One of the most amazing set of studies, in my opinion, are the studies of our brains. We have been given the most incredible tool in our brain. And yet how much information do we get on how our brains work? Not much!
That’s what put me on a mission to discover how we can use the power of our brains to improve our lives, lift our mood, and enjoy each day more. I’m now delighted to tell you these three simple steps that anyone can use to start to harness the incredible power of our brains, and make each day a lot more fun.
Step One: Remember Our brains don’t hear the word “not”.
I don’t know why, but it is so true. Here are some examples to demonstrate:
Please say, “I’m not thinking about elephants.” Notice where your attention is now. Yes! Elephants. “Don’t think about your left knee.” “Let’s not talk about snakes.” Isn’t that interesting? The brain focuses on the main ideas. For me, I get vivid pictures of them in my head. For all of us, it’s as if the “not” never happened.
That can get us in serious trouble, too. If I say, “I don’t want to use my credit cards.”, guess what my brain hears? “…use my credit cards”. Uh, oh! So, I’ve learned we have to avoid the word “not”. And that leads me to the Second Step.
Step Two: Focus on what you want, Not on what you don’t want.
We now know that our brains don’t hear the word “not”.
Here’s a simple example of focusing on what you don’t want to make this clear:
Remember when you were a child, newly riding a bicycle? And you saw a hole in the pavement? Most of us would say, “I’m not going to hit the hole. I’m not going to hit the hole. Don’t hit the hole.” And of course, our brains hear “hit the hole”, and sure enough, in a few seconds comes the jarring hole-hitting!
Instead, wouldn’t it be great to know that we need to focus on what we want? “Stay on the pavement.” “I’m driving safely on the pavement.” It shifts your attention Away from the hole, and to what you really want to be doing – instead of jarring your bones by hitting that hole.
How does this apply to adults? Well, rather than say, “I’m not going to yell at my children/spouse, etc. today.”, which is what I don’t want, I need to decide what I do want. “I’m going to speak softly and lovingly to my children/spouse, etc. today.” That’s a whole lot easier to put into practice, isn’t it? Or, “I pay cash for all my purchases.”, which of course can include using my debit card, or putting a purchase on my credit card, and immediately paying off the balance. Or “I’m enjoying eating healthy food.” Or “I work in a job that inspires and motivates me.” and “I get along well with all my co-workers.” It sets your attention to the positive, and whatever we focus our attention on seems to increase in our lives.
This is incredible, isn’t it? And Step Two causes us to ….well, use Step Three!
Step Three: “Reframe” what’s happening.
You know there are many things in life over which we have no or limited control. Not all of them are fun. For example, let’s use doing the dishes. Not my favorite thing to do. At that point, as I’m in the kitchen washing the dishes, I have two choices.
Choice One: Moan and Groan. “I hate doing dishes. Doing dishes is awful. This stinks. It’s not my turn.” What’s the problem with that? Well, researchers have discovered that as we think a thought, our brain sends the corresponding chemicals throughout our body.
For example, as I’m sure you know, the “number one fear” of many people is “Public Speaking”….we have to give a speech and our body exhibits for us all the classic symptoms of “Fight or Flight” – sweaty palms, racing heart, shaking, red face, cold hands, etc. How did that happen? We just “perceived a threat”, and we immediately dumped the chemicals in our body that create the “Fight or Flight” symptoms.
You’re driving, and you round a curve only to discover the Highway Patrol officer with a radar gun to check your speed. Happily, you were driving very safely, doing the speed limit, so you’re fine, but again, notice how your body is in “Fight or Flight”?….and all you had to do is “perceive a threat”.
That’s the way it works. If we think negative thoughts, our body gets cascaded with negative chemicals. Once we know that, we can choose another way, reframing.
Choice Two: “Reframe”. So there we stand, washing the dishes. What could we think that will flood our body with positive chemicals? (Yes, sometimes it’s a challenge to think of them – and it does get easier with practice.) “What lovely dishes I have. I really enjoy using them.” “How lucky I am to have a dishwasher!” “What a blessing to be able to afford the great food we ate on these dishes.” “I love it when the kitchen is spotless. It’s going to look so good!”
You get the idea. Whatever it is that motivates you to put a positive spin on the task is to your benefit! You are flooding your body with chemicals that lift your mood and enhance your health. And once we know that, we can do it in each and every situation.
So as you go through your day today, listen closely to what you say. Watch out for the “not”, focus on what you want, and reframe. And then notice how much more you enjoy your day! Have fun!