Rewiring The Brain

//Rewiring The Brain

Rewiring The Brain

Do you watch TED Talks? Ideas worth spreading?

My daughter Randy turned me on to these videos, in which a great idea is presented in 18 minutes or less, a while ago when she got addicted to them. It’s a good addiction to have, a guilt-free one.

TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. The first conference began in 1984 as a one-off, with the annual series growing from its inception in 1990 to boasting over one billion views worldwide by November 2012. Once held in California, it moved in 2014 to B.C. – Vancouver and Whistler – but don’t bother booking your flight for next March just yet, unless you’re Warren Buffett, as I hear tickets are super-expensive. The TEDx program allows communities to organize local events, though, so you can Google it and perhaps find one in your area. You can also download the app for free and start watching today.

My financial advisor suggested one to me recently, about happiness. Perhaps it was because, in this volatile, downward-trending market, there wasn’t a lot of happiness to discuss with regard to my investments? Hmm.

Anyway, it’s by Shawn Achor, a Harvard psychologist. The happy secret to better work. Achor explains what people who love their lives are doing differently and when he got to the end of his talk, to the five things any person can do on a daily basis to ensure happiness, crank up creativity and in turn, productivity, well I leapt from my chair and gave myself a resounding pat on the back. “Way to go Rita,” I exclaimed. I work alone, under the watchful eyes of a blue-jeaned, frizzy-haired goddess in a 1970s Rosamond print, and she managed to maintain her pensive stare.

I was excited because, in my quest to keep suffering from taking over all of my cells back when mired in Grief’s Trenches, I employed every single one of his five suggestions.

Achor feels strongly that, because we tend to chase it, we go at happiness backwards. Geez. Whether you’re American, Canadian, or even Martian, that line from the U.S. Declaration of Independence has a powerful pull, doesn’t it? Thomas Jefferson wrote, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” The pursuit of happiness. A worthy pursuit, yes?

But Achor points out that once you get the good grades, you want better, once you get the good school, you want better, once the good job, better and so on and so forth. The brain keeps extending happiness, beyond your grasp.

Here is truly fascinating news that you can start capitalizing on immediately. A mere 10% of your long-term happiness has to do with your actual external reality. The other 90%? That’s the way your brain processes your reality. Change your reality, change your outlook.

Why? Maybe you enjoy your personal pity parties, or maybe you’re really attached to your attachment to drama, or say, bittersweet tendencies toward nostalgia. Hey, been there, done that, and sometimes life just throws sh*tty sh*t at you and you feel you have no choice but to be down, temporarily. When you’re ready to get back up again, just know that dopamine, the neurotransmitter that floods your system when you’re positive, has two important functions: 1) it makes you happier and 2) it turns on all of the learning centres in your brain, so that it can perform significantly (31%) better than when negative, neutral or stressed.

So, if you want to make your brain work more optimistically, more successfully, here’s the challenge. Five simple activities – the same five things I found in Grief’s Trenches – to commit to doing every day for 21 days:

  1. Record 3 new things you’re grateful for. I’ve talked about this before. When I discovered this trick I started doing it at night, just in my head, before falling asleep, and they weren’t necessarily new things, they were just things that made me grateful. It trains the brain to look for the positive.
  2. Journal about one positive experience. This allows you to relive a good memory instead of cluttering up the brain with negative experiences. I keep a daily journal, so was already in this habit, and I’ll admit, those grief journals are cluttered with circular negative thoughts, but at least I got them out of my brain and onto the page where they could do less damage.
  3. Exercise. “This teaches your brain that your behaviour matters,” says Achor. Manageable amounts of exercise are key here and one day per week could and should be stretching. I, personally, did not do this as a 21-day-challenge, but since I’m a Jazzercise instructor, and thankfully did not quit when my husband passed, I’ve been in the habit of working out 4-5 days/week for many years. It’s just part of my lifestyle. I think anyone can – and must – make exercise part of their lifestyle. You will feel good and the body/house you live in will function well as a result.
  4. Meditation. Gotta check an email while receiving a text while listening to the news while eating breakfast while that guy who’s exterminating bees shows up at the door? Achor calls this “cultural ADHD”. Meditation will allow your body and mind to focus. While I was grieving, I took a great course called Mindful Meditation. Now I subscribe to
  5. Random Acts of Kindness. This can be as simple as responding to a Facebook, email or Instagram message with praise, but there are kindnesses in your community that you might notice and respond to, like buying a burger for someone or dropping a toonie into a busker’s guitar case. Years ago, when I made the huge decision to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro for Make-A-Wish Foundation, I felt great relief as my energy shifted from grieving to fundraising.



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