Category Archives: The Higher Brain

10 Brain Discoveries You Should Know

Listed below are 10 discoveries about your brain that hold out to you the possibility of turning a brain wired for stress into a brain wired for the Good Life, which is a life of being well and doing well on the way to flourishing. Actualizing this change is simpler than you might imagine and change can happen quickly.  It’s called positive neuroplasticity and its the key to the health, wealth and love we desire but has eluded us.

Positive emotions make you smarter. Positive emotions broaden thought, refine behavior, increase mental flexibility, and facilitate creative problem-solving. Attaining a positive emotion state takes practice.  Rx: Use the Start Your Day Positive Tool. It only requires five minutes of time each morning but it pays dividends for the investment. People who start the day mindfully experience more positive emotions during the day, exhibit more interest in their work, are more likely to feel connected and supportive toward others, and are more likely to sleep better that night.

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Reacting to stressors with negativity invites long-term mental health problems:  If chronic, negative emotional responses to daily stressors predict psychological distress and emotional disorder ten years later. Yikes! Rx: Most emotional negativity begins in negative thinking, which is largely fear-based.  Use the Thought Awareness Tool to bust your negative pattern.

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Happiness leads to success, not the other way around: Happy people are in general more successful across the board than less happy people, and their happiness is in large part a consequence of having cultivated a positive state of mind. Rx: Count your blessing periodically. A mountain of research has shown that gratitude promotes a happy attitude. Give attention to what’s right in your life. Practice noticing moments when you feel happy, or peaceful, or connected, or expansive in any way. When your heart opens, even for a second, mark the moment. Tell yourself this moment matters. Tell your brain, This is how I want to feel, so please wire me for it. Then enjoy the moment for as long as it last. Neurologically, marking the moment makes the experience a reward and the brain cues on rewards in forming habits.

Stress and depression can shrink the brain: Major depression or chronic stress can cause the loss of brain volume, a condition that contributes to both emotional and cognitive impairment. Rx: Stress is serious. It’s not something you should someday do something about. Alleviating the stress in your life and accentuating an attitude of peace needs to be at the top of your to-do. Read my book, The End of Stress, or find a stress coach, but don’t continue to ignore stress.

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Financial stress can temporarily lower IQ: People who are worried about having enough money to pay their bills can experience a temporary decrease in their IQ, reducing the brain bandwidth needed to solve a financial problem. It ends up producing a mental state called “scarcity.” Yet research shows that 85% of what we worry about never happens.  Rx: Use the Clear Button tool to quiet your worried, stressful thoughts so you can focus your mental energy on the solution instead being trapped in the problem.

Your brain needs a 20 minute break every two hours to sustain peak performance: The brain cycles every 90-120 minutes. During the first phase brainwaves oscillate at a fast rate, using sodium and potassium ions to generate electrical signals that enable you to perform at a peak level. But fast brain waves burn through the ions, which means your brain needs to refuel with new ions. That’s the second phase, which necessitates a 20-minute break. Rx: A walk under the trees is the best way to take a break, weather permitting. If the weather prohibits, walk around the office. Stop at windows and look out at what’s happening in the world around you.

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Zinc may relieve depression:Two corroborating studies found that depressed people tend to have about 14 percent less zinc in their blood than most people, and the deficiency was greater among those with more severe depression. In addition, people with the highest zinc intake reduced the odds of developing depression by 30 to 50%. Rx: It’s self-explanatory.

The more you think on a problem the more you block the creative insight that can solve it. Pushing the brain’s higher-level, cognitive centers into high gear to solve a problem impairs, rather than enhances, creativity.  The more you think about a problem, the more you mess it up. Rx: If a problem stumps you, take a quiet walk under the trees and let your mind relax, but keep a mental window open for a creative insight to come through.

Exercise may slow brain aging by 10 years for older people: Exercise in older people is associated with a slower rate of decline in thinking skills that occurs with aging. People who reported light to no exercise experienced a decline equal to 10 more years of aging as compared to people who reported moderate to intense exercise. Rx: Hike, walk in a park, or go to the gym at least three days a week. Walking around the neighborhood is a good way to get started if you haven’t been exercising.

Sitting for more than three hours a day can shorten your life by up to two years:We need to pull away from the computer, stand up, and move our bodies. Rx: The prescription is simple. At least every hour, stand up, stretch, do some movement, or take a walk to see if your brain offers a creative insight.

Study identifies State laws that ‘substantially reduce’ gun deaths: Gun-related deaths in the US could be reduced by more than 80 percent if three laws implemented in some states were extended nationally. Rx: If gun deaths worry you, check out this study.

Generation Stress

from Don Joseph Goewey’s article in the Huffington Post

Millennials, who came of age after 1999, and Generation X, born between the early 1960’s and early 1980’s, are now being dubbed Generation Stress. That’s because the American Psychological Association’s research on stress has found Millennials to be the most stressed demographic in America, with Generation X coming in a close second.

Wired-For-STRESS-2 copyBoth generations report nearly twice the level of stress that’s considered safe from serious health risk. They’re having problems with anxiety, anger, irritability, and depression, and it’s affecting their children. Research has found that today’s kids are stressed, now more than ever, and it’s because of how stressed their parents have become. Yet 83 percent of us are doing little or nothing about it.

BUT DON’T STRESS. If stress is a problem in your life, it because genetics and past traumas wired you for it. You can rewire those faulty circuits with simple, proven approaches. Your experience of life can change dramatically without circumstances necessarily changing. Experiencing a higher quality of life is simpler than you might imagine and change can happen fast, as happier, healthier, and more successful outcomes build one on the other to achieve the Good Life.

Below is a starter kit to get you moving in the right direction. These 3 stress busting tools are part of the more extensive program in my new book, The End of Stress, Four Steps to Rewire Your Brain.

Look Inside

The tools are all quite simple. This is because simple approaches are what work best in resolving stress. The tools in my book are also neuroplastic, meaning they rewire the brain to change a stress-provoking auto-pilot  that causes you to fixate on a problem … to a calmer auto-pilot accessing the clarity of higher order brain networks to create solutions.

The first step is a simple practice that goes a long way to frame a great day, instead allowing a stressful beginning to take over. It’s called Starting the Day in Quiet. This tool is an antidote to the frenetic, over-caffeinated early morning rush out the door that heads straight into a traffic jam. This tool encourages you to set aside a few minutes first thing in the morning to consciously frame a dynamically positive, peaceful, and creative mindset to meet the day’s challenges. Doing this can make a big difference in how the day goes.  Here’s how it works.

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  • Start your day by rising 10 minutes earlier, ahead of the morning rush.
  • Sit quietly in a place where you won’t be disturbed.
  • Close your eyes, tilt your head toward your heart, and follow your breathing. The idea is to feel each breath opening your heart and mind wider, empowering heart and mind to work in concert.
  • Feel appreciation for the gift of another day of life. It’s not guaranteed. Feel gratitude for another day with the people you love. Gratitude is a powerful psychological state. It is the gateway to positive emotions.
  • Set your intention to have a great day, filled with achievements. Equally, commit to a great state of mind to face the day’s ups and down with a dynamically positive, peaceful, and creative attitude.

The next step is to practice using a tool during the day that busts stressful, anxious, angry, or depressing thoughts and emotions that ruin your attitude. The brain offers you 90 seconds to bust these reaction before dumping a load of toxic stress hormones in your system that can overwhelm you with anxiety. This tool is called the Clear Button. It gets you through the 90-second window in time. Here’s how it works. You imagine a button at the center of your palm.

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You press the button and keep pressing it as you count to 3, thinking of each number as a color.

  • Breathe in, count 1, and on the exhale think red.
  • Breathe in, count 2, and on the exhale think blue.
  • Breathe in, count 3, and on the exhale think green.
  • On the next breath, let your mind go completely blank for 10 seconds.
  • Next, refocus on the problem at hand, recommitting yourself to being calm, creative, and optimistic as you face this and other stressors that arise during the day.
  • If the problem you face seems beyond your control, recite the Serenity Prayer: Give me the serenity to accept what I can’t change, the courage to change what I can, and the wisdom to know the one from the other.

The calm this tool facilitates can shift control from the amygdala, the brain’s fear center, where all you see are problems, to higher order brain function in the prefrontal cortex where you are able to create solutions.

The third step in this “starter kit” provides a way to close out the day. It’s called Finish
Each Day and Be Done With It.

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This helps you let go of the day’s problems, so you don’t take them home.  Moreover, it allows you to let the day go so you can begin tomorrow serenely, with too high a spirit and purpose to be encumbered by the past. This piece of wisdom comes from a letter written by the great American philosopher, Ralph Waldo Emerson, to his daughter who was stressed over a mistake she’d made. This is what it says:

Finish each day and be done with it.

You have done what you could. Some blunders, losses, and the old nonsense no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can.

Tomorrow is a new day.  It is too dear, with its hopes and invitations, to waste a moment on yesterdays.

I invite you to cut-and-paste the statement and post it where you’ll see it at the close of your work day.

The more you learn to apply tools that bust stress reactions, the more your brain will strengthen synapses that quiet stress and anxiety the moment it raises its ugly hand. Before you know it, you’re functioning at the top of your game, and at the end of the day you’re the person coming through the door that your loved ones were hoping to see.

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We Get What We Expect to Get ~ Part 2

Belief Creates the Actual Fact in Nearly Everything

Langer also conducted a study with maids who clean hotel rooms.[9] These workers wereRoberto Weigand with attribute copy typically assigned fifteen rooms a day and spent half an hour cleaning each room. The task expends a physical effort that exceeds the level of daily exercise the Surgeon General prescribes. But the workers thought their job didn’t qualify as exercise, and since they were too tired at the end of their shift to go to the gym, they believed they weren’t getting the kind of exercise that burned calories or made them fit. Dr. Langer divided the hotel workers into two groups. In one group, she reinforced the mind-set that the physical exertion in their job achieved the recommended level for physical fitness. The second group was not given this information. After four weeks, without any change in diet or activity, people in the first group lost weight. Their body fat dropped, and even their blood pressure improved by 10 points. The only thing that had changed was the group’s mind-set. There was no improvement in the second group.

It may be hard to believe that a change in mind-set could actually improve eyesight as bad as 20/70 or even 20/160, yet in one study it did.[10]  It makes one wonder if we’re all wearing mental blinders. In his memoir, Thomas Merton gets to the heart of the problem, when he wrote: “Perhaps I am stronger than I think. Perhaps I am even afraid of my strength and turn it against myself, thus making myself weak.”[11]

The strength Merton is referring to is as near to you as your own thoughts. Years ago, I knew a young man who, in his mid- twenties, was diagnosed with stage-2 adult Hodgkin’s lymphoma. His oncologist told him that he had 10 percent chance of surviving, which is virtually a death sentence. Yet my friend had misheard the doctor and he left the clinic thinking he’d been told him he had 10 percent chance of dying. During the course of his treatment, his mind-set was built on the anticipation that every step of his medical care was achieving the highly favorable result of complete remission, which is exactly what happened. It wasn’t until his case was presented during hospital grand rounds by his oncologist that he learned he’d misunderstood. He said that if he’d heard his oncologist’s prediction correctly, he would have died. He was absolutely certain that the mindset his misperception produced saved his life.

The Reshaping Reality Tool

The evidence is there and the proof is mounting that your mind can reshape your reality to align with your wishes. Harness this power and you become the master of your fate. There is a simple tool called Reshaping Reality that can generate the anticipation of the wealth, health, and love we all seek. Use this tool on a daily basis to amplify your expectancy for achieving your goals, and see what happens. You can play the recording of Don Joseph Goewey guiding you through this process by pressing the button below:

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  • Sit in a comfortable position and close your eyes.
  • Select a current goal and state to yourself the outcome you wish to achieve. Imagine this outcome as you want it to happen. Pretend that it has already come to pass, and see your life as it would exist at that moment. Let go of all restraints on your thinking. Tell yourself it’s all right to imagine anything, regardless of whether you think it’s probable or even possible.
  • Involve the sensory parts of your brain. Hear the sounds that are present when the outcome is realized. Smell the air and feel the temperature in the environment. Picture what you will see. Now see into the periphery of the picture. What elements of life are around you? Who is with you? Make the colors and elements of your imagined outcome vivid. If people are present, what are they saying to you? What are you saying to them?
  • As you continue to experience the picture you have created, feel the feelings you imagine will overcome you when this outcome is realized. Do you feel joy? Do you feel satisfaction? Do you feel relief from pain or fear? And as you imagine the feelings you will have, bring them close and actually feel them as if they are your experience, right here, right now. Make these desired feelings as strong as you can. If you are happy, allow them to place a smile on your face or make you laugh out loud. If you are relieved, let the relief lift your spirits. Let the emotions become real. Sustain these desired emotions for as long as you can, up to no more than a minute.
  • Then let everything go. Let go of the emotions and let go of the picture.
  • You have now primed your thinking and emotional centers to lock your internal guidance system on your desired outcome. Believe it.

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[9] Alia J. Crum and Ellen J. Langer, “Mind-Set Matters: Exercise and the Placebo Effect,” Psychological Science 18, no. 2 (2007): 165–71.

[10] Believing Is Seeing: How Mindset Can Improve Vision, Association for Psychological Science, April 9, 2010, http://www.psychologicalscience.org/media/releases/2010/langer.cfm.

[11] Thomas Merton, The Intimate Merton: His Life from His Journals, ed. Patrick Hart and Jonathan Montaldo (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1996), 161.

The Genome to Health, Wealth, and Love

Being Well and Doing Well on the Way to Flourishing

(Huffington Post)

There are people in the world who, outwardly, seem to be doing quite well, and yet inwardly are living an unhappy life encumbered by stress, www.canstockphoto19191645health problems, and family dysfunction. Conversely, there are people who are far from wealthy, yet they’re joyful, at peace, and buoyed by the love they give and receive.

Then there’s those I call the Lucky Few who are living the Good Life, which is a life of being well and doing well on the way to flourishing.  These folks have managed to secure the wealth, health, and love we all desire.

Was it good luck that bestows these blessings or something else that the rest of us have failed to see?

Well, science researched this very question and discovered three essential factors that combine to either thwart or support your efforts to achieve the Good Life. It turns out that the first two factors actually relate to luck, but the third factor is the one that makes the biggest impact. It can turn bad luck into good, propelling you into the Good Life, and it’s completely under your control.

1. The first factor that determines your quality of life is genetics. This relates to the Happiness Pie Three Factorstype of stress gene you inherit, and it accounts for 50% of why you are either flourishing, or stressed and struggling.

If you’re lucky and the stress gene you inherited is turned-down low, your brain is more likely to maximize the analytical, emotional, and social intelligence that enables you to move through life’s ups and downs in a creative manner, and progress forward toward achieving your goals.

Conversely, if the stress gene is turned up high (as it is with many Millennials and Gen Xers), you’re more likely to over-react to stressors, struggle with negative emotions, and effort against periodic drops in your IQ caused by stress hormones. This leads to making bad decisions, the likelihood of marital problems and financial distress, an inability to sustain peak performance, and susceptibility to a long list of stress-related health problems.

2. The second factor in determining whether you live a life of stress or a happy, rewarding life is your circumstances, meaning your financial situation, your job, the condition of your health, and the quality of your close relationships.  But research has found that circumstances only account for 10% of what raises or lowers your quality of life. The famous Brickman study of lottery winners and people paralyzed in traumatic accidents substantiated this. The study found that ultimately people who won the lottery were not happier because of their good fortune, and people who became paralyzed were not unhappier because of their misfortune.

In as little as three months, the elation of lottery winners disappeared as they grew accustomed to being wealthy. Equally, the initial shock and despair paraplegics felt eventually resolved as they adjusted to their injury. Similar research found that the blind, the retarded, and the malformed are no less happy than other people.

Yet most people still believe that a change in circumstances is what will put an end to a stressful, disappointing, and unhappy life, despite the research that shows it doesn’t make a big difference.

3. The change that makes the biggest difference is a change in our attitude. Happiness Pie  Change in AttitudeThis was shown in the study of paraplegics I cited above. Their misfortune challenged them to elevate their attitude, and as a result they began to experience more joy from life’s simple, every day pleasures. It turns out that attitude accounts for 40% of what either perpetuates a stressful existence or actualizes a higher quality of mind that empowers a higher quality of life.  How?

A positive shift in attitude turns down the volume on your stress gene,  elevating the brain function that maximizes IQ, increases the capacity to learn, stimulates the creative insight that solves problems, and resets the brain’s emotional set point to positive, inspiring the optimism that fuels your passion.

A positive shift in attitude can produce an exponential shift in all three factors, changing the odds in your favor. You’re now 90 percent in charge of your life. When the stress gene stops working against you, your brain starts working for you, applying your full measure of intelligence toward achieving the Good Life.

Science has provided a number of proven methods that strengthen our capacity to relate to life through a calmer, more creative, more optimistic attitude.  In my new book, The End of Stress, I’ve organized twenty of these approaches into a program that can open the way to a higher quality of life.  Or attend the 4-part live webinar that begins April 28th.one-star-roberto-weigand

Take Your Vacation. It Will Rebuild Your Brain.

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More than one in three of us are forfeiting our vacation time.  Instead of taking time to renew, most of us are working harder than ever, an average 49 hours a week. We are putting in 100-200 more hours per year than our parents.  We sleep less than our parents did; one to two hours less.  Those are averages; you might be working more and sleeping less than that.

Two million years of lost vacation time

We talk about vacations, plan them, dream about them and then fail to take one. As much as a half billion vacation days will go unused this year.  Surveys reveal that we don’t take vacations because we fear an adversary will get ahead of us, or that work will pile up while we’re gone.  If we do take a vacation, we take work with us.  A survey found that 92% of those away on vacation frequently check in with the office.  That’s really not a vacation.

The Reward for Taking Vacation Time

A proper vacation can repair and expand higher order brain function that a stressful year has debilitated and even damaged. The reward for the time you invest in a vacation is a brain humming with the creative intelligence, emotional balance, and physical energy that sustains you at the top of your game. When you return from vacation, neurologically you will be ahead of the person you worried would get ahead of you.

Here’s How to Take Your Vacation

Think of your vacation as an intensive care unit for your brain, where no one from the outside is allowed to enter your personal space who might stress you. That means that before you leave for your trip, put your email account on auto-responder.

When you arrive at your destination, put your Blackberry in a drawer. If you have to use it, be disciplined about letting non-urgent business calls go to voice mail.

Here’s a simple approach to making your vacation rejuvenate your brain.

(1)  Start your day in quiet in a place where you won’t be disturbed and follow the process below:

  • Close your eyes or take a downward gaze.
  • Tilt your head toward your heart. Follow your breathing. Imagine each breath softening your heart and opening it wider.
  • Take a few minutes to frame the day in a positive light.
  • Feel appreciation for the gift of another day of life.
  • Feel appreciation for another day to be with the ones you love.
  • Set the intention to have a relaxing, happy day.
  • Make your goal to succeed at love, peace and joy.

(2) During the day,

  • Practice being present, right here, right now.
  • Practice letting go of worries and judgments.
  • Commit to tuning into your loved ones. Rediscover them all over again.
  • Hold the intention to listen better, judge less, and forgive more. In fact, practice judging nothing that happens while on vacation, from traffic jams to unpleasant people.