Blog Archives

Wired To Eat For All The Wrong Reasons— My blog from Psychology Today

If you don’t understand that evolution has wired you to eat sugary carbohydrates in order to self-soothe and calm you, then you will never be able to control your appetite. Find out how to spot the triggers before you have a Snickers bar in your mouth, because — you’re not really you, when you’re that kind of hungry!

Stop hating yourself — It was only a doughnut

So you walk past the snack room at the office and see a delicious piece of chocolate cake that a deviant co-worker brought in to share. At first you walk away, proudly reminding yourself of the steady diet path you have been on. However, only 45 minutes later you’re suddenly overcome with the urge to have a piece of that delicious…whatever. Why now? Did you change your mind or your diet goal? Did you decide to self-sabotage? This is the type of psychological gymnastics one does to find an answer, assuming it will help fight the urge. But as you search for clues it feels more and more like a no-win situation, and your frustration grows.

Neuroscience tells us these urges have little to do with craving food and controlling our appetite, and more to do with another type of craving, “comfort.” A wonderful feeling, comfort is the result of serotonin, a neurotransmitter in your brain that rewards you with security, confidence and pleasure. Serotonin is our “well-being” drug. It evolved to tell us that our needs have been met —  when we eat something we love, go on a shopping spree, feel adored by others, receive a compliment, or believe we are superior than others. You could say that Hollywood is the epitome of a serotonin junkie.

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One of the Cornerstones of Happiness? The Little Things

Continuing with yesterday’ blog about how much we take for granted I wanted to mention a few of the 100’s of things we look past every day. If you  take time each day to Look for items in your immediate surroundings that are relaxing, comforting, inspiring, informative, or helpful, your brain in only a few days will do this naturally. This focus will keep it rooted in the positives around you not the negatives. Look at your outdoor surroundings and the beautiful trees or warm faces that you see. If outdoors is not an option, see if you can see or feel something beautiful, like a picture on the wall, a comfortable chair, or even the sturdy floor. Think of something or someone you are glad to have apart of your life in your present or past. Think of how easy it is to find decent, clean clothes.  What would it be like if you had to walk a mile right now in order to get water from a well. Ponder for just a moment the images you see on TV of homeless, sick, hungry, and hopeless people. Focusing for the first time with real attention on any of these things I just mentioned will change your mood in just moments.

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Are We Getting Spoiled?

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.

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Can You Feel The Good In Your Life?

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.

BUY NEW BOOK Wired To Worry on Amazon

Too Busy to read download my new book from audible.com

Don’t Make Your To-Do List Your Goal

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.

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Too Busy to read download my new book from audible.com

Where Did I Put My Keys….AGAIN???

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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Who Controls You?

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.

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Pillow Panic

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.

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STOP Being Let Down!

little boy big problem - five years old boy isolated on white

Before disappointment strikes, you must be vigilant in reminding yourself that setting your hopes on one particular event or occurrence is dangerous, unnecessary, and misleading. No event will make you happy forever! Everything is transient and passes. The most subtle ones are those we expect in the course of our day, such as getting to work on time, having no traffic, having the computer work, or having the bus be on time. All are setups for disappointment.

Now, of course, you don’t want to expect bad things to happen, but you can’t forget that life is unpredictable. If you have personal expectations, it will feel like a personal attack when things don’t go your way, and you will fly into anger. Let me make this simple—Don’t cling to outcomes. Before I leave the house, I remind myself that regardless of what my to-do list says, anything is possible today. Beginning your day with expectations is like shoving a ticking time bomb into your pocket. It is only a matter of time before it blows.

Do the following reactions sound familiar? “Nice blinker, idiot!” “This stupid computer!” “Crap, it’s only three o’clock.” “Why is everyone driving like an ass?” “OMG, the Internet is so slow today!”

These reactions are as helpful as throwing your shoe at the clouds because it is raining on your day off! You are personalizing all of these random events. Such reactions also cut you off from seeing just how amazing life is around you. Stay present to these ridiculous, hidden beliefs that will do their best to wreck your day before it starts. When you walk out the door, remind yourself that although you intend to do this or that, anything can happen. Doing this disarms your amygdala, which is always on the lookout for things not going according to your plan. So take your plan (expectation) off the table. Your amygdala is different from that of the next person; whatever you believe should or shouldn’t happen is what it will try to protect, so only you can take down the beliefs/expectations that trigger it to begin with.

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Stop Being Disappointed With Your Life

Disappointment is a direct reflection of expectations. Expectations subtly sneak in, hanging around in the background. They are a result of you making subconscious decisions to expect an outcome of some sort. Becoming aware of these expectations early on is the key to avoiding these kinds of setbacks that can plague your mood all day long.

For example: after planning a weekend getaway with friends, or a great Memorial Day party you come down with the flu, which prevents you from going. You might consider that a legitimate disappointment, thinking to yourself, “Hey, you have every right to be upset here. I mean, was it too much to ask for a lousy weekend away?” Of course it wasn’t; however, you will enlarge the disappointment if you choose to see it as something being taken from you or you being robbed of fun. That will throw you into a victim mentality, feeling sorry for yourself, with grand stories behind why you got sick, why life is unfair, and why these things always happen to you. These sad stories reside in your memory and come rushing in like witnesses to a crime to prove that life is treating you unfairly. With the emotions as fresh as the day the events took place, you will feel as though every bad thing that ever happened to you is happening all over again!  Which makes you feel even worse. In my book I explain how to circumvent these moments and stop disappointments from feeling like a tragedy. I will also teach you a trick to stop your brain from viewing your whole life from the angle of disappointment and missed opportunities. But in the mean time this weekend prep yourself with a real attitude of gratitude remembering that this weekend is not about a summer kick off but rather a time to show and feel gratitude for all of the men and women who have died for you and I so we can have any life we want to pursue. And if you need some tangible fuel for that gratitude just think about all the young men and women who are alive this weekend to celebrate this holiday with broken bodies that will never be the same…. let them be an example for you of how to put set backs in perspective so you don’t feel like a victim.

Be safe this weekend….

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