Your Brain is Your Servant

Thank your brain for helping out.

Your brain is running your life based on beliefs it derived from its previous experiences.  And many of those beliefs were decided when you were an acne prone teen/twenty something doing your best to fit in to what you thought was the right fit for you.

Perhaps it was the right fit, perhaps it wasn’t.  And it really doesn’t matter.

The point is, your brain is capable of more than you can possibly imagine.  It’s like owning an iPhone and only using it as a phone – you know, like to talk with someone.  You can take/send pictures, play music, listen to podcasts, pay bills, transfer money, record videos, keep lists, set reminders and alarms – all kinds of cool stuff with your ‘phone.’  And for us over 50 types, who really only want a phone for a possible emergency, we are out of luck.  Phones are now obsolete.  For all intent and purposes it could be a triquarter (think Star Trek) or a palm sized computer that also happens to be a phone.  If you are at all like me, you are unaware of the multitude of tasks your iPhone can perform.

In general, we are unaware of most of what the brain is up to and unaware of its incredible potential.  It’s just up there churning out thoughts, 60,000 a day, most of which are repeats of yesterday and the day before and the day before the day before that.  Our brain is running on default habits it established.  You get up on the same side of the bed, stumble to the bathroom, then to the backdoor to let the dog out, you make coffee, let the dog back in, feed the dog, have a shower while the coffee percolates, dry off, get dressed, sip a coffee with cream.  WHEW already a long morning!  And all you did was get up, get dressed and make a cup of coffee.  You do all that without a second thought.  Thank you brain.  Your brain may even have been prepping you for the day – overslept again, better have a short shower, or busy day today, let’s wear our favourite shirt, or hey it’s Sunday why are we up so early?  All automatic, the subconscious brain ticking along, as always, same ole, same ole.

Our brain is similar to our lungs.  Just like our thoughts are automatic, breathing is automatic.  Can you imagine how disruptive it would be if you had to remind yourself all day long to take a breath every 6 seconds.  Okay take a breath, get up, walk to the bathroom, take a breath.  Take a breath.  Walk to the back door, take a breath, step step, take a breath, step step step. Take a breath.  Let dog out, take a breath.    Where was I, right, take a breath, making coffee, take a breath.  Exhausting huh?  Fortunately, we breathe automatically most of the time.  But we can take conscious control of our breathing.  You can breathe deep if you want, you can hyperventilate if you want (not recommended) or you can hold your breath for a minute or so.  Our lungs and our brain are under both conscious and subconscious control. No other organ is like that.  You cannot will your hearing to not hear.  You can choose to not pay attention, but you will still hear.  You cannot will your heart to beat faster or slower (well, not without thinking some panic inducing thoughts first), you cannot will your pancreas to release digestive enzymes.  But you can direct your breathing, and you can direct your brain.

Direct your brain.  Say what?  No, you did not miss the memo, there was no memo.  There is no instruction manual.  But you can direct your brain – totally possible, but your brain won’t like it.

Try it.  Consciously break your morning routine.  Get up on the other side of the bed.  Make coffee before your shower.  Empty the dishwasher after feeding the dog.  I can almost guarantee you will feel ‘out of sorts’ all day.   Your brain’s autopilot has been disrupted and that makes your brain very confused.

“No, no, no… that is not how we do things around here.”
“What are you doing?”
“Don’t mess with this.”
“I went through a lot of trouble designing this routine and it works.”
“Don’t mess with the routine.”

But if you can tolerate that ‘out of sorts weirdness’ and start to give your brain specific directions, it will respond.  For example, if you are chronically behind in the mornings, always hunting for the keys or gathering papers you need for the day tell your brain it’s time to learn to be on time.  Ask it “What must I do to leave the house on time?”  It’s very likely it will offer up a reasonable answer quickly.  Gather papers the evening before, have your lunch already packed in the fridge, leave the keys on the counter beside the coffee, grab coffee to go and keys… and you are out the door.  When you wake in the morning, tell your brain, we are going to be on time for work today.  TELL it.

If it doesn’t work you may need to build a thought bridge.  Because right now your brain believes it (and subsequently you) is(are) always late, and that is just the way you are.  It’s the brain familiar default.  You need to change the default.  Ask your brain to solve this puzzle.  I am always late and I want to be on time, how can I fix this?  It will provide an answer.  You are not always late.  If it’s important or fun (like traveling) you are always early, never late.  So it is possible to be early sometimes.  Tell your brain to be early sometimes.  If it is possible to be early sometimes, is it possible to be on time other times?  Sure.  Huh.  Can you see how you are changing the default?

How many annoying defaults has your brain adopted?  What if you were to question everything you currently believe about yourself?  What if it’s not true you are always late?  What if it’s not true you suck at math?  What if it’s not true you are a terrible cook?  What if what you think about yourself is not true, even just a little?  What if you can tell your brain what to believe about everything.  “No brain, actually, I am always on time.”

Your brain is your servant, not your master.  Just as you can take a deep breath, you can tell your brain what to believe.  ASK it empowering questions, it will give you brilliant answers if you trust your own wisdom.  Try it.  You can always go back to the default.  If you want some help on learning to ask empowering questions check out Brain Thumb twiddles

Buff on my friends,
Dr Karen.