Technological advances in brain science have exploded in the last several years. Through the work of Dr. Daniel Amen and others we are beginning to understand our brain as the organ of our personality. Our brain is a biomechanical organ designed for us to think thoughts. The brain itself doesn’t care what it thinks about (think about that). I’ll paraphrase Dr. Amen’s example, “If you want to learn to play the piano badly, you will… Your brain doesn’t care!” You can use this emerging technological advancement to better understand what is happening when you think thoughts. Your brain is an organ that is designed to think just like the heart is designed to beat. We do not have to think about our heart beating it does it automatically. The brain thinks thoughts automatically too! (remember the brain doesn’t care which thoughts it thinks). The difference is the complexity of the tasks between organs. Kidney, liver and heart functions do not require more than the electrical impulses to continuously and consistently perform their designed functions. The brain on the other hand, is the only organ of our body designed for us to consciously control its function and ultimately, in a larger part than we ever understood, control its design. (more on this later)
We are also are learning that certain areas of our brain control certain areas of behavior/personality. For example if the Basal Ganglia is too active people tend to struggle with anxiety and physical stress symptoms. Therapies targeting your anxiety producing thoughts, hypnosis and relaxation therapies help the basal ganglia regulate bringing relief from those troubling symptoms. The Anterior Cingulate Gyrus acts as the gear shifter of our brain. When this area is too active we can find ourselves stuck on thoughts/worries, struggling with compulsivity or obsessive behaviors, have trouble letting go of hurts or being argumentative. When the Deep Limbic System is affected we can struggle with depression, poor motivation, poor attitude, negativity, guilt and poor motivation. Temporal Lobes functioning problems include forgetfulness, trouble finding words, anger, moodiness, poor social skills, processing problems and poor reading. Functioning problems of the Prefrontal Cortex include inattention, poor judgment, impulsivity, procrastination and lack of empathy. If the Cerebellum‘s functioning is affected we will have difficulty with speech, slow walk, poor concentration, disorganization, slow thinking, poor motor control and poor judgment. For all of these brain systems there is more targeted treatment available today thanks to brain science pioneers like Dr. Daniel Amen. With this far more targeted treatment we can achieve better brain functioning and relief from the troubling symptoms that hold us hostage and steel our joy.
5 Basic Principles of Successful Operation of the Brain
- You have choice in what you think. Exercise your choice!
- Our feelings are our guidance system to help us navigate our choice in thoughts.
- Thoughts drive our Feelings, Feeling drive our Behavior.
- In order to successfully develop healthy thoughts you must care about your feelings.
- An intimate connection to positive spiritual energy can be very useful.
HOW TO: Basic Principle #1
I usually start this conversation with the question “What do you think comes first, thoughts or feelings?” A lot of people answer feelings come first. This is understandable given that it’s much easier to notice how we are feeling rather than what we are thinking. Yet successful operation of the brain requires putting your hands on the wheel and steering. Going along when our emotions are leading our thoughts is often very scary ride and we can find ourselves just hanging on. I know. I’ve been on more than one scary ride myself and I have a lot of people come to me in all kinds of emotional discomfort from their own scary rides. Remember your brain doesn’t care what it thinks about! By taking the time to learn the skill of thinking on purpose, you can go beyond just going along for the ride, to an effective operator of your brain.
At first, yes, it is cumbersome thinking about what you are thinking about. Yet the effort has rewards beyond what you can imagine so find your motivation to help keep yourself on track! You can put effort into learning a new skill that you will be able to use for the rest of your life with accelerating speed and applications. The hardest part is in the beginning. It will get easier as you go along because you will be building new pathways in your brain. Once these are built they are there for you to use more easily than it was to build them. Think of it as exercise for your brain! With some effort and knowing your motivation you can lay the tracks you want in your brain. Now, find your motivation (your health, your family, relief from troubling symptoms, freedom from addiction, more happiness and satisfaction in your life). Then, just as an experiment, for one week when you feel something about a situation, ask yourself “What am I telling myself about this situation right now?” “How does it make me feel?” What are some other choices of thoughts I can give myself? Allow yourself to make a game of thinking ALL your options of thought. How does each of these options of thought make me feel? In learning to care about myself which of these thoughts do I want to feed myself? Think of your thoughts as if they were on a buffet table. If you were at a buffet and ate food that made you sick, you wouldn’t go back for more. Why then would you return to thoughts that made you feel emotionally sick? Feed yourself a healthy mental diet and you will find yourself growing strong and healthy in your mind space. Remember you don’t have to believe every thought you have. Evaluate your thoughts for their health and vitality!