Author Archives: Why We Are Wired To Worry— How Science Can Help Us Stop
So often at the onset of our day we start off getting annoyed if any of our modern convinces don’t function the way WE THINK THEY SHOULD. Not to mention our tendency to quickly dismiss these advancements. We complain when it takes an extra twenty seconds to send an e-mail. Twenty seconds to send our thoughts, which may or may not be of any importance to anyone but us, to the other side of the world! When I was growing up, it blew my mind to hear another voice on the other end of my new walkie-talkies that I got for Christmas. What about Facebook’s occasional changes? OMG, everyone starts flipping out as if it will stop the world as we know it, and the “I am leaving Facebook forever” chant begins. This program allows us to find in mere minutes a second grade crush! And for free! Our storming off is pretty much irrelevant to Facebook, yet our overinflated perception of our own influence is staggering!
How about an IPad or other tablet? I admit I have flipped out when it takes too long to get on YouTube. I’ve gotten indignant at how it is interrupting my workout on the stationary bike because I have no use for the twelve TV channels that the gym offers. It is all because I want what I want when I want it. And what I want is to be watching lectures from UCLA while I exercise!
Starting today, make sure a positive experience or modern marvel is never wasted again. Right now, look around and notice five things that are there for you in any way. These are your good facts. They may be from the past, present, or future. They could be people, surroundings, or technology, but either way these are things that can shift our perspective and thereby lift our mood.
The key is to find things to feel good about and never take another thing for granted.
You are hearing it everywhere. Every magazine, newspaper and even news channels are boasting about the amazing benefits of meditation or a mindfulness practice. Are they lying to us or just jumping onto the latest fad or craze? Neither, in fact one could say they are late to the party. The science community is finally embracing these practices due to the large amount of data proving their benefits, some have even referring to it as a technology of sorts because its effects are measurable; but the best part for you and I is you don’t have to believe in it to see results. It just works. The studies are repeatedly showing the same benefits:
• Increase focus and concentration
• Reduce emotional reactivity
• Reduce stress
• Improve memory
• Enhance empathy
• Increase cognitive flexibility
• Lower sensitivity to pain
I don’t know about you, but I would do almost anything to get all of these benefits at once! This is a vast subject that could fill 10 giant books but suffice it to say that you learn it simply by doing it. There is no other practice out there that can give you this kind of mental and emotional enhancement, producing the fastest changes in your brain and your life. A simple mindfulness practice every morning, if only for one to five minutes, is all it takes to start. Before you tell me you can’t do that because your mind wanders, know that such an argument is like saying you can’t go to a gym because you are out of shape. You do this to gain control over the wandering! Now don’t get all wigged out about this. If you are someone who has been avoiding this kind of practice, but are still unhappy. Maybe it’s time to give it a try. I promise there is no sitting cross-legged, no “ohm-ing,” and no trying to stop your mind from thinking! Thinking is what your mind does. The act of mindfulness or meditation is simply maintaining a pure awareness that allows you to become extremely aware of each thought going through your mind, allowing you to know what is traveling through your mind in nanoseconds. This awareness is what will allow you to finally control your moods.So just do start it already!
When beginning a mindless activity, pause and notice what your body feels like. If it is brimming with intensity, notice that just by taking a moment to focus on it, your body and mind will slow back down. If you continue to pause intermittently to take note of your body’s energies, you might be amazed at how fast the energy returns to a state of tension even after just one minute. If you are angry, you may feel empowered by this kind of energy. You may feel it will help you to finish your task more efficiently. It doesn’t, however, because the energy is there without a focused mind to make the most of it. Being still and breathing deeply will cause a physiological alteration that can bring a calm to almost any moment.
RULE: Be mindful when you are doing something mindless.
It is simply a matter of what you really want in life, how happy you want to be, and the commitment you want to make. As with sticking with the gym or a diet, you have to give it time to transcend into a lifestyle. This rule does not bend: joy can be experienced only in the present, not in the future or past. So if joy is what you really want in life, why go looking in places where it will never be found. Joy is a bit different than happiness or calm it is almost divine but it evolves from moments of calm and happiness.
What stops you from feeling the things you already have? You have worked hard for your home, car, job, friends, and family. When you were growing up, all you could do was dream about one day having these things. Now these things are available to you plus a host of other nice things, good things, great things, and kind things—but your mind barely notices them. Your brain has been programed to want to just move on so you can get to the next thing. It never ends; its appetite for the next thing is insatiable. It sees almost everything as a means to an end…some evasive “end” that never comes, like tomorrow. At best, it will see each moment as a tool; at worst, as another problem to be solved or overcome.
This is the dreary mist in which we walk around in, never really seeing, feeling, or tasting any of the precious things life brings to us. This has to change. We must understand that the degree to which we give this moment our full attention and focus will be the degree to which the next moment is prepared for us. Life is not a series of obstacles to get through every day. For what? When does the pleasure start? When we get home from work? When we get the kids to bed? When we get into bed? The pleasure is hiding in plain view within each moment we experience. The pleasure is recognizing that there is no other place to be but in this moment. It is the pleasure of not running ahead worrying about stuff that has not even happened, the pleasure of seeing the smiles on the faces of friends and colleagues that we normally only glance at. This pleasure entails smiling right now and knowing things don’t have to be perfect to feel good right now. Today we must come out of this mist and never allow it to control our attitudes and moods again.
On days when you are running around trying to cram three days of errands into one, life may jump up and slap you—it always does eventually—Most of us approach our list of tasks for the day as a challenge. Each task we can check off sends a shot of serotonin, making us feel accomplished.
However, no task is ever your goal; rather, your goal is to give the utmost careful attention to each moment. The present moment is not an obstacle to get past so you can get to the “next thing” No step you take can be seen as just a means to accomplishing the task; if it is, then most tasks will feel empty with no purpose until the very end when you check them off your “to do list” Why wait until the end of your task to get that serotonin when you can have it throughout the whole process? You will find purpose in each moment when you recognize that each step you take toward a task is in itself the purpose. This understanding is not complex, but it is the antithesis of how we think normally; Once you understand this fact your whole life will begin to feel different. so when life throws you a curve you will find your footing again by simply adjusting your perspective and refocusing careful attention to the moment at hand. Sometimes I stop, close my eyes, take a deep breath, and just feel my feet on the floor. That reels my thinking and emotions in quickly. Another tool I use if I am home is I stand on a balance disc . This works even under extreme emotion. It is a round inflated disc you stand on trying to blanche and not waver. By closing your eyes and trying to maintain balance you immediately stop all other thoughts as all your attention is drawn to maintaining your balance. See my website for more details http://www.shariespironhi.com.
Today I am looking for 3 volunteers to try a brand new new technique that calms your thinking mind when it has run a much with a fear or replaying an event. It is the most powerful tool I have found thus far and I am seeing outrageous results. Private message me and I will explain the technique and you can let everyone know how it worked after the weekend. Keep Smiling.
About a decade ago, neuroscience began probing the cause of this excessive mind wandering, and it seems to be the default state the mind goes to whenever we lose interest in what we are doing or become tired. And now thanks to all of our modern marvels we now have the attention span of eight seconds, so now we are almost never here in the moment! The purpose of this wandering state seems to be so we can decide whether our reaction to our spouse this morning was warranted. However, this program is broken, so instead of thinking through the issues at hand and drawing helpful, insightful conclusions, we ruminate repeatedly over situations, conversations, and even a single sentence said to us ad nauseam.
This reptilian brain of yours, is the seat of your unconscious and can process more than 200,000 bits of info per second! That is a lot of processing power. So about every eight seconds, or whenever you get bored it takes over grabbing memories from your past, speculating on your future, and scanning your environment for danger, which could mean just a dirty look. This so constant that it becomes an energy you can actually feel in your physical body, like an undercurrent of anxiety or worry, even though you may not be aware of it. Being distracted by all this internal noise can result in your moving about restlessly, recklessly, dropping things, or even being a klutz. The most common symptom, though, is that it leaves you absentminded and forgetful.
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The newest part of our brain the prefrontal cortex, ideally should enable us to over ride our lizard brain and be calm and reasonable in the face of problems and disappointments. However, that takes maturity and our brains aren’t even fully developed until we are about twenty-seven years old. By that time we are pretty adept at allowing our rage and frustration to over take us. This prefrontal cortex is our awareness system; it is where we decide, plan, and make responsible choices. I referred to it earlier as our “head office” This is what gives us the capacity to think out into the future, back into the past and then evaluate both to make sense of the present.
Right now the one who is in charge of your behavior/feeling center is your back office, not your newer reasonable thinking front office as you might hope. Initially this older brain has most of the control in how you are influenced; it draws conclusions about people you don’t really know, deems others dumb or ignorant before you have even one conversation with them, and dislikes or champions people through beliefs you don’t even know you have. It will believe a total stranger and refute your friends based on a gut feeling instead of information, it will join a team of people you don’t know, and defend causes you know very little about. It is where your beliefs and opinions are protected to the death. In short this is your ego personified.
If you want to make a change in your life, at some point you actually have to do something not just contemplate it. But your amygdala will hit the sirens and warn you to stay put. It is how it kept you alive thousands of years ago, but in present day it is causing us to die of boredom, monotony, and a lack of purpose. Ignore those fears that say, “Not now, I’ll do it later, I have too many other things on my plate, I have to think about it” That s all contrived crap we come up with because our brains are screaming, “STOP! DONT EVEN THINK OF TRYING SOMETHING NEW” and we have no idea why it is doing that. Start a new habit today to do one new thing a day and in 2 weeks you will unstoppable!
Does this sound familiar?
Your head hits the pillow and you begin having a heated one-sided discussion with that coworker, child, or spouse, and although this is happening only in your head, you get as angry and upset as if it were happening in real life, with all the same harmful chemicals in play. (My personal favorite is rehashing a situation from childhood or with someone who isn’t even in my life anymore.) Talk about insane behavior! Over and over in your head, you will make your point, chasing some sort of elusive validation like a dog chasing his tail. Before you know it, you’re tossing and turning and can’t sleep.
For others, fears of your loved ones being in danger take over. If you are a parent you know this all too well and mothers are especially good at it. As we toss and turn witnessing this horror movie of our own making, we search for any reliable gut feeling or sense that we are correct in our fears. As if knowing something bad was coming would allow us to prevent it anyway.
Oh sure were their dangers at some point, yes but never affiliated with a particular night of tossing and turning. So after all the stress one day can hand you, you climb into bed exhausted and your brain hops back on the Worry-Go-Round.