It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it.Lou Holtz
Did you know that scientists estimate:
99.99% of species that were ever alive are now extinct?
There’s a lot that goes into survival. Luckily for us, the only one that matters has everything to do with our unconscious programming to keep us alive.
That means that our survival is determined by forces outside of our control, and we don’t have to be consciously worried about survival – our brains do that for us.
When’s the last time you thought about breathing? Or making sure that your heart continues to beat at every tick of the second hand on your watch?
Here’s a quick rundown of your brain:
It’s evolved to house three separate brains:
the reptilian brain, the mammalian brain, and the human brain.
- the reptilian brain: controls “automatic” processes such as breathing, heart rate, digestion, etc. This is what makes you pull your hand from the hot stove without you thinking about it – in fact, you think about the hot stove only after you’ve already pulled your hand from the surface.
- the mammalian brain: is responsible for your emotions, memories, and filtering of information through your senses.
- the human brain: also known as the neocortex, it’s responsible for logical reasoning, imagination, and creation. It’s also the reason why we have stress, anxiety, and depression (thanks, evolution).
But you can learn to hijack your brain so you’re not stressing about the future or constantly stuck in the past.
The human brain has evolved in such a way that there are short circuits built into each part of the three brains: that is, if the reptilian brain is activated, it short circuits the other parts of the brain. It means when your reptilian brain is turned on, your other two brains turn off. That’s why when you’re about to get hit by a car, you’re not worried about how to tell your spouse about losing your job.
When the mammalian brain is activated, your human brain switches off. When you’re engaging this part of the brain, you’re not thinking about what to have for dinner or how to submit your report for work. This is why we eat our worries away (overeating to compensate and soothe ourselves) and why sex can be a welcome distraction to our every day lives – they both activate the emotional/reward circuits of our brains.
If you find yourself stressing out more than usual or are having unhealthy bouts of anxiety, try these things next time:
- take a nice bath
- go for a hike
- belt out to your favorite tune
- do something that scares you (improv, anyone?)
- watch a scary movie
- hug someone for 20 seconds
- have (safe) sex
- trade leisurely jogs for sprints
- savor your next meal (really tase your food and aim to chew 30x)
- look through old pictures
- go stroke something furry
- feel your heart beat
- notice your pulse for 4 minutes
- call a friend you haven’t talked to in 6+months (call, not text)
- drive with your windows down
- play an instrument
- write a short fictional story for 7 year olds
- listen to waves crashing on shore (youtube works)
- take 40 deep breaths through your diaphragm
- play “what-if” for 10 minutes (imagine all sorts of miracles happening in your life – describe how your life feels different in each if-scenario)
Which is your favorite?
Leave a comment below if you have other suggestions for others!
Live with intention. Lead with inspiration.