from Don’s Huffington Post article
Five hundred years ago, the French philosopher Michel de Montaigne said, “My life has been full of terrible misfortunes most of which never happened.” This quote made people laugh back then and it still makes us laugh today because our species hasn’t made much progress in transcending the mind’s capacity to catastrophize. But the consequences a fearful mind bring-on aren’t so funny. Worry and fear activates the brain’s stress response system, dumping toxic stress hormones into the system that debilitates higher brain function that makes us smart, happy, and loving.
Studies suggest that high levels of stress hormones from chronic stress reactions can increase the risk of heart disease by increasing cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure. At its worse, fight or flight stress reactions can take over and generate the hostile, impatient, controlling competitiveness that leads to the extreme stress condition called Type-A. Type-A behavior increases the likelihood of a fatal heart attack.
Dr. Robert Sapolsky of Stanford, one of the world’s top stress researcher, states: “We human beings … generate all sorts of stressful events purely in our heads. We can experience wildly strong emotions, provoking our bodies into an accompanying uproar, and it’s all linked to mere thought.”
The technical term for it is psychological fear. It’s fearful, worried, pessimistic thoughts and attitudes that, when believed, produce a perception of threat, when none actually exist. Research has found that 85 percent of what people worried about never happened, and of the 15 percent that did, 79 percent solved the problem better than they thought they would. That means when we imagine some “terrible misfortune”, 97 percent of the time there was nothing to get worked up about.
We can wire our brain for the calm, creativity, and optimism that predicts the health, success, and love that defines the “Good Life”. It takes a change in mindset that accentuates the positive. Making this change is simpler than you might think and change can happen faster than you might imagine, within a few weeks if you practice.
Below is a prescription for wiring your brain for the Good Life by building a positive mindset (←click this link to download it). Do one of these lessons every day for the next three weeks. You can do any one of these more than once if you like, but be consistent. It takes an everyday practice to change the brain.
Day / Prescription
1. Choose the longest line at a store and stand in it, letting go of your mind’s sense of hurry and choosing to be at peace.
2. Look out the window for thirty seconds and let your mind go. Watch the wind blow or the sun shine or the rain fall.
3. Do one special thing for yourself today.
4. Drive home in the slow lane.
5. Listen to calming music instead of the news on the drive home.
6. Smile more today.
7. Practice listening without interrupting.
8. Buy a small gift for a friend or family member.
9. Call a good friend you haven’t talked to in a while.
10. Look for the best in someone you know.
11. Devote today to seeing your strengths and positive qualities.
12. Practice forgiving trivial errors, yours and others.
13. Use a measuring stick other than business to measure your accomplishments, such as your talents, creative abilities, human qualities, or close relationships.
14. Quietly do a good deed or an act of kindness.
15. Practice receiving compliments graciously.
16. Accept that life is unfinished business.
17. Take five minutes today to recall times when you were happy.
18. Commit to stop judging yourself for your lack of perfection.
19. Reflect for five minutes how in your life perfection has tended to emerge from the imperfections.
20. When you feel conflict today, tell yourself, “I am not going to let this person or situation control how I feel.”
21. Today, feel more and think less. Allow yourself to be vulnerable to what you feel without your thoughts turning into a story.