Neuro-Exercises

Why Hope May be the Most Important Thing for Your Brain

Why #Hope May be the Most Important Thing for Your #Brain

The written content of the post was authored by best-selling author and neuroscience expert, Mark Robert Waldman. It is posted with his permission.


Embracing hope is probably the most important thing we need to maintain a healthy brain and lifestyle.

Here we'll use hope defined as faith combined with optimism. Hope stimulates the decision-making and problem-solving abilities governed by the frontal lobes. It stimulates the immune system, it motivates us to take action, and it turns off the worry centers in our limbic system and right prefrontal cortex. Without hope, we slip into depression and the brain begins to shut down. 

When you maintain a positive view about the future, you also stimulate the anterior cingulate, one of the most important structures for controlling your moods and improving social awareness, compassion, and self-love. 

Neuro-Exersize:
Why not commit to exercising your "hope" neurons by spending one minute, each hour, believing that you can overcome the obstacles that lie in your way of achieving your daily goal? Then write down several action-strategies that you know will help you resolve immediate problems, conflicts, and fears.

STUDY:

Nature. 2007 Nov 1;450(7166):102-5.
Neural mechanisms mediating optimism bias.
Sharot T1, Riccardi AM, Raio CM, Phelps EA.


Excerpt from Abstract:

We examined how the brain generates…optimism bias. Here we report that this tendency was related specifically to enhanced activation…in the rostral anterior cingulate cortex when imagining positive future events relative to negative ones, suggesting a key role for areas involved in monitoring emotional salience in mediating the optimism bias. These are the same regions that show irregularities in depression, which has been related to pessimism. Across individuals, activity in the rostral anterior cingulate cortex was correlated with trait optimism.

Check out Mark Waldman's free 6 Days to Enlightenment email series for information on how you can access enlightened states often and easily.

How to Write Your Way to Happiness and Success

How to Write Your Way to Happiness and Success

The written content of the post was authored by best-selling author and neuroscience expert, Mark Robert Waldman. It is posted with his permission.


Thinking about positive outcomes is not enough to build a solid foundation of optimism and self-esteem. Adults need to identify their unconscious negativity and reframe. Then, they need to repeatedly reaffirm with positive words and actions.

For children and young adults, writing appears to be one of the most effective ways to achieve these important skills. High school students were asked to do the following task for ten days. Each night, before going to bed, they wrote down three things they did well that day. Then they stopped. At first no one noticed much improvement. Yet, with each passing month, for the next three months, the student’s sense of happiness and well-being dramatically increased. [i] And yes, it also has similar benefits for adults. [ii] 

The author of these famous studies, Martin Seligman, who founded the field of positive psychology, added that the effects will not fade away, as is the case with placebos.

Imagine: If just ten days of reflecting on what we do well can generate months of psychological improvement, what would happen if you wrote down your accomplishments each day for a month? 

That’s what we recommend you do. Repeat this exercise anytime you feel frustrated in your work, your relationships, or your life.

Studies such as these also emphasize the power of the pen. In other words, it’s not just your imagination that primes your brain for success. Writing deepens the impact by affecting different language centers in the brain thereby creating more permanent changes in how you think. So if you want to transform a negative outlook on life, we suggest that you stimulate as many language centers in your brain as possible. 

Listen to positive words and messages. Read uplifting and encouraging novels. Think about the positive aspects and successes in your life and write them down. Then share your successes with others. Not only will it strengthen your own resolve, but it will also stimulate the listener’s brain in positive ways.

But beware: the pen can be a double-edged sword. If you write down your negative feelings and thoughts, or write in your journal about stressful events, you’ll tend to feel more emotionally distraught and report more symptoms of illness.[iii]

In fact, the more often you write about negative emotions, the more anxious and depressed you’ll become.[iv]

On the other hand, brief written commentaries about anxious feelings can alleviate those symptoms temporarily, and as researchers at the University of Chicago discovered, “Simply writing about one’s worries before a high-stakes exam can boost test scores.”[v]

Here’s another strategy children and adults can use to make positive changes. Keep a daily list of blessings and experiences for which you feel thankful. Research from around the world shows that this will improve your mood and enhance your personal relationships. [vi]

When 221 young adolescents were asked to keep a gratitude journal for three weeks, their sense of well-being, optimism, and satisfaction with life improved. [vii] When they kept lists of daily hassles, their moods and coping behaviors did not improve.[viii] 

Children who feel the most gratitude exhibit greater satisfaction and optimism and have better relationships with their peers. [ix] When minority students wrote about themselves in positive ways, their sense of personal adequacy and integrity improved, along with their grades in school. [x] 

If you write down your most important goals, as specifically as you can, research shows that you’ll be more likely to achieve them. [xi] 

When we teach our children these strategies, the benefits will continue into adulthood.

SOURCES: 

[i] “A balanced psychology and a full life.” Seligman M. E., Parks A. C., Steen T. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London: Series B, Biological Sciences. 2004 Sep 29; 359(1449):1379–81.

[ii] “Positive psychology progress: Empirical validation of interventions.” Seligman M. E., Steen T. A., Park N, Peterson C. American Psychologist. 2005 Jul–Aug; 60(5):410–21.

[iii] “Journaling about stressful events: Effects of cognitive processing and emotional expression.” Ullrich P. M., Lutgendorf S. K. Annals of Behavioral Medicine. 2002 Summer; 24(3):244–50.

[iv] “The effects of journaling for women with newly diagnosed breast cancer.” Smith S, Anderson-Hanley C, Langrock A, Compas B. Psycho-Oncology. 2005 Dec; 14(12):1075–82.

[v] “Writing about testing worries boosts exam performance in the classroom.” Ramirez G, Beilock S. L. Science. 2011 Jan 14; 331(6014):211–13.

[vi] “The effects of counting blessings on subjective well-being: A gratitude intervention in a Spanish sample.” Martínez-Martí M. L., Avia M. D., Hernández-Lloreda M. J. Spanish Journal of Psychology. 2010 Nov; 13(2):886-96. “Counting blessings versus burdens: an experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life.” Emmons R. A., McCullough M. E. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 2003 Feb; 84(2):377–89.

[vii] “Counting blessings in early adolescents: An experimental study of gratitude and subjective well-being.” Froh J. J., Sefick W. J., Emmons R. A. Journal of School Psychology. 2008 Apr; 46(2):213–33. Epub 2007 May 4.

[viii] “Counting blessings versus burdens: an experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life.” Emmons R. A., McCullough M. E. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 2003 Feb; 84(2):377–89.

[ix] “Gratitude and subjective well-being in early adolescence: Examining gender differences.” Froh J. J., Yurkewicz C, Kashdan T. B. Journal of Adolescence. 2009 Jun; 32(3):633–50.

[x] “Reducing the racial achievement gap: A social-psychological intervention.” Cohen G. L., Garcia J, Apfel N, Master A. Science. 2006 Sep 1; 313(5791):1307–10.

[xi] “Personal goals and prolonged grief disorder symptoms.” Boelen PA. Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy. 2010 Dec 1. doi: 10.1002/cpp.731


Check out Mark Waldman's free 6 Days to Enlightenment email series for information on how you can access enlightened states often and easily.

Rapid Changes in Consciousness Trigger Enlightenment Experiences

Rapid Changes in Consciousness Trigger Enlightenment Experiences

The written content of the post was authored by best-selling author and neuroscience expert, Mark Robert Waldman. It is posted with his permission.


According to researchers at the University of Georgia, shifting from rigorous exercise to deep relaxation enhances brain development.

In fact, it may be the fastest way to prime your brain for enlightenment. 

The quickest and easiest way to increase activity in your frontal lobes above baseline is to engage in aerobic exercise. If you then lie down with the intention of finding enlightenment (deep insight) and enter deep relaxation, while aware of all the different body sensations you are having, frontal lobe activity will quickly drop below baseline. This is meditation practice known as “yoga nidra.”

It only takes 3-5 minutes of aerobics (for example, running in place) followed by 5-10 minutes of restful awareness, to trigger the neurological mechanisms that evoke sudden insight. But remember: you must have the intention to discover something new. 

Sources:

Acute aerobic exercise increases cortical activity during working memory: a functional MRI study in female college students. Li L, Men WW, Chang YK, Fan MX, Ji L, Wei GX. PLoS One. 2014 Jun 9;9(6):e99222.

A 15O-H2O PET study of meditation and the resting state of normal consciousness. Lou HC, Kjaer TW, Friberg L, Wildschiodtz G, Holm S, Nowak M. Hum Brain Mapp. 1999;7(2):98-105.

An eight month randomized controlled exercise intervention alters resting state synchrony in overweight children. Krafft CE, Pierce JE, Schwarz NF, Chi L, Weinberger AL, Schaeffer DJ, Rodrigue AL, Camchong J, Allison JD, Yanasak NE, Liu T, Davis CL, McDowell JE. Neuroscience. 2014 Jan 3;256:445-55.


Check out Mark Waldman's free 6 Days to Enlightenment email series for information on how you can access enlightened states often and easily.