Categories
Wellness

When I Work My Brain, I Get Motivated

The most powerful thing we can do for ourselves is to become more mindful of our thinking processes. One of the most important steps anyone can take toward becoming a more focused, clear-minded person is to be more aware of what’s happening in, and around, their minds.

When we’re driving or playing a video game or any task that involves taking a step back and thinking about and analyzing our own actions and their consequences, we’re paying close attention to the results. And we’re constantly thinking about, looking at and re-cognizing our mistakes. Our brain is constantly engaged in that process. A recent study concluded that this is an important part of how we make the decisions it takes to make positive changes and stay on track. It’s called The Brain Processes in Decision Making: A Meta-Analytic Examination . Researchers found that “people who are more aware and engaged in their internal processes are less likely to make false associations or make unhelpful and harmful decisions.” The study also found that “having more self-control reduces the likelihood of making adverse choices during problem-solving, which means more mindful thoughts and actions at the right time make more sense.” I’m often asked to tell people what a huge benefit it is to be aware of and be conscious of our thinking. The answer is, in many ways, just being aware makes sense. If you’re constantly thinking about what’s going on in your mind, you’re more likely to try different things and see what works for you. I have learned this when I learned that when I really try to focus on the positive while my mind wanders, rather than just thinking about what could go wrong, I get inspired. I really enjoy being in the moment.

I think that’s kind of a funny thing that we take for granted. We’re naturally very focused. There’s little research into this, but I believe that it’s not just the way our brains are programmed, it’s the way our brains work. One study , for example, found that when people were asked to complete multiple cognitive tasks in sequence, their brain structure changed. They had a smaller amygdala, a part of our brain that’s involved in our emotional responses, and a larger hippocampus, which is involved in our autobiographical and personal memories. It’s an interesting finding, because while it’s believed that if we try to perform an action, it triggers a physical change in our body in the form of pain or discomfort, the process of actually doing it also triggers physical changes, which is why mindfulness could be such a powerful tool. People in the study who completed the tasks found it much more difficult to feel angry when a timer flashed. But when they were aware they were doing it wrong, when they were aware that they should try to be mindful when they did it, it didn’t trigger the same kind of “injury.” That’s because they realized it doesn’t have to be negative to be mindful–and that we still have control over how we react to something. When people can control when they feel angry and when they feel content –when they are aware of themselves–there’s a much smaller possibility that they’ll be angry, or even negative about it later. This would explain why being mindful in the moment could bring out the best in others, as we have shown.

So I feel that it’s important to be aware of the thought process and how it affects us. And we’re often surprised at the degree to which certain decisions we make in life affect how our lives turn out. And that’s just a few examples of how being aware of our thoughts and how that impacts us makes sense. So what kinds of things can a person do when they become more mindful? Well, the first step is to become more mindful about the different types of things we’re focused on. Some of the most important things we have to be mindful of are our thoughts and our emotions. There are many helpful tools and tips for becoming more mindful. One of the main ones is learning to replace our inner dialogue about self with more external dialogue about the world.   For example, instead of focusing on what we should and shouldn’t be doing, it’s more valuable to start to ask questions like “What are you doing about ?” or “what are you planning to eat this weekend?” Or “what other people are thinking about?” The last few years, there’s been a huge movement to learn about mindfulness and mindfulness meditation. There’s even a huge app called Headspace available (it’s also free, by the way). In addition to the apps, there are many things that can be done to practice how to do mindfulness.