have probably rolled their eyes at it. It’s like, you know, like, oh, come on, you know, like your thoughts make your world all the yada yada. But you say there’s actually a lot of reality and a lot of science behind this that we need to understand.


Nicole Vignola: [00:24:15] Yes. Well, our thoughts are very powerful because they can create new synapses, which is really interesting. And the other thing is they we actually encode negative information more easily than positive, and we tend to hold on to negative information more because it suits our needs for survival. Positive information is great and it makes us feel good. But as an evolutionary species, we needed to stay alive and we’re wired for survival. How many generations is it going to take for us to unwire that? I’m not entirely sure, but I think in the future that will change her hope anyway. So phase one is, you know, a variety of chapters, but one of them is understanding stress, understanding your emotions, anxiety, and how all of these neurochemicals that pertain to all of these emotions and thoughts and behaviors drive your life and what you can do to take control of it. Understanding stress, for example, is a really important part of it because while stress, chronic stress is bad. Also reframing how we see stress could be beneficial to us. So, you know, stress, whilst it has a bad rep and rightly so, stress is also necessary. There will be an element of activation. Right now, we wouldn’t be able to not be some level of stress or whilst having this conversation in the same way as if you exercise.


Nicole Vignola: [00:25:29] So understanding that stress can be adaptive can actually change our mindset towards it. And they’ve done research where they looked at how stress impacts different individuals based on their beliefs. So they took one group and they showed them a video of basketball players losing their cool on the pitch, saying that stress is really bad. And it was this whole kind of like five-minute elaborate video explaining the how bad stress is. And then they showed another group the adaptive response to stress and how good stress can be, and showing these sort of players using stress as a way to to win the game. And what’s really interesting is that they measured the blood pressure and heart rate of these individuals and heart rate variability, which is your central nervous system response in the individuals and the ones that were told that stress was good, had lowered blood pressure and a better heart rate variability and a lower heart rate as well, which is phenomenal because just their belief around what stress is could already help their physiology lower cortisol as well.


Jonathan Fields: [00:26:26] It blows me away how much our beliefs can affect our physiology. They can show up not just in I mean, they show up in performance. And I think a lot of people would get that. But literally it changes the way that internally, physiologically, we experience different things. I remember sitting down with Ellen Langer, who did this incredible brain research, but just the notion that simply learning how to shift your beliefs around things that you might perceive as being really negative and creating a positive frame around it, will not only change the way you think about it and the way you behave around it, but will literally change your physiology so that you experience it internally in a more positive way. The exact same circumstance?


Nicole Vignola: [00:27:04] Yes. And that in itself will help rewire your brain as well, because we’re wired for negativity. But if we reframe our thoughts, we reframe our beliefs, we can start to see more positive in our lives. And that can be a self-fulfilling snowball effect of positivity. It’s, you know, like a positive loop, if you will. So many people like to hold on to the negative when you explain about this negativity bias and you start to reframe things. So as an example, I’ll work with a client and I’ll say, what are the small wins and the big wins of your week? And they’ll start the call by saying, oh well, not much. And as we’re chatting, I’ll go, that’s a win. And they go, oh yeah. And then by the end of it, they realized it actually had a fantastic week. They were just focusing on the negatives. And you know, Jonathan, if I say to you now how many blue things are in your environment right now if you had to count them. And then I said, okay, well how many red things were there, you’re going to say, well, I don’t know. I was looking for the blue things, not the red things. And that’s how it works with negative bias is if you say to yourself, I’m having a bad day, you’re going to overlook all the wonderful parts of your day and just focus on what’s negative.


Jonathan Fields: [00:28:12] And that goes back to what you were talking about earlier in the conversation, which is everything really comes down to attention. At the end of the day when we’re talking about the brain, and then you fold in reticular activating system and it’s like what we tell ourselves to be attentive to, we become attentive to, and then we stop seeing all the other things. Things. That’s what we’re talking about here, right?


Nicole Vignola: [00:28:30] Yes, exactly. Exactly that.


Jonathan Fields: [00:28:32] It’s so interesting because it gives science to sort of like some of the pop psychology claims or spiritual claims that you’ve heard over time. It’s like, no, actually, this is important. This matters because it really changes the way that your brain functions, and then it changes the way that you feel in life. Yes. You also in that sort of phase, um, you introduced this term I never heard before, creeping normality. So take me into this because it’s fascinating.


Nicole Vignola: [00:28:57] Yeah. I was um, I was trying to explain it to my sister. And then this morning I had the perfect example for it, and then it slipped my mind. I should have written it down. I was actually meditating, and I thought, I’ll come back to that later. And I lost it. But creeping normality is the notion that over time, we shift our perception of what is normal to suit our, our needs. So our mainly our safety needs. So an example is if you are in a situation where you’re perhaps in an emotionally abusive relationship, these abuses would not really ever reach threshold for you to say, well, this is messed up because it’s hard to draw the line. So over time, you shift your perception of what’s normal to bring this in. I remember what the example was. I have a reactive dog. She’s a Belgian Malinois and she’s great. I actually find her fantastic, but she’s reactive and it does take a lot more care. And we have a friend visiting, and I was saying that I prefer taking her to a coffee shop, even though she’s reactive and has to be muzzled, versus my boy who’s a border collie because he’s a lot more energetic.


Nicole Vignola: [00:29:57] And he was saying, no, no, no, I would rather have the friendly dog that I know is not going to bite anyone versus the other one. And he was like, I think you’re desensitized. And I thought to myself, I think I actually am. And I thought that was my version of creeping normality. I’ve I’ve learned to accept this, which is a good thing. Creeping normality doesn’t always have to be a bad thing, but creeping normality can also mean that you end up sort of losing who you are. Your values start to diminish, your self-worth starts to diminish based on what other people are telling you. So another classic one is, you know, parents that berate their children, and then children just kind of constantly taking this information in and then perhaps even changing themselves to fit with this narrative because it’s easier to cope like that. So one of the activities in the book is to reconnect with those values and those those core values and who you are, self-beliefs.


Jonathan Fields: [00:30:47] Yeah. You offer the example of a parent who berates a child. They’re going to be plenty of people who’ve been in adult relationships where it starts great and everything seems fantastic. And then over time they start to, you know, one person starts to become much more dominance oriented and starts to gaslight and starts to berate. And it happens kind of slowly over time in this quote, creeping way that you don’t even really notice it until all of a sudden this becomes the nature of the relationship and you find yourself a shell of who you are. But it’s like normalized. You don’t even realize this is happening to a certain extent when that happens. I mean, you know, the example with your dog, your friend kind of like brought this up. He’s he’s sort of like said, hey, wait a minute. Isn’t this what’s happening in sort of everyday life with bigger relationship dynamics where they’ve fallen into this negative dynamic, which is really affecting them? I mean, what are effective mechanisms to kind of snap you out of it to a certain extent, so you can step outside and look and say, oh, wait a minute, I’ve normalized this behavior and it’s been internalized in my life and probably my brain now. Yeah. And I didn’t even realize this was going on. So, like, you can’t do something about it until you actually become aware that this is what’s actually happened here.


Nicole Vignola: [00:31:59] Yes. Well, understanding that firstly, I think hugely validates people because they start to realize that that this is a a thing and that they may have control over it and that this narrative may have shifted, but it’s not necessarily, you know, a reflection on them. So that’s why I have the activity of, you know, reconnecting with your values. But another thing that is very helpful is attaching a narrative to what has happened through maybe journaling through, you know, reconnecting to values. Because what happens is our thoughts, they run seemingly incoherently in our minds. They don’t really have a beginning and an end. They’re spontaneous. And so they should be. But what tends to happen is that they override a big part of our brains. So that’s when we fall into ruminative patterns that are incohesive. They can be confusing. And it’s that example of when I say to you, I want to tell you how I feel, but I can’t really put it into words. And when you try and put it into words, you start to realize that it’s easier to then conceptualize what’s going on, and maybe even that you start to understand, from top to bottom, what it is that you’re going through. So journaling can be a very powerful tool. Another tool that I talk about in the book is the physiological sigh. Did you get to do that one? So let’s do it just for anyone that’s listening. But it’s an inhale, an inhale again, hold at the top for about a second and then a long exhale through the mouth. Yeah I’ll do it with you. So double inhale through the nose if you can. So. [demonstrating the breating technique] Yeah. Do you feel like quite chilled?


Jonathan Fields: [00:33:30] Yeah. I mean, it’s amazing how quickly, like, you feel this sort of, like subtle state change.


Nicole Vignola: [00:33:35] And what’s great about the physiological signs that you can do it anywhere. You can do it in the office. You can do it just before a meeting. You can do it just before public speaking. I remember once did this big talk for athletes, and I was very nervous. And I remember sort of standing behind the stage doing the physiological side, which completely helps you come back into a parasympathetic state. And the reason it does that is because we have a mechanism in the back of our brains that allows us to regulate our breathing rate. And normally, if you ever had that feeling when you’re stressed and you’re sort of huffing and puffing and someone points it out to you and we’ve associated that with something negative, but actually sighing is a really positive thing. Your brain has a mechanism that regulates your breathing rate, your breathing response, and you know when you’re stressed, you walk around the house sort of huffing and puffing. That’s a good thing. That’s your brain trying to regulate your stress response and bring you back down into parasympathetic state. And the sighing is dumping of carbon dioxide. And we’ve actually attributed that with being a negative thing, but it’s actually a positive thing, which is quite interesting that we’ve done that as a, as a society, because I can definitely recall times where people have been annoyed with me for sighing until I’ve explained to them why I do it, and then they go, oh, that makes so much sense. But the physiological sigh is basically you fast-tracking that breathing mechanism, so you’re consciously activating it instead of letting your body do it subconsciously, which is something that you would have done normally, subconsciously without you realizing. So you’re basically bringing in oxygen, popping open the alveoli, which are the oxygen sacs in your lungs, and then dumping carbon dioxide. It’s the quickest way to bring your central nervous system back down into a parasympathetic state.


Jonathan Fields: [00:35:16] Yeah, I love that. And I’m a long-term practitioner and believer in breathwork and breath practices because, I mean, I’m meditating for over a dozen years now. I do all sorts of other things, but breathing is the single quickest and most reliable thing to change my state that I’ve ever experienced. You know, like my meditation practice, it takes months or years to really start to feel like some sort of, you know, sustained effect. But breathing literally within seconds, you can feel so different. It’s it’s and when you learn different types of breathing to literally sort of like dial in the state that you want to be in, it can be so powerful. And I love the way you describe the relationship between breathing and actually your physiology and your brain. One of the things that was popped into my head as you were sort of like describing these things too. You talked about journaling, you talked about breathing. So I do this exercise with two other friends. We’ve been doing it literally for years. Every Sunday morning there’s a form that goes out to all the three of us, and it’s basically like what went well last week, you know, what were your wins? What’s on tap for the week to come? Like what big things you need to get accomplished. You know, like what else is important in your life? And then just like, what else, what else do you need us to know? And it’s interesting because that first question, you know, like what went well last week, basically, what were your wins from last week? Oftentimes, like you were describing? I’ll think about the last week. And I’m like, oh man, I got nothing done. This was a total wash of a week. It was like, I’m so behind, you know? And then I start writing out all the different things and I’m like, wait a minute.


Nicole Vignola: [00:36:40] Yeah. Yeah.


Jonathan Fields: [00:36:41] I mean, it wasn’t necessarily what I wanted to get done or what, but there was a lot that happened, a lot of good and a lot of movement. And as you described, like we have this bias away from actually owning that, you know, we’re so focused on the negative, on what we didn’t do, on the things that, you know, are harmful, that it seems like our brain just doesn’t really give attention or acknowledge all the good stuff at the same time. It’s like we need these proactive mechanisms to keep reminding us, no, this too.


Nicole Vignola: [00:37:09] Yes, yes. And the thing is, the more you practice that, you know, you’ve already said that you meditate and you breathwork, you will rewire your brain to then automatically be able to bounce back from that negative quite quickly, which I imagine you’re able to do. I’m able to regulate quite quickly as well. Like my partner and I have a great relationship. I mean, we had a total bicker in the car the other day in front of our friend, which was completely unusual for us, and I got really irritable. And, you know, just as we normally do, within five minutes we both looked at each other and just giggled. We went, that was silly, you know, because we’re quite good at just letting it go. And that’s the malleability of being able to rewire your central nervous system as well, is being able to shift from one state to another effectively and essentially not lingering in either for too long or if you want to. Yes, of course, but being able to shift states effectively.


Jonathan Fields: [00:37:57] Yeah. No. So agree. And we’ll be right back after a word from our sponsors. Speaking of shifting states, phase two of your the sort of three-phase approach of neuroplasticity is about shifting your narrative. So it’s not just the state, it’s about changing the story that we’re telling. And it’s based on this notion that we all show up to any given experience with a certain amount of subconscious programming. We’ve been talking a little bit about how we become. We make that subconscious conscious. But then there’s this idea of like, once we understand the experience and the story we’ve been telling about it, how do we then tell a different story about it that that is more constructive for us?


Nicole Vignola: [00:38:37] Well, in rewire, there’s the seven-step process in the shift narrative. So, you know, phase one is laying down that groundwork. It’s probably a bit heavier. Um, and then phase two, it starts to shift into this narrative. And the seven steps, one of them is, you know, leave your phone alone. So there’s so much subconscious programming coming from the media that we consume and the people we interact with. And, you know, there’s a saying the five people you spend your time with are the ones you’re going to become. I don’t know if that’s entirely true, but I think there’s an element of truth in there, because if you’re surrounded by negative people, you’re probably adopt those patterns of thinking and behavior. If you’re surrounded by inspiring people, you’re going to want to be inspired and inspire other people. So we need to be careful of what we’re allowing into our lives, subconsciously and consciously as well, because it can really impact us. So if you’re following accounts that perhaps don’t make you feel good, they’re going to trigger certain aspects of you and highlight them on a more regular basis. So step number one is trying to diminish phone use because this is so much of our cognitive processing that goes towards energy usage for phone use. But then you don’t have enough energy left for yourself. So things like meditation are fantastic because they help you go inwards. If we’re constantly living outwards thinking, what’s next? Let me consume more content. Let me think about the next thing I need to send this email. I need to do this, I need that we don’t have time to really think about our thoughts, internalize them, process them. And what tends to happen is people will do that at night, lying in bed, and then they’re tossing and turning and they can’t sleep because we haven’t activated the default mode network, which is responsible for internal mind wandering, which is the part of your brain that you would access when you’re meditating. We have things like visualization in the book as well, so I don’t know why I’m saying we it’s me. I wrote the book. You’re a co-author.


Jonathan Fields: [00:40:30] The royal We.


Nicole Vignola: [00:40:30] The Royal we. But visualization is an extremely powerful tool in helping us create a blueprint to where we want our new wiring to go. Because if we haven’t experienced something, and perhaps we’re afraid of it, it’s going to be hard for us to really go down that route because the brain wants to keep us safe. I’m somebody that is more prone to challenges and putting myself out there, but there are many people who prefer to stay safe, and visualization can help you create that blueprint, because we know that through thoughts alone, we can start to create new synapses, so we can start to imagine what it would be like for us to be wherever we want to be with this new narrative, with these new habits, with these new behaviors. And then it helps lay down the pathway so that when you then put it into action, it’s already there. You can slowly, slowly, through repetition, rewire and re-carve a new path for yourself.


Jonathan Fields: [00:41:24] Yeah. So it’s part of the idea behind visualization then, that the act of literally visualizing the way you want to be, or the thing you want to do, or what you want to accomplish that triggers the brain in a similar enough way to doing the actual thing that it starts the process of connecting these synapses, connecting these neurons in a way that would then make the actual doing of the thing more easy or more likely to unfold.


Nicole Vignola: [00:41:51] Exactly. And we’ve seen that through athletic performance. So the cerebellum can actually become strengthened through motor control by visualizing the movement. So individuals that then mentally rehearse and mentally practice the movement are actually better. I think they use golfers in the in the paper that I, that I explain they they shoot a better swing. I don’t know, I don’t play golf, but they’re better at playing golf after they’ve visualized the mental imagery in their heads first.


Jonathan Fields: [00:42:19] Yeah, I love that. I remember reading a paper this was a number of years back now that blew me away, where they took untrained individuals and they split half of them into a group that worked out, did it like a workout program. I think it was three times a week. The other ones, they had visualized doing that same workout program. The people who actually did the exercise, you know, they documented gains and strength and muscle size and things like that. Yes. The people who simply visualized doing that exact same program had pretty significant increases in muscle strength and even like muscle size. And it is amazing how much the visualization can truly affect your physiology. It’s kind of like, on the one hand, like you think, how is that possible? But it is.


Nicole Vignola: [00:43:01] Yeah. No, I believe that. And I think I remember. A paper. I haven’t read it recently, but I do remember reading it at the time, which is kind of what I remember sending me on a trajectory into this visualization practice because it’s yeah, completely blew my mind as well. It’s it’s wild.


Jonathan Fields: [00:43:18] Yeah. One of the other things you talk about under this, sort of like the second phase, is the notion of the role of repetition, like, rather than just thinking this or doing this thing once. What happens to the brain when we actually turn this into a practice?


Nicole Vignola: [00:43:31] Yes. The brain prefers. Well, it will rewire itself on consistency. So a lot of the times people will think, oh, well, five minutes isn’t enough. I’m learning to play the guitar at the moment. Actually, I started last October and it’s even just five minutes a day because you’re just repeating and through repetition. That’s how the brain creates and strengthens these synapses. So you have to make sure that you’re doing it on a regular basis. And what that means is that eventually motivation will wear off, and you’re going to have to rely on that consistency as well. So I always suggest people to kind of hone in on that motivation time. When you’ve got it, really go for it if you can, and set up a practice where you’re doing it on a regular basis, because that is what’s going to help create those pathways.


Jonathan Fields: [00:44:16] Yeah. What’s your take then on? So as I described, been meditating for a long time and I’ve had conversations with many, many, many people over the years who basically say, no, no, no, I’m not a meditator. I can’t do that. And like, I get it. I didn’t come to it because I wanted to. I came to it because there was stuff going on, and it was sort of a last-ditch effort to really help me through something. And then it just became a thing that I never stopped doing. So if we take meditation as an example, right, and people are like, I can’t sit for 20 minutes or 30 minutes a day, like it would just never work for me. It sounds like part of what you’re describing here is saying, well, first just focus on developing like the container for the behavior. So like focus, sit for a minute a day and because you’re like and but do that every day for 30 days or 60 days or 90 days because you’re wiring your brain to actually have the capability of doing that. Is that right? Yes.


Nicole Vignola: [00:45:08] And also, you know, how do you know you can’t do it if you haven’t really tried the first time? It’s always going to be rubbish. It’s the same as picking up a guitar. If you don’t know how to meditate, you don’t know how to play a guitar. It’s not going to sound nice, it’s not going to feel nice. But over time, that’s how you get through it. That’s how you get better at it. And I love speaking to people that meditate on a regular basis, because you really understand what it’s like to feel the way that you do when you meditate regularly. It’s it’s something that’s right there you can access without anything else. And that’s what I love about meditation, breathwork, all these practices that everything you need is already within you. You just need to cultivate this part of you that is able to, you know, feel the way that it can feel the best.


Jonathan Fields: [00:45:51] Yeah, I think that kind of brings us to a certain extent to phase three also, which is like practices, things that we can do to really boost the positive. So now we’ve talked about addressing the negative. We talked about changing the narrative that we’re doing and thinking about visualization and shifting attention. Um, the third element is really how do we then go about boosting the positive. And there’s different practices that really affect our brain and help in the rewiring process. And because we’re talking about meditation, I’m curious what really is happening inside the brain, because I’ve noticed that over time, I’ve become just a lot less reactive as a person. Yes. You know, I’ll be in in a conversation which in a prior version would have been heated and would have been adversarial, and I would have immediately reacted in a very particular way. And I’ll be in a conversation that has that same potential now. But I notice myself almost literally zooming out and looking down into the conversation and asking, what’s really happening here? And like what would be what would be the healthy, constructive response here rather than just reacting. So what’s actually happening in my brain that that that creates that shift?


Nicole Vignola: [00:46:59] I love that because I spoke about it in the book where I talk about how the space between the trigger and the response, if you leave enough time between that, eventually it will sever that connection so that you can respond to a situation without automatically reacting. Because reacting is a very quick process that’s been deeply ingrained in, you know, patterns of behaviors that you’ve acquired. And the more you do it, the easier it gets at being reactive. But meditation can help to slow down. It can help you kind of see those pauses and then make that space bigger within your mind, if that makes any sense. But what is actually happening on a neuroscientific level is we have this default mode network, which I explained to you is your mind wandering internal thought. Now, the default mode network is a place of mind-wandering creativity, but it’s also a place of rumination depending on the connectivity that it has with other brain areas. Now, through meditation, we’ve seen that the amygdala shrinks in size. The amygdala is your fear processing center that is responsible for detecting fear in the environment. So if. Hyperactive, it will start to attach importance to fear or importance to threat more easily when it shouldn’t.


Nicole Vignola: [00:48:12] So your amygdala may have shrunk, and that means that threatening things from the from the environment are not being triggered in your brain as easily. And that could be one part of it. The other part is that the default mode network can be upregulated, as I said, to either be more creative or to be more ruminative. But what meditation does is it helps you. Kind of. The way that I explain it is if the default mode network is like a garden and you’ve allowed the weeds to grow and you’ve allowed it to overgrow and you’ve not tended to it because you’re constantly living outward, you’re constantly busy with something else all the time. You’re not paying attention to your thoughts. These weeds can overgrow, but through meditation, the way that I explain it anyway, is that you’re pulling out the weeds. You’re cultivating the garden that you want, so that it’s a wonderful place that allows you to then operate with more harmonious. You start responding with more positivity, with more joy, with more empathy and abundance. When this default mode network is cultivated to be a positive part of your brain.


Jonathan Fields: [00:49:14] Now that makes so much sense to me. I love understanding a little bit better what’s actually happening inside my head that leads to these long-term changes in the way that you show up in the world. We talked a bit about exercise in neuroplasticity, but one of the other things that you speak to is the importance of sleep and neuroplasticity. So take me into this a bit more.


Nicole Vignola: [00:49:33] Yes. So yeah, in phase three I talk about growth mindset, sleep, exercise, all these valuable tools that help you maintain the changes that you’ve just made, which is arguably the most important part of rewiring your narrative, because we want to do the work, but then we want to make sure that we cultivate this life for ourselves and actually change it for the good. So you don’t have to read the book again in ten years time or do, but is fundamentally the biggest optimization tool. I mean, Matthew Walker has quoted that in his book. He says, sleep is your number one optimization tool, and it’s because sleep forms the basis of everything. So from waste removal in the brain. So throughout the day we’ll have toxic buildup. We have tau build up, which later in life can lead to Alzheimer’s disease. When we sleep predominantly in deep sleep, what the brain does is it releases something called the Glymphatic system, which essentially releases cerebrospinal fluid into the brain to wash away these toxins. It’s kind of like a washing machine service for the brain, and it only does that at night. The other thing is that we release testosterone during sleep, predominantly during sleep. So men and women will release some throughout the day, but the majority is released during REM sleep. So if individuals are sleeping six hours versus eight, they’re losing an entire cycle of REM, and that amounts to around 10% loss of testosterone per day.


Nicole Vignola: [00:50:57] To some people. That might not sound like a lot, but you know, as you accumulate over time, you have one week of bad sleep, you have two weeks of bad sleep. Then the next thing you know, you’ve had a year of bad sleep that can all sort of amalgamate to the bigger problems. The other thing is that through sleep, we regulate genes, we regulate our inflammation. We can alter our genes if we don’t sleep enough as well. They did a study where they put people on six hours of sleep, and in one week alone, they had altered 711 of their genes, which is about 3% of the genome. Half of those were down regulated in a way that was impacting their immune and inflammation as well. So it was increasing inflammation and the other half were increasing tumor processing. So they were basically turning the key for tumor processing. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they would develop something like cancer, but it’s starting to sort of open the doors for that to happen. If the body can’t then cope with the autophagy throughout the day. Yeah. And that’s what’s really wild because I appreciate that a lot of people don’t sleep. But if you have the ability to control it and you can to some degree try and prioritize it, I would definitely encourage everyone to do that.


Jonathan Fields: [00:52:08] Yeah. And you use the word autophagy also just for people listening, that from my understanding, is effectively like programmed cell death when a cell becomes senescent and then these other processes kind of help wash them out of us. And we don’t want to disrupt that because we need that to be happening all day to stay healthy.


Nicole Vignola: [00:52:24] Exactly.


Jonathan Fields: [00:52:25] One of the other things, I can’t remember whether you wrote about this or not, but I’ve just known for me, it’s been really powerful and I feel like it’s really affected my brain. And my state of mind is exposure to nature. And I’m curious what your take is on this.


Nicole Vignola: [00:52:37] Yes, I believe I did speak about it in the book. So when we are in nature, we actually can shrink our amygdala as well, because there’s something primal about being in an environment that hasn’t got threatening stimuli. So in the city, you would have to be constantly detecting information from your environment. And your brain, whether consciously or subconsciously, is determining whether it’s threatening or not. If you are on the go and you’re doing other things, you’re. Rain is still bringing in that information and still processing it on a subconscious level, and that’s still energy that’s being used. So there’s still some level of amygdala activation. And if the amygdala is active, it means that it’s it’s strengthening in connectivity. And when we spend time in nature it actually can help shrink the amygdala. The other thing I spoke about in the book is walking, especially in nature. And walking can actually help deactivate the amygdala, because when your eyes are moving laterally side to side, you’re not consciously doing this when you’re walking, but the image is moving past your periphery is called optokinetic nystagmus. And it basically just means that your eyes are still, to some degree, moving laterally, even if it’s a very minor. And that competes for resources with the amygdala. So it actually switches the amygdala off, which is really, really interesting. It’s a type of eMDR therapy whilst walking.


Jonathan Fields: [00:53:57] Yeah, I never really thought about it that way, but it makes perfect sense for those who aren’t familiar with eMDR, this processing therapeutic modality where you literally move your eyes in specific ways in response to different stimuli, and it can be stunningly effective, especially at helping people process trauma.


Nicole Vignola: [00:54:14] Exactly.


Jonathan Fields: [00:54:14] That’s fascinating that you can get almost like this similar effect by walking through nature.


Nicole Vignola: [00:54:19] And in the paper. In 2018, they did this study on rats. We always knew that eMDR worked. So eMDR stands for Emotional Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing. So you’re reprocessing the information without the fear attached to it. But in the paper they basically figured out how eMDR works. And in the discussion they actually say that. They say, I think we just accidentally figured out how eMDR works because we always knew that it worked. We just didn’t know the mechanisms as to how it did. And that was the most fascinating part of the paper when I read it.


Jonathan Fields: [00:54:50] Yeah, that’s so interesting. Well, I love the notion. I mean, you shared a whole bunch of ideas and everyone should dive into the book because there’s a ton more detail, a ton more like actual strategies and tools and processes to help out. But just really understanding, even on a macro level like that, we really can rewire so much of we thought was maybe just it is what it is, you know, really focusing on ditching the negative and then understanding how to change the narrative and then like these practices and different things that we can do to then take the positive and reinforce them and boost them and turn them into sustaining things is just super powerful. Yeah. It feels like a good place for us to come full circle in our conversation as well. So in this container of Good Life Project., if I offer up the phrase to live a good life, what comes up?


Nicole Vignola: [00:55:34] Oh, okay. I think to live with self-alignment, because I think there’s a lot of people that will speculate and there’s a lot of research that will tell you what is the key to longevity. But my biggest question is, can you sit with yourself alone in a room? And you alluded to the fact that you can’t because you’re an avid meditator. And I love that because I think that that’s fundamentally what’s going to drive our well-being is are you constantly fighting with yourself or not? Because if you’re not, you can go through life much easier with things being thrown your way. But knowing that you are standing true in your own light, in your own alignment, however way you want to phrase it. And I think that that for me is the basis of living a good life.


Jonathan Fields: [00:56:17] Mhm. Thank you.


Nicole Vignola: [00:56:18] Thank you.


Jonathan Fields: [00:56:21] Hey, before you leave, if you love this episode Safe bet, you’ll also love the conversation we had with Light Watkins about reclaiming a freer story and making big changes in life. You’ll find a link to Light’s episode in the show notes. This episode of Good Life Project was produced by executive producers Lindsey Fox and me, Jonathan Fields. Editing help By Alejandro Ramirez. Kristoffer Carter crafted our theme music and special thanks to Shelley Adelle for her research on this episode. And of course, if you haven’t already done so, please go ahead and follow Good Life Project. in your favorite listening app. And if you found this conversation interesting or inspiring or valuable, and chances are you did. Since you’re still listening here, would you do me a personal favor? A seven-second favor and share it? Maybe on social or by text or by email? Even just with one person? Just copy the link from the app you’re using and tell those you know, those you love, those you want to help navigate this thing called life a little better so we can all do it better together with more ease and more joy. Tell them to listen, then even invite them to talk about what you’ve both discovered. Because when podcasts become conversations and conversations become action, that’s how we all come alive together. Until next time, I’m Jonathan Fields, signing off for Good Life Project.

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