Stress Management: An Owners Manual for Your Brain

Here's an amazing quote from Time magazine:

"At birth a baby's brain contains 100 billion neurons, roughly as many nerve cells as there are stars in the Milky Way."

My first thought was after reading this was "Wow, we get all that power and hardware with no owner's manual or instruction booklet!"

Having just recently purchased a new computer, I've been pouring through owner's manuals and instruction booklets, trying to understand a tenth of what this machine can do. Just imagine what we could do if we understood a tenth of what our brains could do.

Now, I certainly won't presume to be able to offer an owner's manual, but I can offer a few suggestions for what and what not to put into our brains.

The power of the thoughts we think and the words we use is grossly underestimated. You've probably heard someone say, usually while losing an argument or debate, "Well, that's just semantics."

One of the things I've learned when it comes to managing our brains is that it is all semantics. This is because our brain is simply a computer that takes in what we give it, whether it is useful for us or not.

For example, there are several words that I call garbage words. A garbage word is a word that if you allow your brain to use it on a regular basis, you will get garbage thinking. Garbage thinking leads to garbage feelings and garbage actions, all of which can keep us from living the kind of life that we want to have.

Let's look at a few of the more common garbage words or phrases, and what kind of words to use instead.

I Have To - There are very few things in life we have to do. There are very many things in life we choose to do. Constantly saying "I have to" diminishes our power of choice. Replacing "I have to" with "I choose to" or "I get to" allows us to choose and bypasses the brains natural resistance to force.

Try- This is one of the most powerful garbage words in common usage. For example, try and pick up the newspaper from which you are reading this column. You either picked it up or you didn't. Those are the only two outcomes. In the words of Star War's Yoga - "Do or do not. There is no try."

Hard - This garbage word convinces our brain not to do something. It's an excuse for fear and/or laziness. Rocks are hard, and so are some people's heads. Saying something is hard does not make it any easier to accomplish. Some things are difficult, however. Difficult things are very doable, they just require constant attention.

I Can't - This one usually means I won't or I choose not to. A good counter is "if I could, what would I do?" Lose Weight - I love this one. Consider how many times you or someone you know has said they want to lose weight. Now consider what the brain hears. What have we conditioned our brains to do when we lose something? That's right - to find it and get it back. Instead of losing weight, we want to get rid of weight.

Yes, but.... - Another commonly used garbage phrase. Sometimes cleverly disguised as simply "but," with something good in front of it. As in "I'd really like to, but........" Our brain automatically disregards everything that came before the "but." Another way of saying this is when you hear the word but, disregard everything that came before it, because here comes the truth.

Instead of saying but, use the word "and." As in "you did a good job with this, and you could also do that."

"Now wait just a minute!," you might be saying. "Isn't this just a form a positive thinking?" Not really. While positive thinking can be good, it's not enough all by itself. If you are walking in the rain during a thunderstorm, saying "It's not raining, it's not raining," you are still going to get wet. This is about using words to properly operate your brain.

Here's a suggestion. Try doing, oops, I mean do, each one of these for a week. At the end of each week, you will have eliminated one garbage word from your brain, which is 100% improvement. Not bad for a little bit of time and effort, wouldn't you say?

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