Neuro-Exercises

You May Be More Negative Than You Think

 You May Be More Negative Than You Think

A negative mentality is profoundly harmful to the the circuitry of the brain. Fortunately, the problem is addressable. Anyone who struggles with negativity can take measures that are proven by science to help regulate negativity and become more positive. Unfortunately, most people who are chronically negative don't even know that they are. Without this self-awareness, it is impossible to do anything to address the core problem.

A person who is chronically negative, by definition, is one that is habitually negative. When someone forms a habit, it moves from the part of their brain that is self-aware (the frontal lobes) to deeper parts of their brain that are unconscious and automatic. The more anyone does anything, the less aware they are of it. Thus, negative people are usually not aware of how negative they are.

We have to be very deliberate to become aware of our own negativity. The good news is that as we become aware of it, our brains become less negative.

 You May Be More Negative Than You Think

Neuro-exercise:

Can you can go an hour without a negative thought or feeling? Give it a shot. This includes worries, doubts, fears, disappointments. When you have a negative thought, write it down. It will help you become more aware. Don't be surprised if you have as many as 25 negative thoughts or feelings an hour. The more you do this exercise, the more you'll see your negativity drop. For even faster progress, enlist your brain's reward circuitry by promising yourself an indulgence if your negativity substantially drops. This exercise will significantly improve your brain's performance and enrich your experience of life.



The above post was lovingly crafted by Josiah Hultgren. Josiah Hultgren is Founder/CEO of MindFullyAlive, a Senior Lecturer at California Lutheran University, a NeuroCoach, and a practical neuroscience expert. He produces and curates mindfulness content designed to improve structure and functioning of the brain. His mission is to help create a more vibrant world and apply neuroscience in ways that help people reach their highest potential. 

The Neuroscience of Prejudice

 Eliminating #Prejudice is Good For Your #Brain

Excerpted and adapted from Born to Believe by Newberg and Waldman:

Prejudice is rooted in human nature. The human brain has a propensity to reject any belief that is not in accord with its own view. The brain’s natural functioning is to divide objects, people, and ideals into groups. The brain will tend to express a preference for one and a dislike for the other. In other words, the brain is naturally biased to reject others who do not embrace our beliefs.

Unfortunately, such biases are not limited to politics and sports. We assign such preferences and dislikes to people from different cultural, religious, and ethnic backgrounds. Hundreds of studies have confirmed the “in” group will always orchestrate scenarios—pass laws, distribute benefits, etc.—that are less than favorable for the “out” group.

This “us-versus-them” mentality exists even when the division is arbitrarily assigned. Systematic research by Henri Tajfel, showed that when individuals were randomly placed into different groups, they felt stronger about their own group  and tended to feel negatively about other groups, even when issues of religion, sexual identity, and culture were factored out.

Thus, simply being a part of a group results in feelings of ill will towards other groups. The human origins for such beliefs most likely evolved from the defensive and aggressive behaviors we see when different groups of animals compete for control over territory, food, and mates. Thus we are biologically prone to divide people into groups, to categorize and stereotype them, and then evaluate them in preferential and prejudicial ways.

 Eliminating #Prejudice is Good For Your #Brain

The “us-versus-them” mentality can be easily converted into racism. This was dramatically demonstrated in a well-known experiment conducted by an elementary school teacher named Jane Elliott. One day, she told her students that blue-eyed children were smarter, nicer, and neater than those with brown eyes. She praised the blue-eyed children and gave them special privileges while ridiculing the others. Within hours, the blue-eyed children began to torment those with brown eyes. The next day, the teacher reversed the roles, praising the brown-eyed children and demeaning the others. In both situations, academic performance declined in the group that was being discriminated against.

This topic becomes more complicated when people try to associate racism, which is a hostile form of discrimination, with biological and genetic tendencies. Brain scan studies have shown that the amygdala—the neural part of our emotional system that registers fear—does react when we first observe a person from a different ethnic background. But we can develop the ability to temper hostile reactions. Thus, we can teach our children not to automatically reject others based upon their race, sex, or economic position. One technique that is used in schools to interrupt oppositional beliefs is called the jigsaw classroom experience: when children are placed in groups with other minorities, and given a project that requires everyone’s assistance, prejudices fall away, hostility fades, and group cooperation flourishes.

When faced with any belief that conflicts with our own, it takes additional effort and time to override these biologically-based cognitive biases. By doing so, we can become more open-minded to those with different beliefs. We can even reach a point where we realize that notions such as good and evil are largely arbitrary and relative to many conditions of which we are often unaware. History, of course, reminds us how hard it is to maintain open-minded beliefs.

  Eliminating #Prejudice is Good For Your #Brain

NeuroTip: 

Eliminating bias is healthy for your brain, and most forms of spiritual practice and mindfulness will stimulate the circuits involved in empathy, compassion, and fairness. Try applying this lovingkindness meditation toward someone who currently irritates you or violates your moral beliefs: "May you be filled with love and peace."


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

Yawning is The Fastest Way to Hack Mental Stress and Focus

  Yawning is The Fastest Way to Hack Mental #Stress and #Focus

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


Olympic athletes yawn before they race. Musicians and speakers yawn before they go on stage. Snipers get trained to yawn before they pull the trigger. Pack animals yawn together to establish communal empathy. This is because yawning is the ultimate stress and focus hack.

Here are 10 reasons to yawn frequently:


1. Stimulates alertness and concentration
2. Optimizes brain activity and metabolism
3. Improves cognitive function
4. Increases memory recall
5. Enhances consciousness and introspection
6. Lowers stress
7. Relaxes your upper body
8. Fine-tunes your sense of time
9. Increases empathy and social awareness
10. Enhances pleasure and sensuality

Yawning clears away the fogginess of sleep and increases cerebral blood flow. After yawning, you quickly benefit with enhanced mental efficiency and a heightened state of cognitive awareness. In fact, yawning appears to be the fastest way to lower mental stress and anxiety. 

Many neurochemicals get released during the yawning experience that are essential for motivation, memory recall, and voluntary decision-making. In fact, it’s hard to find another activity that positively impacts so many brain functions. So, If you want to maintain an optimally healthy brain, make it a habit to yawn whenever you want to relax or enhance your ability to concentrate on a task.

It has a similar effect on a person as having a cup of coffee. It helps your brain shift between the highly focused demands of decision-making and restful daydreaming states that give you access to creative problem-solving. It even regulates the time clocks in your brain, helping you to sleep better at night. Yawning helps you to wake up and stay alert during a stressful work day.

yawning-animal

Yawning also appears to be a primitive form of empathy and is found in many mammals. There is a connection between frequent yawning and increased emotional empathy. That’s why we recommend that yawning a few times before entering a stressful business meeting or discussing a sensitive issue.

We recommend you yawn as many times a day as possible. When you wake up? Yawn. When you're confronting a difficult problem at work? Yawn. Whenever you feel anger, anxiety or stress? Yawn. 


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Yawn before giving an important talk, yawn before you take a test, and yawn whenever you feel bored. Do it mindfully, paying close attention to how it affects your mood and awareness.

Conscious yawning takes a little discipline to get past our social conditioning that it is rude. Another barrier is the “excuses” that people sometimes use: “I don’t feel like it,” “I’m not tired,” and a favorite, “I can’t.” Of course you can. All you need to do to trigger a deep yawn is to fake it four or five times. Try it right now, and you’ll see how each yawn feels more pleasant and relaxing.

yawn-experiment-vintage

A Mindful Yawning Experiment:

This exercise only takes two minutes, and works better if you are standing up. 

  1. Begin by taking a slow deep breath and then yawn. You can fake them at first, and if you make an “ahh” sound during exhalation you should be able to trigger a series of real yawns on your fourth or fifth try.
     
  2. As you continue to yawn, pay close attention to the sensations in your mouth, your throat, your chest and belly, and don’t be surprised if your eyes start watering. 
     
  3. If you feel dizzy, lightheaded, or disoriented, stop, sit down, and rest. Continue to yawn another ten or twelve times, and then pause, noticing the different body sensations you are having. Do you feel more relaxed and alert? 

If you feel tired, it probably means that you are exhausted from overwork. If you’ve been particularly stressed or anxious, you might find yourself yawning a great deal over the next half hour, or even throughout the day after you’ve tried this yawning experiment. It means that your brain needs more blood circulation to improve neural performance. Enjoy the yawns, knowing that it’s a special treat for your busy brain.



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