Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Brain and The Looking Glass

We typically look into a mirror to get a good shot of ourselves as we, well, style our hair, apply makeup, check for anything odd that may be sticking between our teeth. After all, isn’t that what mirrors are for? To take a quick glance to ensure we’re put together? But when was the last time you looked in the mirror and smiled at who you saw? That you approved yourself? That you were comfortable while wrapped inside your skin? Our brains are the collection center of data of all the things we’ve heard about ourselves either by others or from our own thoughts. When we’re judged by our looks, our accomplishments, our status in society, our brain records the information and instantly searches for that file whenever we need it. So if the person we see in the mirror doesn’t make us proud, the brain will find the appropriate file and begin to recite from it, saying “Disappointment. Failure. Loser.” The wonderful news about our brains is that the contents of the files can be changed. Want to change your files? Let’s discover how to do this by taking lessons from a few quotes of a childhood fave, Winnie the Pooh.

Zig Ziglar: Put all excuses aside and remember this: YOU are capable.
What matters most: You can’t help respecting anybody who can spell ‘Tuesday’, even if he can’t spell it right. But spelling isn’t everything. There are days when spelling ‘Tuesday’ simply doesn’t count.” We can dump unnecessary pressure upon ourselves because we think it’ll motivate us. But does that path really matter? Is it the right way? Focus on the things your heart finds endearing—they’re called “matters of the heart” and they shall not deceive you.
Self-understanding, self-acceptance: You never can tell about bees.” When we work to understand someone/something, then acceptance automatically follows. To see the real YOU in the mirror can become an adventure to understand your true potential. To accept that you are far more capable then you perceive. Be still with yourself. Listen to your heart. Does it yearn to stop working through lunch hours? To step outside and hear anything but the ringing phone, fingertips clicking along the keyboard, eyeballs drying out from the monitor.

Improvement:If you want to make a song more hummy, add a few tiddely poms.” Take a risk. Embark upon a path that you would normally shy away from. Take that risk. Follow your heart. Create a “new” normal for yourself. Only then, can the right people enter your life—those who have the capability to promote you, to mentor you, to hold the pieces of your dream together until they form into promise.
Les Brown: Someone's opinion of you does not have to become your reality.
Kindness:Just because an animal is large, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t want kindness—however big Tigger seems to be, remember that he wants as much kindness as Roo.” Want to enlarge your capacity to be kind to others? First, be kind to yourself. Cut the same amount of slack you give to others. Don’t rob yourself of the gift of kindness. When we can grow within the warmth of self-kindness then we are ready to give some of ourselves to those who are likely to respond positively and grow our self-esteem.

Friday, January 11, 2013

First Aid Kit for the Brain

A bee sting, a cut, a sliver in a child’s finger from a toy box that wasn’t sanded enough (oops!). For these mishaps and more, a well-stocked First Aid Kit can be helpful in case of an emergency. First Aid Kits are designed for specific activities, like hiking, camping or boating. But you can create one for a specific need and yes, you guessed it—a First Aid Kit for the Brain. Let’s put together a kit to match the needs of our brain—one that has everything necessary to keep a positive focus on our goals and aspirations.

1) First Aid Instruction Booklet: A First Aid Manual for the Brain can guide us to see the best in ourselves. How we “label” ourselves is critical to the overall welfare of our brain. Names can build or destroy the foundation of our mindset. For example, we stump our toe and shout, “Klutz.” We can’t seem to stay in a relationship and we angrily say, “Unlovable.” These labels train us to give up and when we do, we whisper, “Loser.” And sadly, we’ll eventually learn to live up to these names. Think on things that are true; things worthy of respect; meditate on whatever brings you awe—use these labels to encourage, to strengthen, to anchor you.
Montaigne: The pleasantest things in the world are pleasant thoughts; and the great art of life is to have as many of them as possible.
2) Antiseptic Wipes: Clean out stinkin’ thinkin’ that lend to a bad attitude. Negativity pollutes our brain. You may say, “Negative thoughts come easier than positive ones.” That’s true, but we can’t afford the luxury of a negative thought. When a demeaning thought creeps up, STOP! Trash the stuff that contaminates your mind and make positive thinking a habit. After all, you’re special enough to deserve exceptional thoughts of who you are. So, have a searching conversation with your soul—the birthplace of positive thoughts.
John Lubbock: What we see depends mainly on what we look for.
3) Tweezers: A useful tool to pull out debris embedded in our skin. Remove the thorn of strife or whatever irritates your sense of well-being. Inner Growth happens when we get rid of the stuff that tends to bog us down. Inner Growth is a process. It can’t be hurried. Self-awareness emerges at the moment of reflection, when we recognize what we have come out of, and where we can aspire to.
Kahlil Gibran: Progress lies not in enhancing what is, but in advancing toward what will be.

4) Bandages: The Red Cross recommends 25 bandages for a family of four. Why so many? Perhaps to make frequent changes to keep the wound “fresh” for healing. The need to change a bandage often applies to the need to challenge our brain that suffer from boredom: doing the same thing, hearing the same music, driving the same roads. Stimulate your brain! Meet new people. Read books in a different genre. Eat something new.

Voltaire: If we do not find anything very pleasant, at least we shall find something new.

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Brain and GPS

The Global Positioning System is a satellite-based navigation system consisting of 24 satellites; orbiting the earth about 12,000 miles above us; making two complete orbits in less than 24 hrs; traveling at speeds (approx) 7,000 mi/hr. In a word, the Big-Eye-in-the-Sky spots where you are at any given time. Need directions? No problem. Just input your destination into a GPS receiver and a friendly voice will instruct you along the route, providing estimated travel time, mileage, and ample notice to a change in direction. Interestingly, our brain is like a GPS; sending messages that orbits within our gut-feel, our sense of intuition. This, too, helps us navigate our lives. But how we program our brains is paramount to the journey we take to our desired destination. Let’s consider three important components of our personal GPS:

Ursula K. Le Guin: It is good to have an end to journey towards; but it is the journey that matters in the end.
1) Get Your Bearings: Does it seem as though your world is fraying at the seams that were once tightly woven? The nagging threat of layoff? The discouraging job market? The manic work place? The dwindling stock market? The pain of loss? Whatever challenges seem to haunt you today, know your internal bearings are still at work in your favor. Our brains are in constant search to return to a state of well-being, to create a new normal, to make sense from the senseless. The journey you’ve taken during previous life experiences have prepared you for this moment. It has formed your character, strengthened your weakness, and groomed your self-esteem. Now stand on your new bearings and focus. The endurance you exhibit today shall make way for a better tomorrow.
Ann Landers: Know yourself. Don't accept your dog's admiration as conclusive evidence that you are wonderful.
2) Recalculate: When we make a wrong turn, the Iron Lady on the GPS device helpfully tells us we need to “recalculate,” to rethink where we’re going. She doesn’t scold by saying, “You screwed up...again!” Negative words are poison to our self-esteem. So you’ve made a wrong turn, forgive yourself for the mistake and get back on track. Think positive. Say the good things your brain needs to hear. After all it’s working in your best interest—keeping you balanced, living in healthy reality. A mistake today can be a promise of success tomorrow.
Bob Richards: You are what you think. You are what you go for. You are what you do.
3) Find Your True North: Are you where you were meant to be? Have you taken a detour from your destiny? We tend to get distracted because we think the grass is greener on the other side of the septic tank. The hands that engineered your life path have also positioned your True North. Your North Point has been determined according to your destiny, with plans to prosper you, not to harm you; but plans to give you a hope and a future. Like the GPS, True North knows when your pace lags; when you’ve traveled off-course. The steps you take today may seem unsure, foreign; but True North never leads astray. All you need is to trust and take the next step.
Thomas Kinkade: It’s a simple liberating reality the best things in life are mine for the choosing.

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Brain and the Act of Imagine

There are three types of dreams: 1) Day Dream: a drift in our minds to a more pleasant imaginary place from where we are at the present moment—a short reprieve from reality. 2) Sleep Dream: Our minds create a story from the events/thoughts in our day and 3) Destiny Dream: The desire, the longing to realize our purpose. The Art of Imagine ignites our Destiny Dream. It is the finesse of the Art that nourishes the seed—your dream—to grow within us. Do you have a dream simmering inside of you? A dream is not just a dream. It takes hard work. Today, let’s hunt for our destiny dream. To set it on fire. To imagine and embark onto the path you are meant to chase after. Here are a few tips to discover the Art of Imagine:

Carl Sandburg Nothing happens unless first a dream

1) Create a Plan: It takes a plan to keep a dream alive. Several times a day, imagine yourself living your dream. Speak your dream aloud. There is power behind your words, your proclamation. If your mind hears the repetitive affirmation of your dream, then it’ll take form and become a reality. Remember “Vision comes before execution.” We must “see” it in our mind’s eye first, then our brain can manufacture it into a reality. Once we engage in the Art of Imagine, a path will roll out before us. Once we take the first step, then all the others shall follow.

Cynthia Ozick: To imagine the unimaginable is the highest use of the imagination.

2) Discouragement: At any time while traveling to our destiny dream, we can encounter the heaviness of discouragement. But on the other side of discouragement is the next level of our dream. Allow faith to lift your head high and work through the weight that tries to hold you down. Fight back! Tell discouragement there are brighter days ahead. Remember your passion, that strong grip of enthusiasm you had at the beginning of your dream. You haven’t lost your drive. It still exists within you. Resurrect it; give it permission to carry you over the rough spots. Let the clouds part, the sky open up; showering you with hope. Confidence. Expectation.
Unknown Author: Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.
3) Mobility: Put feet to your dream. Keep motivated, because motivation doesn’t see roadblocks. It only sees possibilities. Keep climbing. Keep seeing. Keep trying. Be poised, ready to take a risk. Risk ushers us to discover new levels of accomplishment by stepping outside of our comfort zone. It is then that the right people will join our journey. They are our helpers. They will keep pushing us forward. And finally be patient. It doesn’t matter how fast we get to our dream. It matters that we keep moving and following the path of our destiny dream.
Carol L. Brooks: A dream isn’t a goal to be achieved. Rather it’s a journey with lots of surprises. And with the right attitude, they nurture your growth and tweak your climb to success.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Gut Brain and Brain Bug

You’re in a situation. It’s intense. But you feel peaceful. Something inside says, “Go for it!” That’s your Gut Brain at work. It comes by many labels: perception, insight, wisdom, instincts, gut-feel, intuition, the 6th sense. It’s that small inner voice, steering you in the right direction. However, there’s a flip side. It’s called Brain Bug—a mental glitch. It’s our intellectual equipment. Ever hear this advice? “Use your head.” While this method warrants some credit, it has its limitations. Using your head only seeks an immediate solution versus gratification over long-term benefit, and creates blind spots in your inner-GPS navigation. To sharpen your inner-GPS—your personal True North—focus on the Gut Brain. Here are a few tips to help grow that 6th sense:

1) Right Brain/Left Brain: The easiest way to understand Gut Brain and Brain Bug is through the physiology of the brain. The right brain, the creative essence of who we are, subconsciously knows that it knows. This is the Gut Brain. Conversely, the left brain, the black-and-white thought processes of logical thinking, is the Brain Bug. This side is the critical thinker and sometimes in its “shoot-from-the hip” behavior can miss the gentle leading of the Right Brain. The Left Brain is more dominate and has a louder voice. It’s important to slow down. Be still. Give your Right Brain the space it needs to express itself.

2) Use It or Lose It! Our brain is like a muscle. The more we exercise it, the stronger it gets, and the more useful it becomes. A good workout regime is prayer and meditation. Your Gut Brain needs quiet time. Then whenever you’re faced with anxiety, you’re in a better position to hear the whisper of your Gut Brain.

3) Trust Your Gut Brain: Don’t second guess the first feeling you feel about something. Because that very first feeling is usually the right one. There is a natural flow of things in life. But when you’ve gone against your gut, how many times have you found yourself at odds with the natural flow of things? We all get caught up in the business of doing and sometimes lose our place in the flow.

4) The Art of Listening: With the high-tech, frantic pace of life, most people spend their lives running. Never stopping to listen. There’s no time for the mind to be quiet to listen to anything. And then when a problem comes: trauma. Because most people aren’t in touch with themselves. Incorporate quiet time in your day. Listen to that voice. If you don’t, you won’t hear it. But it’s there. It’s meant to guide you.

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Brain and a Good Laugh

When was the last time you laughed? I mean really let hardy laughter rip from the depth of your being? Experts say laughter is good medicine. It’s a powerful antidote to stress, pain, and conflict. Nothing works faster to bring your mind and body back into balance. Humor lightens your burden, inspires hope, connects you to others, and keeps you grounded, focused, alert. With the power to heal and renew, laughter is a tremendous resource and supports both physical and emotional health. Let’s discover the precious gift of laughter:

1)     Ways to help yourself see the lighter side of life:
§         Laugh at yourself: Share your embarrassing moments. Come on! You’re only human!
§         Attempt to laugh at situations rather than bemoan them. Look for the humor, the irony and the absurdity of life.  
§         Surround yourself with reminders to lighten up: Keep a toy on your desk or in your car. Put up a funny poster in your office. Choose a screensaver that makes you laugh. Frame photos of you and your family or friends having fun.  
§         Keep things in perspective: Many things in life are beyond our control—particularly the behavior of other people. While you might think taking the weight of the world on your shoulders is admirable, in the long run it’s unrealistic, unproductive, unhealthy, and even egotistical.
§         Deal with your stress: Stress is a major impediment to humor and laughter.
§         Pay attention to children and emulate them: They are experts on taking life lightly and at play.

“Dogs laugh, but they laugh with their tails.” --- Max Eastman

Bring more humor and laughter into your life:
§         Smile: Smiling is the beginning of laughter. The act displays positive body language and sends messages to your brain that happiness is within your reach. Conversely a grimace displays negative body language and sends unhappy signals to your brain. So! Have you smiled today?
§         Count your blessings. By considering the good things in your life, you’ll create a distance from negative thoughts. When in a state of sadness, we have farther to travel to get to humor and laughter...and how sad is that?
§         When you hear laughter, move toward it, and ask, “What’s funny?”
§         Spend time with fun, playful people. Search for those who laugh easily–both at themselves and at life’s absurdities. This playful point of view is contagious.

Remember humor shifts perspective and allows you to see situations in a more realistic, less threatening light. So take a break and laugh!
“Carry laughter with you wherever you go.” --- Hugh Sidey

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Brain and Burnout

Going like 90—working long hours, burning the candle at both ends, setting the world on fire—all comes with a price. Unfortunately, burnout sneaks up on us and we don’t realize we’re toast until smoke gets in our eyes. Burnout is a condition caused by unbalance: charging forward in the fast lane, a workaholic, a perfectionist, stretching ourselves too far, losing our sense of “center.” What does burnout look like: exhaustion, illness, toxic emotions, anxieties, depression, utterly overwhelmed, when everything under the sun becomes too much effort. It’s burnout when you can’t believe under any circumstances, that you’ll want to have fun again, or you find yourself cranky all the time, going into a rage at the slightest provocation. It’s burnout when you feel trapped and hopeless, or when you don’t have a clue as to what’s wrong or how to fix it; because everything is wrong. How do we stop our world long enough to take a breath, to find a detour?

Pace Yourself: Speeding trains slow down at intersections. Even God rested when He created the world. We, all the more, need to rest, to pace ourselves. Our bodies weren’t designed to go full speed all of the time. Consider taking mini-breaks throughout the day, i.e. a short walk, sit outside, or if you can’t get away, then close your eyes, escort yourself to a hushed place in your mind.

Edna St. Vincent Millay: My candle burns at both ends; it will not last the night.

Listen to Your Body: Your body will send clear signals when it’s tired, used up, burned out. It’s tough to recognize these signs when we’re living in the fast lane. But think for a moment: How does your body try to attract your attention? Through insomnia? headaches? stomachaches? loss of appetite? If we refuse to listen to these warnings, a bout of the flu—that you can’t seem to shake—could plague you. Or chronic fatigue may haunt you. Do yourself a favor. Turn up the volume. Listen to your body.

Stay Alert: Know when your passion turns to poison. The unanticipated outcome of working/performing at high levels is that you set a standard for your accomplishment, for your day-to-day productivity. High performance becomes an expectation. It becomes the norm, the standard. Burnout isn’t about raising the bar. Stay alert to the entrapment of burnout, and shift gears to a lifestyle of balance.
Ralph Waldo Emerson: This time like all times is a very good one if we but know what to do with it.
Your Favorite Things: Whatever brings you joy shall also give you hope, exhilaration. Make a list of your favorite things. Take a moment to ponder them, to enjoy, to dream. When was the last time you thought about your favorite things? A long time, huh? Today, do something good for yourself—do one of those things. Return to what can energize you.
Thomas Kincade: When I filter the sunshine in my life, I bask in the light of a transforming and inspiring reality.