The Human Brain 101Oct 18, 2021
By Jenn Baron.
Hello CEO readers, I'm Jenn Baron, a certified life coach.
Each quarter I'll bring you doable tips to clean up your thoughts, make minor tweaks to your perspective and take back real control of your life. Read, lower your stress and anxiety and be the real boss of your life and business.
Are you in? Let's get started!
I love knowing the how and the why behind things. It puts me at ease knowing there's an explanation, especially when it comes to our amazing and beautiful human brains.
With a little understanding and practice, your life can be easier and less stressful. Instead of fighting an internal battle with your thoughts and feelings, you can learn to use it to get what you want.
Let's start with some basics. These are as important as learning addition in elementary school. Everything builds on top of it. There are two areas of the brain I'll refer to: the primitive brain and the prefrontal cortex. That's about as science-y as I'll get.
The primitive brain has one goal, and that's to keep you alive. Thanks, primitive brain!
It does that in three ways: decrease your pain (physical and emotional), increase your pleasure and do everything as efficiently as possible to save energy for potential tiger attacks. Over the millions of years, your brain has learned that doing these three things keeps you alive. When you're not in physical or emotional pain, experiencing pleasure, and resting, your brain is happiest because it believes those are the three keys to keeping you alive.
Everything we do or say subconsciously is because of one of these three processes. It's also the fight or flight area of our brains.
This part of our brain is about 350 million years old, depending on who you ask. Bottom line, we're dealing with ancient neural programming, and our biology hasn't caught up with the fact that no sabretooth tigers are lurking around the corner, just kids that won't go to bed on time, your to-do list that never shrinks and the low-grade anxiety that is your constant companion.
Your primitive brain processes physical and emotional pain similarly, so when you feel uncomfortable emotions, your primitive brain does everything in its power to stop it quickly. Like, tell you to grab cookies, scroll on your phone or deflect attention to someone else. It thinks emotional pain could kill you; it doesn't want you to feel it and will ignore it or shove it down until you finally teach it how to process our emotions.
This is easier and less painful than you think.
Unless you have a traumatic brain injury, you have a healthy human brain that is just trying to protect you the only ways it currently knows how. This is why we can have a hard time changing old habits, going back to them after a few days or weeks doing something new, and judging ourselves harshly when things don't change quickly.
You aren't broken, damaged or hopeless! Reread that sentence.
And when you better understand the reasons behind your actions, you can change them, no matter how long you've had a pattern or habit.
Next, your prefrontal cortex is a newer part of your brain. It's about 200 million years old and is responsible for language, planning and processing information, among other things.
One key thing to remember is that these two areas of the brain cannot be operating simultaneously. That's why it's hard to think clearly when we're panicked (in flight or flight) and how taking three deep breaths calms down the primitive brain and can get the prefrontal cortex back 'online' so you can think clearly and make a good decision.
When you're operating on autopilot or worrying, that's the primitive brain. When you're afraid of trying something new, that's the primitive brain. It does not like change because it doesn't have a frame of reference, so it doesn't know if the thing will kill you or not.
When you're making a conscious or intentional choice, that's the prefrontal cortex.
I always suggest starting with awareness because, without it, you can't make a change. Notice when you're feeling anxious, stuck or confused. Your primitive brain is probably online.
Take three deep breaths and ask yourself, "What's my next best move?" You'll pull your prefrontal cortex online and be able to take the next step.
Don't worry about any steps after, just the next one.
Our brains are amazing problem-solving machines that want to keep us alive. I'll show you how to work with it instead of wasting your precious time and energy fighting it.
You'll get where you want to be faster, and it'll be a lot more fun.
Until next time.
Jenn Baron is a Certified Life Coach. She helps women see what's going on in their brains, decide if it's working for them, and share easy-to-implement tools that get them the results they want. Fast.
To learn more about how Jenn can help you, check out her site or IG.
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