We human beings are called the crown of creation because of our brain. Yet for far too many people, the brain does not seem to crown their lives with health, wealth, and love. Quite the contrary, it seems to malfunction in self-defeating patterns of stress, anxiety and depression. We now know that this means the brain’s fear center (the amygdala) is taking charge of our experience reducing us to fight or flight stress reactions that dump toxic stress hormones into our system.
Fact #1: Stress is Serious!
Chronic stress means the stress response system is turned on nearly full time and a build-up of stress hormones:
- sinks higher brain networks involved in memory, learning, and decision-making, and conversely causing the amygdala to expand, producing higher levels of anxiety,
- switches the brain’s emotional set point to negative, predisposing us to anger, aggression, insecurity, and depression,
- deletes our energy and disrupts our sleep,
- temporarily lowers IQ by as much as 40%,
- causes marriage and family dysfunction,
- dampens the immune system making us susceptible to acute illnesses that can later become chronic, and
- damages chromosomes, causing chromosomes to produce abnormal cells that can lead to premature aging and life-threatening illness.
Stress is serious. It is life-threatening serious. It is not something we should someday do something about. We need to shift stress whenever it raises its ugly head, and we can.
Fact #2: The 50-10-40 Factor
This leads to the second fact to keep in mind, which is if we have a problem with stress, it is not necessarily our fault, but it is our responsibility to change and science says we can. Fifty percent (50%) of what causes a predisposition to stress is an up-regulating stress gene you inherited which was probably reinforced by your family of origin, wiring your brain for a hyperactive stress response system. This is going to drag your mind and your day into self-defeating bouts of anxiety, engendering a nebulous sense of threat when none exists.
It is common for a beleaguered mind to think that a change of circumstances will solve a stressful life, but research shows that circumstances are only 10% to blame for a stressful life, which means changing circumstances does not make a big difference.
The change that makes the biggest difference is a change of mindset. It accounts for 40% of whether you live a life of stress or the good life. And there is growing evidence that a shift to the positive can down-regulate the stress gene, placing you fully in charge of your quality of life.
Fact #3: Everything is Mindset
New research has established that your brain takes its direction from your state of mind. So, here is the third fact to consider: Everything for a human being is mindset. This is a conclusion reached by some of our best scientists. And, there are only two mindsets you need to understand.
One mindset is negative generating an inner experience of contraction that feels like the walls are closing in on you. It is built on the fearful thinking that makes you believe you are a victim of circumstances. The stress hormones that a negative mindset produce shrinks higher brain networks.
The other mindset is positive, generating an inner experience of expansion that makes you feel like the sky is the limit. It is built on inner peace, love and optimism and makes you believe you are larger than circumstances. A positive mindset not only amplifies higher brain function, it also stimulates the growth of new connections within the higher brain to increase your potential to reach even greater heights.
Fact #4: Success is Inner Peace, Succeeding is Letting Go of Fear
This leads to the fourth fact, which is that stress is psychological fear and peace is neurological power. To say it another way: Success is inner peace, succeeding is letting go of fear. This basic shift in mindsets promotes neural integration, which:
- improves executive function increasing your proficiency at planning, strategic thinking and decision-making as well as improving memory, learning, reasoning, cognitive flexibility, error detection, and goal directed action.
- supports emotional regulation so that you feel vibrant and inspired, but not so emotionally charged that you become manic, chaotic, or rigid.
- promotes response flexibility by activating neurons that signal you to pause before acting, inhibiting rash impulses and allowing you to reflect on options.
- achieves attuned communication facilitating the interpersonal resonance that promotes better communication, harmony, and the capacity to transcend a limited self-interest in favor of a greater good.
- increases empathy, generating the capacity to enter another’s world so completely that you lose all desire to judge them.
- makes you tolerant of differences and enlightens you with self-knowing awareness and foresight directing you forward.
- fosters innovative thinking, integrating the creative insights produced by the brain’s right hemisphere with higher brain function to become more imaginative, able to think out of the box when a new approach is needed.
- generates holism, quieting shame-based, self-defeating thought processes to achieve the level of self-confidence and self-worth that allow you to maximize your inherent strengths and talents.
Who does not want their brain functioning like that.
Fact #5: It is Simpler Than You Might Think
The fifth and final fact to remember is, as far as I am concerned, the best news of all. The daily mindful practice that generates the change that changes everything is quite simple adding little to your to-do list. It is about learning to function from an empowering to-be list. And better still, brain change occurs faster than you might imagine, in as little as 4 weeks with practice.