Self-talk

5 Easy Ways to Ensure Your Brain Isn’t Pulling One Over On You

Brain and Narrative Short cuts

You’re sitting there in your yoga pants sipping your favorite hot beverage and reading a Reddit article on your phone. Seems pretty mellow right? For the most part it is. But on a sensory level, your brain isn’t resting. There are still tons of pieces of information your brain is processing and staying on top of. Now picture all the information that your brain takes in as you ride down the busy escalator to the packed subway on your way to work. No doubt your brain is working double-time!

Fortunately, your brain is expertly equipped for both situations, and all situations in between. 

So let’s pause a moment and give your brain the props it deserves. Nice work brain, keep it up!

Thank goodness too, that your brain isn’t the complaining type. From a cognitive perspective, information is costly to take in, store, manipulate and retrieve. The more information it is presented with, like the subway station during rush hour, the more taxing. Don’t be fooled just because your brain makes it look easy. It’s not.

The way your brain is able to function efficiently during even the most stimulation-dense situations is through various short-cut systems it has at its’ disposal. One of the most common is the use of narrative. 

Narrative, or the way you explain things to yourself, fill in the blanks when you don’t have facts, and the stories you tell yourself, creates patterns. Patterns are easier for your brain to recognize and manage than tons of disparate bits of information or things that don’t make sense. 

There are many types of patterns your brain relies on. 

Causality, that is logically progressing from cause to effect, makes for an efficient narrative and is a common ‘go-to’ pattern for our brains. A story that progresses logically in this manner is easier to neatly package than one that takes wild twists and turns and may not wrap up nicely. It’s no surprise that an overworked brain likes causality. And no surprise then, that we quickly come up with answers for everything, explain anything that comes across our paths and try to avoid uncertainty at all cost!

We feel better when we know the why of things and when things ‘make sense’ to us. We even feel better when we totally make things up that fit that bill. We end up telling ourselves a lot of stories that increase our impression of understanding, without needing them to be based on reality. 

Your brain’s ‘Causality Narrative’ pattern building is essential for continuing to function at the high level you do. But in order to make sure this short-cut is helpful and doesn’t lead you astray, it’s important to do these 5 things:

  • Become aware of the cause-and-effect stories you tell yourself
  • Become aware of the ways you fill-in-the-blanks when you don’t know the facts
  • Become aware of the ways your wishful thinking or pessimistic thinking influences that way you explain things
  • Become aware of how your stories fail to respect the facts that you actually know
  • Increase your comfort level with uncertainty so you don’t automatically explain things you don’t know.

The more you understand how your brain works and practice fine tuning it, the higher performing your brain will become without negatively effecting its’ efficiency.

Like It Or Not, You are the Average of the 5 Thoughts You Spend the Most Time With

You are the average.jpg

There’s a famous saying, “You are the average of the five thoughts you spend the most time with.”

Wait, something doesn’t sound right about that. And yet, something sounds totally right about that.

The famous saying by the late Jim Rohn was actually, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” What he meant by that is that when it comes to relationships, we are greatly influenced — whether we like it or not — by those closest to us. The people we spend the most time with affect our way of thinking, our self-esteem, and our decisions. Sure, we like to think we are our own independent snowflake, but research has shown that we’re more affected by our environment than we think.

I think the same can be said for your emotions and thoughts. I think if you were to reflect on your main thoughts you would see that they shape you more than you think.

Check it out and see for yourself. What are the thoughts you have most often?

Are you having a hard time remembering specifics? It’s really not much of a surprise if you are because scientists estimate we have anywhere from 12,000–60,000 thoughts per day!

If it’s hard to figure out one of those 60,000 thoughts per day off the top of your head, you can work backward from what feelings you recall having most often. We’re often more aware of how we feel then the actual thoughts that are causing the feelings. So think of the five feelings you usually have most throughout a typical day. Gratitude? Resentment? Pressure? Joy? Uncertainty? Irritation? Anger? Impatience? Creative? Stress?

Good. Once you identify the feelings you have most often you can backtrack to what types of thoughts might be causing them. You don’t even have to necessarily identify your exact thoughts, a ballpark grouping fits the bill here.

Use the feelings you just identified to recognize the thought “ballparks” you find yourself in most often? Negative thoughts, positive thoughts, worrisome, hopeful, realistic, unrealistic, anxious, assured thoughts?

It’s estimated that a ridiculously high percentage of the thoughts we have each day are repeats.

That’s right, most of our thoughts are recycled over and over each day.

If you are spending most of your day repeating negative thoughts, then it really doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that you’re going to trend toward the negative. If you spend most of your day repeating worrisome thoughts about this, that and the other thing then well, you can see how that will end up playing out. Likewise if you spend most of your day repeating thoughts along the lines of hopeful or positive thoughts, you’re going to trend in the opposite direction.

If you want to make changes in your life, start by tackling the thoughts you spend the most time with. If you find your thoughts aren’t ones that will help you, you need to start thinking different thoughts. It actually is that simple.

Simple but not easy! I know, that’s an annoying saying…but it is true in this case. When you find yourself thinking or feeling a way you don’t like insert a different thought. Literally any other thought (assuming it is not similar to the one you want to get rid of) will do.

Often the hard part is being aware of your thoughts in the moment, which happens to be the ideal time to insert new ones. But the good news is that choosing new thoughts/feelings whenever you remember to think of them will start to produce positive results over time!

Give it a try, I’d love to hear how it goes for you.