Friday, December 28, 2012

How Is Breathing Like Thinking?

Regions of the brain affected by PTSD and stress.
Brain regions affected by PTSD & stress (Wikipedia)
by Judy Widener

Your lungs and your brain have one thing in common: they both run on autopilot unless you take conscious control of their activity.

Your breathing happens automatically. But if you decide to take a deep breath, the automation stops.

As long as you're thinking about breathing, you'll have complete control of how often and how deeply you breathe.

But when you stop thinking about it, your breathing instantly becomes automatic again.

The same thing happens with your thoughts. When you're consciously focused on something, you're controlling which neurons are firing. But when you let your thoughts wander, you'll find that seemingly random thoughts pop up. And most of them are likely to be negative.

Have you ever wondered why you keep remembering negative experiences, from a tiff with your beloved to wishing you could leave an unfulfilling job? The answer may surprise you.

During the 2.5 million years that humans have been evolving on this planet, our bodies have become wired to seek optimal health and well-being. Thus, your brain is wired to do whatever it can do to be as healthy as possible. Any time you're not directing your thoughts consciously, your brain has an opportunity to do the next most important work: get healthier.

The single greatest detractor of your brain's well-being is stressful thoughts. So your brain will jump on any opportunity to de-stress itself. This is why you'll think about unresolved issues: disagreements, frustrations at work or with finances, etc.

Your brain isn't trying to torture you. It's trying to resolve these issues, in order to alleviate stress, and in so doing, be healthier. Besides the health issue, the less stress you have, the more your brain is free to learn, create and enjoy life.

When you take control of your brain, you become its leader and its teacher. You tell your brain what to do: drive this car. Eat this food. You also train your brain to learn new skills. Here's how to build this shelf. Here's how to play this song on the piano.

From a better job to improved communication skills, any time you want something new, you tap into an unlimited source of creativity housed in an organ that adapts every time you send an instruction. So find as many ways as you can to make optimal use of it, instead of wasting the potential of this precious resource.

A year can pass you by in a snap of the fingers when you've fallen into the rut of familiar, comfortable routines. Ten years ago, self-help gurus talked about personal growth as the way to avoid the guilt and remorse you feel when your desire to grow and make changes lost out to expedience.

But the ante is so much higher now. With dementia reaching epidemic proportions among the elderly and ADD running rampant among the rest of us, brain health has become the number one health issue of our time.

The good news is that recent brain research has pinpointed the foods and exercises (both physical and mental) that nourish the brain. We've also learned that the physical effects of both dementia and ADD can be reversed. You can live long and strong. Choose to learn, adapt, grow. Now's the time.

Today's Coaching Question: What are you willing to do today to make your brain healthier?

Judy Widener is a Certified Life Coach and author of Power For A Lifetime: Tools You Customize to Build Your Personal Power Every Day Of Your Life. You can sign up for Discovering Your Values, a 5-day e-course at no cost at http://www.myinnerfrontiers.com Her passion is assisting her clients to discover what is most important to them, then to create more balance and satisfaction in their lives.

She offers a comprehensive program that teaches clients simple ways to build their personal power and overcome obstacles to achieving their dreams. Judy has coached more than 600 people over the past 13 years. Her website is http://www.myinnerfrontiers.com

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