What holds us back
Three parts of the human brain
- The reptilian brain (autonomic nervous system) – the oldest part of the brain controlling some bodily functions and instinctive reactions related to survival (fight, flight or freezing). It cannot deal with complex situations.
- The mammalian brain (limbic system) – the part of the brain responsible for emotions and feelings such as fear, pleasure and motivation. Interestingly, it cannot work with the concept of time. This is why traumatic situations often affect us throughout our lives.
- The neocortex – the youngest part of the brain that allows people to consciously perceive and interpret the world around them, controls cognitive functions such as learning, decision-making, planning, synthesis, etc.
One way to connect all three parts of the brain and bring them into harmony is conscious breathing, which leads to greater emotional balance, better decision-making and an overall sense of well-being.
What usually holds us back from trying new things and changing habits are the developmentally older parts of the brain (reptilian and mammalian brains) that we can’t control with our conscious minds.
In addition to controlling our bodily functions and emotions, they also control our stress responses to potential danger. They have refined over millions of years and therefore can act at lightning speed. But thanks to them, we as humanity are still here and can live our lives.
However, because both systems are based on past experience and evaluate unknown situations as potential danger, they limit our growth. So they keep us in our ruts, old habits, beliefs and in our comfort zone, where nothing surprises us and where we feel safe.
But if we get stuck in our comfort zone for too long, our soul begins to languish - that part of us that longs to grow, to learn new things, and to realize our visions and ideas. As a result, we feel frustrated and lose our energy and zest for life.
So how do we maintain this delicate balance between security and the desire for growth and change?
Studies suggest that approximately ninety percent of our fears are assumptions that never materialize.
The most important thing to remember is that fear and stress are often just a product of our thinking based on past experience and not a real danger. If we learn to recognize when the reptilian or mammalian brain is “freaking out” unnecessarily, it will be easier for us to overcome fear and insecurity and go after our dreams and fulfill our resolutions. Meditation, detachment and breathing exercises will help us to be clear in our minds.
Don’t panic, Bruno!
How our mind works:
Our mind likes routine and reacts according to our experience stored in the subconscious. It is always the first to offer a solution based on what it already knows. It evaluates everything new as a potential threat. New inspirations, ideas that have little to do with our experience, come to us in moments of calm, which we achieve, for example, by walking, breathing exercises, relaxation, etc.
Life coach Rupda recommends naming this “protectionist” part of our mind. She herself calls it Bruno and communicates with it as if it were a living being or a small child that needs to be reassured that everything will be all right. “Sometimes I uncompromisingly chase Bruno off to the moon where he belongs – for example, when he starts telling me that I don’t have the skills to do what I want to do, that it’s better to wait until tomorrow, that it’s all nonsense, and so on.” Does that sound familiar?
Act before you count to five
Mel Robbins, American motivator and author of The 5 Second Rule, recommends acting within five seconds – that is, before the protective part of our mind kicks in and uncompromisingly rejects the idea you would like to implement.
For example, if you set your alarm half an hour earlier with the intention of exercising before going to work, you have to wake up within five seconds – before your mind and instincts talk you out of it.
When you get moving in those five seconds, you get physical activity on your side, which (as we have written in previous articles) can change how we think and feel. The mind goes from boycott to adaptation to the new situation and you will have almost won. Well, almost.
Blood, sweat and tears
Of course, any change in our behaviour requires increased effort. It’s like walking through a solid armoured door, which we have to lean heavily against to open at all.
According to neuroscientist Dr. Andrew Huberman, during these often arduous moments of doubt, it helps if we appreciate ourselves in these efforts and say to ourselves – it’s okay, I’m on the right track, everything is actually going as it should.
“This inner self-appreciation is more powerful than external rewards such as recognition from others, food, money, etc. It is a sustainable source of fuel that will give us the strength to carry on in moments of frustration.” says Andrew Huberman, who in his lab studies the effect of mind-set on dopamine production, etc.
Mood follows action
Many of us put off action until we are in the mood and have the energy. They try to think positive because they believe that is what will help them change.
However, Andrew Huberman came to a similar conclusion in his research as Mel Robbins did – that good mood, energy and positive thoughts come only after we take action and start moving forward in small steps – towards a goal that is often still far away. But don’t wait until you’ve reached the final milestone to appreciate yourself, celebrate each small milestone as you go along.
It’s exactly the opposite of what most of us think – if we change our behaviour, then our thoughts, feelings and perceptions change.
So, whether you’re planning to learn a new language, start exercising, or address someone you like, you know what to do: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 GO!
Do what you love
We often hear that the zest for life will come when we do mainly that, which we enjoy. Certainly, the level of motivation is important, because the door we need to open is not that heavy. So, if you are looking for exercise that you enjoy, try a scooter. It brings joy, not only to children, but also to adults.