©Arlene R. Taylor PhD    www.arlenetaylor.org

articles200408Would you like to be more successful?

Many people would but they aren't sure how to accomplish that. What if you knew that there was a fail-safe way to increase your options for success? There is. We can do that by using laws of the brain to our advantage on a daily basis. By understanding and utilizing brain laws we can increase our potential for success, avoid metaphorical radar traps that can sabotage our success, and enhance all our relationships.

The basic premise is that the universe operates by natural laws (e.g., gravity, seasons, tides, germination, solar system, heredity). One of science's dramatic discoveries has been the awareness that natural laws also govern our internal universe (e.g., heredity, the brain, digestive system, endocrine system, immune system). We are usually healthier, happier, safer, and more successful when we work with these natural laws.

What are brain laws?

Natural brain laws can be defined as functional brain phenomena that are consistently observed under given conditions. They can be thought of as advisable rules that are backed by current research and that can increase our likelihood for success. We violate them at our own risk, usually to our own detriment, although the severity of the consequences can vary.

altOf course, brain laws have to do with the human brain. Here is a cutaway of what is often referred to as "the triune brain," because it is composed of three interconnected brains. These are: the action brain (composed of the brain stem and cerebellum), the emotional brain (sandwiched between the action brain and the thinking brain), and the thinking brain (that sits on top of the other two brains much like the cap on a mushroom. (Above is a cutaway of the Triune Brain.)

I have no idea how many "brain laws" there are. Here are seven that I have recognized.

1. Use it or lose it!

Although not muscles, neurons can be compared to muscle cells. They become stronger with regular exercise and they atrophy with disuse.Obtain at least 30 minutes of challenging mental stimulation every day. Expose your brain to new ideas, information, people, exercise, and environments. That's why attending specific types of seminars can be so helpful.

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Neuron with low level of mental stimulation Neuron with challenging mental stimulation

2. Practice makes perfect!

Perfect can be defined as flawless or as well suited to the task at hand. Practice can be actual rehearsal or virtual (in the mind) rehearsal. We can use virtual rehearsal to reinforce actual rehearsal or to prepare when actual rehearsal is impossible.

We continually rehearse (e.g., imagination, self-talk) anyway, so we may as well use it as effectively and efficiently as possible. The subconscious recognizes little differences between actual and virtual rehearsal. Practice of either type can be effective in helping us to improve our skills.

3. Self-talk programs the brain!

What is your habitual self-talk style? We tend to communicate with others in our habitual self-talk style so it is important to identify this. Do you affirm or criticize? Encourage or discourage? How well do you give and accept compliments? We tend to communicate with ourselves and with others in our habitual self-talk style.

Growing up, most of us heard 7-9 negative comments for every positive one. The formula is short, positive, present tense, empowering statements (affirmations). Speak as if you are already, presently, realizing your goal.

The subconscious readily understands positive. It processes negatives (the reverse of an idea) much less effectively. Consequently, learning to speak consistently in an affirming manner can be much more effective. Sigmund Freud said, "Thinking is an experimental dealing with small quantities of energy, just as a general moves miniature figures over a map before setting the troops in action.

4. Thoughts create feelings!

We have the power to change our brain chemistry simply by changing our thoughts. Our thoughts alter neurotransmitters. To change the way you feel, change the way you think. During recall, the brain releases chemicals similar to those that were released when information and impressions about the original event were inputted. Similar feelings arise also.

Depression has been associated with lowered levels of serotonin. Robert Zapolsky, author of Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers, wrote: "On an incredibly simplistic level, you can think of depression as occurring when your cortex thinks an abstract negative thought and manages to convince the rest of the brain that this is as real as a physical stressor."

We need to take charge of, and responsibility for, our thoughts and eliminate all enemy outposts from our brain. A negative mindset is associated with neurotransmitter changes and immune system suppression. For example:

Noradrenaline helps to regulate mood. Feelings of hopelessness are associated with lowered levels of noradrenaline. Dopamine helps us to experience pleasure. Feelings and perceptions of inability to cope are associated with decreased levels of dopamine. Serotonin helps us to experience joy. Unmanaged anger, fear, and sadness are associated with lowered levels of serotonin.

5. Thoughts precede actions!

The ancestor of every action is a thought. Information stored in the brain, whether or not it was stored consciously, can later return as a stimulus to action even when the actual incident is not recalled. The pathway is trigger/stimulus, neuron communication, conscious awareness, choice, and action.

Imagine you are planning for gold when selecting the type of stimuli to which your brain is consciously exposed. Evaluate everything (e.g., news, music, television, videos, movies, books, scenes of violence, people with whom you associate, abusive situations).

6. Situational intensity affects memory!

We are much more likely to store events in memory that are positively or negatively charged, rather than those that are emotionally neutral. We are more likely to be able to recall events that are either positively or negatively charged, as well. Some information can pass directly into long-term memory and bypass conscious choice. Information that comes to us with a strong emotional component and/or with stimuli that activate more than one sensory system may bypass conscious choice and go directly into long-term memory.

altWe can use emotional amplitude to our advantage. Speak emphatically to yourself! Laugh several hundred times a day, listen to Mozart or sing, and be an on-purpose person. The brain was not designed to deal with excessive amounts of raw emotion. Continual exposure to large amounts of raw emotion can cause the brain to decrease its sensitivity to all emotion and can impact memory. Therefore, it is important to guard our exposure to excessive amounts of raw emotion.

7. Mindset impacts wellness!

The brain and the body function as one unit and communicate with each other via chemical messengers. Whatever happens in the brain affects the body and vice versa. Peter McWilliams, author of the book, You Can't Afford the Luxury of a Single Negative Thought, states that a negative mindset is the precursor of all life-threatening illnesses. At the very least, negative thinking (e.g., unresolved anger, fear, sadness, anxiety, hopelessness) may be a key contributor.

A positive mindset contributes to positive outcomes:
altImmune System
A negative mindset contributes to negative outcomes:

In Conclusion

Every thought we think, every decision we make, and every action we take is a health-relevant behavior. It affects every cell in our brain and body and moves us toward either illness or wellness. C. Everett Koop, former Surgeon General of the United States of America, stated: no prescription is more valuable than knowledge.

We have the power to exercise free will. Free will operates as we choose to continue to think a specific thought, or choose to think as different thought; as we choose to take action based on the thought or refrain from taking action. Using the laws of the brain consistently and effectively is a learned skill. Work with them rather than against them. Use your brain for success by design, not default.