The negativity and suspicions that are your first response in most situations is a survival skill. It is a skill deeply rooted in your old brain – that part of the brain that we share with cats and dogs, toads and even alligators. It is the fight or flight mechanism that has kept us alive and brought us to the top of the food-chain over the past few millennia.
It has worked wonderfully up until now. But in the 21st Century world we have created for ourselves, what once kept your ancestors alive is now holding you back from living the life you want to live, happily, positively, and productively.
The key to winning your life back is not to get bogged down in how to rewire your brain, but in how to hit the pause button; to help you overcome your old habits and begin the process of living your life, your way. Something we like to call Humanity 2.0.
Doing this is a lot easier than you may think. All you have to do is to work backward.
- First, simply be aware of the way you respond to the world around you. Keep a journal for this if you need to, but do it. It can be as easy as emailing yourself from your mobile device, or as deeply rooted as stepping away and writing down your emotions to the triggers in your life.
- Take note of the moments when you first start to feel defensive, or when you first feel as if you are being attacked. It may be during your commute, or by someone in your office. It can even be with someone you love and trust within your own family.
- Make a note of what this feels like. Do you feel anger or frustration, even jealousy? It will probably include a brief adrenaline rush, as your amigdala pumps more adrenaline into your system, preparing you for what it thinks is a fight or flight situation.
- Second, rather than responding immediately to the provocation, physically step away from the event and make a note of what just occurred.
- Breathe deeply. As you settle into that breath feel yourself calm down and smile.
- Third, when you have time return to your journal or re-read your emails in search of those things that sent you spiraling into your old habits of responding before having the chance to think. They may not be found in the events that happened, but in the way those events made you feel.
- You will quickly find a connection between the incidences that set you off, your triggers, and the emotions they stirred up.
- Your triggers may include a car that cut you off on your commute, or a person who cut in front of you as you walked down or the look on an associate while in a meeting at work.
- Make note of your triggers, also make a note of how they made you feel. Your emotions are what connects the triggers within your brain, and are the key to creating a more positive response to the world around you.
Take note of the kind of events that your old brain recognizes as a threat. You cannot stop these events form happening, what you can do is train your brain how to respond to them in a way that you are comfortable with.
As you grow aware of your triggers, you can begin to avoid those situations where your triggers are more likely to be activated. You can also go further. You can train your brain to respond in a way that is more befitting of the world you now live in. You can even set your base reaction to be no reaction at all.
This frees up your mind so that instead of generating the negative thoughts of your ancestors, you can put a smile on your face as you seek out a more positive response to your situation.
You know, a more positive internal conversation like “I wonder what is wrong in that person’s life, that they feel it necessary to race in front of me,” or “what a shame they cannot enjoy this beautiful morning,” or “Look at the rain, how beautiful it is even when it comes in sideways.”
Get the idea?
Remember, you cannot change the world around you, but you can change how you respond to it, and that will make all the difference in your life. What you will notice is that at first it may seem impossible, but the more you do it, the easier it becomes. Even better, your positive responses will expand into other parts of your life.
Instead of reaching for food or alcohol as a temporary solution, you will begin to search for other, healthier solutions. You may start yoga or running to bring calm into your life. You may approach the person who carries your trigger and suggest a better way to handle situations. Or, you may simply smile as you ride the waves of your life with happiness, rather than suspicion, as the core to your new response mechanism.
Try this, and feel free to respond to let me know how it has worked for you.
Be well, and I hope this helps…