8 things about the mind

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1. Not known what exactly the mind is or how the brain creates it.

 

  • the miracle of consciousness

2. “Thinking” is the way you talk to yourself. 

  • A useful way to think about thinking is to describe it as the way or ways you talk to yourself.
  • For practical purposes, “thinking” and “self-talk” are the same thing.
  • What you can do: To find out what is on your mind, figure out what you are saying to yourself.

3. You can watch your mind at work.

  • mindful awareness, you can stand outside your own mind as if you are watching what is happening to another rather than experiencing it yourself.
  • The “watching part,” sometimes called “the Observing Self”, is somewhat detached from emotions and can view your thoughts and actions with some impartial objectivity.
  • By contrast, the “experiencing” part of your mind notices sense impressions and has emotional reactions to them.
  • Why it’s important: Noticing your mental habits and stories/ideas is the first step toward calming or changing your mind.
  • Developing an Observing Self is also critical to monitoring your actions.
  • What you can do: notice your self-talk without judgment. Do you worry about the same things again and again? Do you talk to yourself in an encouraging way or a hurtful way? Listen to your self-talk and you will see your mind at work.
  • At some point, you might decide to change any thinking habits that are holding you back.

4. The mind is wild & runs where it will.

  • mindfulness may initially amplify this
  • It is reassuring to realize that everyone has a “monkey mind” filled with fantasies, stories, wild imaginings, and thoughts both useful and ridiculous.
  • In other words, the mind has a mind of its own. It can’t be controlled, but—no problem—you can learn to manage it.
  • What you can do: When you notice your mind spinning stories, thoughts, and fantasies, say to yourself, “Just thoughts,” or “Thinking.” This labeling will help you view your mental chatter more objectively, take it less seriously, and calm yourself.

5. Your mind can change your brain.

  • Yes, your mind—that is, your thoughts— can change your brain.
  • Odd as it may sound, as you create new thought patterns, you actually rewire your brain. The more you practice a new thinking habit, the more the same neurons will learn to work together and wire together.
  • As neuroscientists say, neurons that fire together, wire together. In other words, “…directed, willed mental activity can clearly and systematically alter brain function.”
  • What you can do: Deliberately change your self-talk. For example, if you tend to wallow in frustration and anger when you make mistakes, practice telling yourself, “Mistakes are just part of life. I will make a conscious effort to learn from my mistakes.”
  • Or write down the self-talk you’d like to adopt in a given situation, then recite it to yourself when needed.

6. Simple feeling words can calm your mind and change your brain.

  • Sad. Anxious. Angry. Whatever emotion is causing you distress, research shows that labeling can ease your upset feelings and help you feel more in control.
  • Attaching a label to an emotion moves your brain activity from the fight-or-flight area (the amygdala) to the thinking area (the prefrontal cortex). It’s astounding what even one word can do.
  • What you can do: Notice when an emotion is overwhelming you. Search for a word that describes that emotion and then feel your emotions subside.

7. Your brain has a negativity bias

  • The term “negativity bias” refers to the brain’s tendency to react more strongly to bad things—dangers, threats, mistakes, or problems—than to good things, such as pleasure, opportunity, and joy.
  • Although the negativity bias has helped humans survive by alerting us to possible threats, it makes it harder for us to relax, enjoy life, and be happy.
  • Luckily, your mind can train your brain to be happier.
  • Focusing on and experiencing the positive aspects of life actually builds new neural structures in the brain, & brings about positive change.
  • What you can do: Become aware of pleasant or happy experiences. Bring them to the foreground of your mind. Linger on these experiences for 5 seconds or more. By doing so, you will rewire your brain, making it more likely that you will notice other positive things around you in the future.

8. Learning new things changes your brain—even if you’re older.

  • Enriching your mind by learning new things rewires your brain. Specifically, learning causes changes in your hippocampus, according to research
  • The effect applies to both young and old.
  • As neurologist Oliver Sacks is quoted: “Every time we practice an old skill or learn a new one, existing neural connections are strengthened and, over time, neurons create more connections to other neurons. Even new nerve cells can be generated.”

 

Source: Selig, M. (2016).

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