Dear Brain: QUIT BEING SO NEGATIVE.
A lot of people are telling me about how the COVID-19 pandemic has amplified a lot of the struggles they had already been working to manage in their lives. The coping strategies that they used to before quarantine were many times no longer accessible (like sports, the gym, activities with friends), leading to a cycle of negative thinking, low motivation, and low mood. Some told me that their brains have been on hyperdrive thinking about fears, worries with a lens of negativity or “dark cloud”.
Over the next few weeks, I am going to explore 5 simple things we can do to work towards peace in our thought life that can work wherever we find ourselves.
Brain Hack 1 of 5: What is going on up there in our big, beautiful brains?
Our brains are designed to look for danger, things out of place, and things that it perceives as wrong. That is exactly what it is designed to do; that is, our anxiety responses warn us of impending danger and influence us to move towards safety. I read a book years ago called The Gift of Fear, which demonstrates the power anxiety has to keep us safe. Now... where it gets challenging? Our brains are attuning to things that may not be as life-threatening as the physical response we experience is making it out to be. Kara Loewentheil, host of the Unf*uck Your Brain podcast describes this in more detail in her podcast, Your Brain in a Pandemic.
Here is a hard truth—our brains are doing what it is designed to do, but that does not mean it is particularly helpful all the time. There is hope...our brains can be trained to do something else. Our brains have neuroplasticity, which means our brains can reorganize to adapt and adjust to life's circumstances.
Neuroscientist Dr. Caroline Leaf examines why our brains do this and shares some helpful strategies in her Cleaning Up the Mental Mess podcast, How to protect your mental & physical health during the Coronavirus pandemic. The podcast is centred around life within the COVID-19 pandemic, but there are real truths that link to every area of our lives apart from the pandemic.
Check-in next week to look at why recognizing our thoughts can be a simple but effective way to continue journeying towards a peaceful thought life.