Endless numbers of books exist telling us how to care for our bodies and emotions, often with a focus on healing and a challenge to make ourselves more resilient and stress hardy. Spirituality is also a hot topic with popular authors such as Marianne Williamson, Deepak Chopra and Shakti Gwain. Daniel Amen, author of Change Your Brain, Change Your Life: The Breakthrough Program for Conquering Anxiety, Depression, Obsessiveness, Lack of Focus, Anger, and Memory Problems, presents another point of view. He has amassed neuroscientific research in an effort to convince us that in order to positively change our lives, we need to care about our brains and mental capacity, especially getting the negative stuff out!
Amen explains that thoughts really do matter. “When you have a thought your brain releases chemicals, an electrical transmission goes across your brain. You become aware of what you’re thinking. Thoughts are real, and they have a real impact on how you feel and how you behave.”
He warns about problematic thoughts–thinking in terms of always, never, should, must and have to, as well as blaming, guilt, personalizing, and mind-reading tendencies. Like the book Taming your Gremlins by Richard David Carson, Amen recommends catching your harmful thoughts, writing them down and talking back to them. In other words, stand up to your crap talk!
In agreement with Les Hewitt, contributing author in The Power of Focus, Amen is a proponent of teaching the brain to focus on goals. “Developing an ability to stay totally focused will help guide your thoughts and behavior and give an ‘auxiliary prefrontal cortex.’ It will help strengthen the conscious part of your brain.”
He recommends developing a list of short and long term goals as well as establishing goals for relationships, work or career, money, and balance of body, mind and spirit.
For those of us with a pragmatic bent, Amen offers a list of Brain Do’s and Don’ts. The following is a sampling so you might start to sharpen your razor edge thinking:
- Drink water to stay hydrated, the usual 8 glasses a day.
- Eat healthy foods.
- Think positive thoughts. Martin Seligman, of Learned Optimism would approve.
- Watch the movie Pollyanna.
- Learn to breathe deeply.
- Learn something new each day.
- Use an EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) therapist to deal with trauma. Just so you know, I am a certified EMDR therapist.
- Consider underlying brain problems in substance abusers.
- Sing and hum.
- Smile frequently at others.
- Ignore erratic behavior.
- Skip meals or miss eating nutritious foods.
- Skip work-outs/exercise time.
- Smoke or use drugs.
- Drink much caffeine or alcohol.
- Hit your head with your hand or with a soccer ball when frustrated.
- Argue with someone who is stuck.
- Listen to toxic music.
- Be around toxic people, places or smells.
- Refuse to listen to the people who love you.
Quotes by Daniel Amen
“Your brain is the organ of your personality, character, and intelligence and is heavily involved in making you who you are.”
“18–40–60 rule. It says that when you are eighteen, you worry about what everyone thinks of you; when you are forty, you don’t give a damn what anyone thinks about you; and when you’re sixty, you realize no one has been thinking about you at all.”
“It is brain dysfunction, in large part, that ruins our bodies and causes premature aging.”
“If you are not taking good care of your brain, you are at a significantly higher risk of brain fog, memory problems, low energy, distractibility, poor decisions, obesity, heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.”
“When a woman understands the uniqueness of the female brain—how to care for it, how to make the most of its strengths, how to overcome its challenges, how to fall in love with it, and ultimately, how to unleash its full power—there is no stopping her.”
“Remember that your brain is involved in everything you do, every decision you make, every bite of food you take, every cigarette you smoke, every worrisome thought you have, every workout you skip, every alcoholic beverage you drink, and more.”
Love your brain by reading Change Your Brain, Change Your Life and following Amen’s advice. Your mind will be more apt to help you get what you want out of life.
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Patricia Morgan MA CCC helps her readers, clients, and audiences lighten their load, brighten their outlook, and strengthen their resilience. To go from woe to WOW call 403.242.7796 or email a request.