from Don’s Huffington Post article
Neuroscience has become quite adept at mapping the brain and they can actually measure your level of inner peace. And here’s what they found. We are at our creative cognitive and emotional best when we are at peace. By simply accentuating qualities of a positive peaceful attitude you produce positive changes in your brain that enable you to flourish.
- A peaceful state of mind increases gray matter, making your mind stronger and able to work faster.
- It improves memory, attention, and your capacity to learn.
- You process emotions better, enabling you to feel vibrant and inspired, but not so emotionally charged that you become manic, chaotic, or rigid.
- You are much abler to sustain your focus in a high-stress environment.
- You achieve greater interpersonal resonance and attuned communication.
- You are more empathic, able to see, feel, and understand a situation from someone else’s point of view.
As a result of all the above, you are more likely to succeed at life, with greater subjective well-being. A mind at peace generates the brain power to achieve the Good Life, which is a state of flourishing, achieving the health, wealth and love we all desire.
So what does it mean to be at peace?
Let me start by defining what it doesn’t mean. Peace doesn’t mean to be in a place where there is no noise or hard work or problems. There is a Buddhist parable about a farmer who goes to the Buddha in hopes that the saint can miraculously remove all of his problems.
“I cannot help you with that,” the Buddha said. “Everyone has problems. In fact, everyone has eighty-three problems. You may solve one now and then, but another is sure to take its place.”
“How is that supposed to help me?” the farmer retorted in frustration.
“Perhaps,” the Buddha said, “this understanding will help you with the 84th problem, which is the problem of not wanting any problems.”
Peace is not about taking away our problems; it’s about engaging problems and stressors fearlessly, with the calm, creativity, and optimism that generates the brain power to solve them.
Some people think that a peaceful attitude makes us complacent, but inner peace is a vibrant, dynamic state of mind. It fosters in us an open, curious vitality that is fully present and able to engage life exactly as it is.
Inner peace is having a calm clear sense of our own power in any situation without the need to overpower others.
By definition, being at peace means we are unafraid, unhurried, kind, and resilient.
Inner peace is an end to worry.
It’s a disinterest in judging ourselves or others or events.
It’s an end to the need to change anyone.
It’s a compassionate understanding that is not codependent, and a willingness to forgive.
It’s a heartfelt connection with others and with life itself that engenders a sense of the sacred.
Inner peace is a dynamic choice that leads to a dynamic way of being in the world that literally changes the brain to tap its full potential. But peace of mind doesn’t happen all by itself; not in our fast paced modern world. Peace develops out of that voluntary state of mindfulness called choice. The more mindful we are about choosing to be at peace, the more we experience it. The more we experience it, the more we come to treasure it. The more we treasure our peace of mind, the more expansive it becomes.
Peace takes practice and practice takes discipline, which is simply knowing what you want to experience, and then choosing it consistently. The core choice is basic; it’s between fear and peace. It begins with mindfully asking ourselves, what do I want to experience as I face people and events each day.
Mindfulness asks: What do I want to experience?
Do I want to be stressed or calm and clear … Afraid of failing or creative … Critical or empathic … Think negative or positive … Worry or have faith … Remain stuck or let go … Angry or composed … Condemning or forgiving … Self-righteous or happy.
Byron Katie, author of Loving the Way It Is, says this about the way practice works. She says once a stressful, anxious perception is understood for what it is and met with the feeling of understanding, the next time it appears you may find it interesting. What used to be a nightmare is now just interesting. The next time after that you may find it funny and after that you may not even notice it.
The stressful fearful perception has left your mind making room for you to be peace, and your brain will reward you with the higher brain function that enables you to sustain your best self, achieving your best day, every day.
If peace has alluded you, here’s a tool that can help establish it in your daily life. It’s called the 30-Second Time Out for Peace. Use it for a couple of weeks and then add taking walks in nature two or three times a week, leaving all your troubles and problems behind you as you take the first step. A walk in the park quiets the mind and gradually rewires your brain to raise your IQ and generate great mental health. The experience from taking both of these simple steps will prove to you the power of inner peace. How could that not motivate you to move forward to develop a mindfulness practice that deepens your peace of mind. In my book The End of Stress, I present a simple step by step process that helps you build such a practice.
30-Second Time Out for Peace
- Stop what you’re doing and step away from the world for a moment.
- Let go of what you were thinking and allow yourself to relax a little.
- Now allow yourself to relax a little more.
- Let go of everything. Feel your brain relax as you let go.
- No worries, no problems, no goals. Just let them all go for a moment.
- Take a slow, deep breath – and as you do – let your mind and heart open wide.
- Allow peace to begin to emerge as your experience, all by itself.
You can do this short exercise just about anywhere: standing in line, walking to a meeting, or looking out a window. Try it a few times throughout today and see what happens to your day.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Five hundred years ago, Michel de Montaigne said: My life has been filled with terrible misfortune; most of which never happened. Now there’s a study that proves it. This study looked into how many of our imagined calamities never materialize. In this study, subjects were asked to write down their worries over an extended period of time and then identify which of their imagined misfortunes did not actually happen.
Lo and behold, it turns out that 85 percent of what subjects worried about never happened, and with the 15 percent that did happen, 79 percent of subjects discovered either they could handle the difficulty better than expected, or the difficulty taught them a lesson worth learning. This means that 97 percent of what you worry over is not much more than a fearful mind punishing you with exaggerations and misperceptions.
Montaigne’s quote has made people laugh for five centuries, but worry is no joke. A worried mind means a chronically stressed brain, and chronic stress generates serious problems. The stress hormones stress and worry dump into your system shrinks brain mass, lowers your IQ, makes you prone to heart disease, cancer and premature aging, predicts martial problems, family dysfunction, and depression, and makes seniors more likely to develop dementia and Alzheimer’s.
If we could get a handle on the worry and stress that habitually, incessantly, and often unconsciously seizes hold of our mind, we would greatly increase the odds of living a longer, happier, healthier, and more successful life. It’s a matter of reprogramming our brain. We human beings are called the Crown of Creation because of our brain and Nobel Prize laureate Eric Kandle tells us that we direct our brain with “the most complex set of processes in the universe, the mind.”
Until recently, we haven’t had the owner’s manual for our brain that could identify the mental processes that switch our brain to full power … but we have it now. In the last 15 years new research has identified the mindset or mental attitude that literally changes your brain to change your life. In addition, this shift in attitude stimulates the growth of new connections that expand high order brain function to enable you to reach even greater heights.
The process of reprogramming your brain is called neuroplasticity. It takes a decision and a specific practice, but it’s simpler than you might imagine and results can happen quickly, in as little as four weeks. You can learn more about neuroplasticityin my book The End of Stress, Four Steps to Rewire Your Brain. The book presents 20 proven tools and processes that are organized into a step by step practice that build the attitude that programs your brain for a better experience of life leading to far better results.
“… the missing owner’s manual for your mind.”