Life’s Messy. Train Your Brain to Adapt. | Think Tank | Big Think

Q: Can we actually reshape our habits just by thinking?

A: I did a coaching demonstration yesterday with a young woman who is really suffering from clutter at home—really suffering. If you look at the genetic wiring around organization, there’s a good amount of the population who have competent executive function. The other part of the population has better access to their emotions. That’s generalizing a lot, but those folks, like the woman I was coaching yesterday, are very good at living the moment, very good at connecting, they’ve got great emotional intelligence, they can pick up other people’s emotions—but they can’t find their keys. Those folks are really struggling. Privately they feel despair, because their emotional expression is turned high. It’s a strength, in terms of their ability to connect with people, but it’s a weakness when it comes to organizing.

Q: How do you take control, even when you’re feeling overwhelmed?

A: Negativity is a very important part of life. When you have negative emotions, they have a message to give you—and they’re very good at getting it through. They overtake the good. They’re like crying babies demanding your attention. And so the first thing to say is, don’t permanently suppress them. Listen to them and figure out, ‘is this an error message? Or is this something I really need to pay attention to?’ The limbic system is an old part of the brain. It takes in a lot of input from a lot of places faster than they get to the thinking brain. So there’s often something important in the negative. Stress is the trigger for learning and growth. Stress is what makes us accomplish things. It’s not that it’s bad. It’s part of life. It’s not that you want to wipe it off the board. It’s more about what your relationship is with the negative.

Stress is designed biologically to be powerful; it takes over your brain much more than positive emotion. Your heart rate goes up, you breathe faster; your blood pressure goes up. It makes you ready to respond. It’s got a purpose, but it doesn’t help when it’s time to sit down and work on something for thirty minutes. Naming the emotion, giving it a language, in an empathetic caring way—just a little self-empathy instead of ‘I’m an idiot for feeling like this’—that in itself can shift it.

Q: How do we form these cognitive habits?

A: You have to train yourself. When you encounter the situation, you have to reappraise it. You do this by talking to your irrational emotions. Then practice changing the negative self-talk.

via Life’s Messy. Train Your Brain to Adapt. | Think Tank | Big Think.

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