Friday, August 9, 2013
Happy Science is Serious
Mark Waldman is Associate Fellow at the
University of Pennsylvania,
where he conducts neurological research with Andrew Newberg, MD, at Myrna Brind
Center of Integrative Medicine, and also develops new communication tools for
the Executive MBA program at Loyola Marymount University,
I recently listened to him present his findings on the nature of the brain and how it is almost instantaneously permanently affected by how we think. His work clearly demonstrates how the brain’s frontal lobes dream up realities which we perceive as true reality. Literally we make up our own reality and we have no choice. The pictures we “see” bear very little relation to what the eyes are seeing in the world!
Now, the next thing he spoke of is the brain’s “fear centre” in the amygdala. The brain appears to have two core functions: the first is the reward centre or “desire to acquire” circuitry. Provided that as we perceive something as non-threatening, it generates curiosity and releases dopamine and we get motivated.
The second core function is the “fear centre” in the tiny part of the brain called the amygdale. If something is perceived as potentially threatening, like a loud sound or bad smell, then amygdala releases different neuro-chemicals and shuts down the motivational centre. It overrides and effectively “shouts down” desire, curiosity and motivation. As a consequence of this, you cannot be in a state of “growth” or improvement whilst there is fear around in the brain.
So, the whilst the left frontal lobe moves us towards desire, the right frontal lobe builds scary scenarios and pulls up old struggles, making you anxious about them repeating and things going wrong. Then we get in a kind of struggle, which if it goes on long enough the build-up of anxiety can lead to depression.
He also talked of medical research which shows that drugs cannot defeat placebo – in other words, your beliefs will override any antidepressants. The ideas you hold about yourself and the world are more powerful than the drugs themselves! Furthermore, medical science has noted that this effect is getting stronger and stronger.
In other words, the way you choose to think about your life – your belief system – is stronger than antidepressant drugs. Negative thoughts release around twenty-five stress-related chemicals and enough to begin to damage the learning circuits in the brain. Your inner anxieties actually damage the brain, in less than minutes, and knock off around two years of your life expectancy.
Concerned? You daren’t be! Take action instead.
What can you do? Well it’s brain work. Meditating has been shown to be very effective. You could use techniques to cancel negative beliefs and doubts about the practical possibility of having true happiness in your life; I teach hypnosis and NLP, but there other techniques too. Mark offered this simple example list of proven techniques for modifying thoughts (which will go away if you catch them and question them hard enough):
· Write down every negative thought that you have. You will amaze yourself to discover that hundreds more then you think you have! Then take the first one – get mad at it (tell it to “shut the heck up”); words are just words – they are not reality
· Challenge the negative thought; is it really true - right now? Eg. “I’m always late“: Ask “Is it true that you are late right now?” No. “This thought that I’m always late is not true”
· Become aware of both negative and positive thoughts at the same time, and then make a choice as to which to go with.
· Look at percentage of the time that these negative thoughts actually are true.
· Cancel them by generate at least five positive thoughts for every single negative one. Write them down; writing down a positive thought is far more powerful than thinking it.