The Human brain is a fantastic piece of machinery. So much of our evolution went into some of it’s most basic and automatic functions. Think about what it does for you everyday. It takes in all of the information brought together by your senses and combines it with what you have learned in your life and then you react and bring in more stimulus. It keeps this cycle going all day long until you go back to sleep. Then it goes through a whole other process to break down your thoughts and experiences in to memories.
It truly is fantastic how it works. Many studies have shown that your brain uses 20% of your total energy that you create everday even though it’s only 2% of your body weight. Most of the energy it uses is spent on its automatic functions. The stuff that you are probably not even aware of. One of those functions are to make your organs work, which is you know incredibly important to your survival. Another is to have you try and support the three basic drives of organic life.
Basic drive number one! You need to fuel this machine, and well how you fuel it matters. I say fuel because drinking water is also important in this step. If you put in low-quality processed foods with tons of refined sugars and artificial sweeteners you will find that it fills the tank, and maybe other areas of your body as well, but it won’t supply you with enough energy to get through the day. So now you’ll need to have more of the crap food to get to the end of the day. Your brain needs the good stuff. Foods that are high in antioxidants, omega-3s, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats will really keep your brain going!
Drive number two. The ability to know when to fight a threat, or flee from it. This is done in our brain by the amygdala. As you know this is something that usually is done automatically. I say usually because it takes a lot of training to override this function. While we do not have to fight in life or death situations much anymore, the amygdala likes to stay relevant in our lives today by giving us a lovely thing known as anxiety. Which can be debilitating in some cases. You can’t really fight or run from a fear that you’re creating and exists only in your thoughts.
Drive number three. Reproduction! If you want a species to do well and live on you need to make more of that species. Today in our world the natural selection has more or less gone away. Any person can mate with any person and make more people that are just like them. The big part that hasn’t gone away is the fact that we all still feel the competitive part of reproduction, even if we don’t think that we do. We all want to appear smarter, stronger, wealthier, have the best stuff. All in the hopes of attracting the best possible special someone. It’s human nature. This is the biggest driver of the feeling of unimportance. If you are not the sexiest, strongest, smartest, funniest, best-bestest bester of them all it weighs on you. It creates jealousy and loneliness. To a species that is built around making sure your tribe or family group survives this tends to feel like a warning that your dying.
Now here is where things get interesting. I will add in that I am not a psychologist or a neurologist, but I do read about them and find the study of both to be incredibly interesting and useful in the career of coaching. That being said I have a loose understanding of how all of this works, but from the courses, podcasts, books and mentors that I have learned from they all touch on the following.
The next part of our brain’s energy budget is divided into making habits or the actions that we chose to give value to, and beliefs or what we assume to be true, and believe based on our limited perception of the world around us. These both interact with the three drives that we just finished going over and provide us with the background to filter the world through.
Habits, for example are a method to conserve energy. Your brain creates these neuro pathways to build your habits. What you do everyday becomes habit. This is where “you” come in. The more energy you give to an activity the more your brain uses that pathway. As your pathways get more use the habit become solidified. You are a collection of your most frequently completed habits and this can either be really good for you or really bad for you depending on the quality of your habits. Consider what you would do if you had no interruption and nothing to do besides what you wanted to accomplish. What does that look like? Does it look the same as your normal day? If not we will talk about that later, but as I said, habits are the actions we chose to give value to.
As for our beliefs, these are our assumptions and the projections of our emotions onto any event that takes place. So it’s the “other you” trying to make a habit out of explaining why things happen. We like this part of our brain because long ago it told us that the bushes moving in front of us could be food or something that wants to make us into food. Now it has become “my friends can’t come to see me today, I guess it’s because they don’t like me”. We have a severe negativity bias built in to keep us alive. Only now it just compounds with other assumptions into more anxiety or depression.
To define the terms “you” and “other you” I mean that both of these are the thought patterns that you have built. The actual you is the one that observes them and says either “This is fine” or “This isn’t what I wanted to do today” or really however you respond to what you do. If you are just coasting by and letting things happen it might not even say anythjng. It might just watch your life unfold.
I am not here to judge anyone based on their habits, beliefs, or their response to external stimuli. I am a life coach and what we do is try to help people use their actual self as frequently as possible. When you let your actual self drive your actions and reactions this is where something I call your “Best Self” become a reality. I truly and honestly believe that if we all spent a little more time being mindful of how we allow our minds to control our automated processes we could all make more meaningful connections and create an amazing new way of life for all of us. Pretty nifty right? Over the next few posts I am going to show you little ways that we can rewrite our minds to have a clearer picture as to how we show up in the world, how to get the things that we want, and how we can be more impactful in our interactions with those we care about and interact with on a day-to-day basis.