What You Need to Know About Your Amazing Brain – Part II

by Stephen Mills on April 21, 2009

Brain Science

This continues the article that started with What You Need to Know About Your Amazing Brain.  Please read that article first and come back to this one.  Below you will find eight more amazing things you need to know about your brain.  Knowing your brain will give you the keys to ultimate success in every area of your life.

9 – Your Non-Conscious Brain Speaks Physical

When you are taking a shower and that brilliant insight comes to you, that is your non-conscious brain delivering up to your conscious brain the solution to something it has been working on.  The same thing happens to most of us when we wake up in the middle of the night with a bunch of new ideas.  For me personally it happens a lot of times when I am driving during a commute.

However, in our modern hyperactive world, our conscious brains are often so busy that the non-conscious brain can’t get through verbally.  The non-conscious brain does speak to us all the time though, and it does so very often when we are actively thinking with our conscious brain.  It does this through physical manifestations.  These are most commonly:

  • Flushing
  • Furrowed brow
  • Eyebrow drooping
  • Headache
  • Stomach acid
  • Confusion
  • Insomnia
  • Nervousness
  • Sweating
  • Accelerated heart beat
  • Accelerated breathing

What This Means to You:

You must pay careful attention to how your body is speaking to you because it is the mouth of your non-conscious brain when you are too busy to listen.  In part I, What You Need to Know About Your Amazing Brain, I discussed how powerful your non-conscious brain is.  So even if does not speak to you in words, you must learn to listen to it by paying attention to your physical reactions while you are thinking or doing something.  Often times your non-conscious brain is warning you about something.  Check out this article: When Your Inner Voice Speaks Do You Listen?

In some of the techniques I will give you I will be talking about how to guide your non-conscious brain.  You must learn to pay attention to these physical signals because they are often telling you that your non-conscious brain believes something or has a goal that is inconsistent with your conscious goals.  Your non-conscious brain will win every time so you must fix this.

Sometimes you can learn what it is saying to you by relaxing or meditating and focusing on the physical manifestation that occurred.  Sometimes, but not always, if you relax your conscious mind at the right time, the unconscious mind will send up the answer in the form of thoughts.

10 – Your Thoughts Are Physical

Every thought you have is a release of chemicals in your brain which triggers electrical activity in your neuronal axes.  That’s how your brain works.  Your thoughts change your brain.  Your thoughts affect your body.  You body affects your thoughts.  Everything you do to one affects the other.  You are an integrated physical whole.

Have you ever gotten angry and felt the throbbing in your head or the burning in your stomach?  Of course you have.  Thinking also uses a ton of energy and tires you out.  Thinking is a physical action just like any other action.

Whatever you believe about where you came from and where you are going, for the duration of time you have a physical body, your thoughts are physical.  They are things and those things matter a great deal.  This doesn’t mean you can’t connect to something bigger.  Maybe you can, but the domain I’m concerned with here is the physical activity in your brain.

What This Means to You:

You have to take care of your thoughts just like you have to take care of everything else in your body.  If you abuse your lungs, you will pay the price.  If you abuse your thoughts you will destroy your life.  Those physical thoughts in your brain are the ultimate root cause of everything.  Control your thoughts and you will control your life. Remember 5/6 of your thinking is non-conscious so you must control your non-conscious thoughts too.  Change your thoughts and you will change your life.  Be careless with your thoughts and you are risking your life.

11 – Emotions Make Memories

Some memories seem “burned” into your brain right?  You’ll never forget them.  It is highly likely those memories are associated with some kind of emotional event in your life.  Emotions, especially positive ones, release chemicals in your brain that make your memories stronger, easier to recall, and longer lasting.  Some negative emotions such as sadness also make strong memories.  Adrenaline associated with good or bad emotions strengthens memories.

Fear is a memory killer.  In extreme cases it completely freezes you.  Stress inhibits memory formation; as if we needed another reason to avoid stress.  Stress is also an area where we find a sex difference.  Small amounts of stress will actually improve memory formation in men, but even small amounts will interfere with it in women.  Since I don’t know what “small” means, I choose to avoid stress if I can.

What This Means to You:

You will remember and learn much better in an emotional state than in a blah state.  Happiness, excitement, love, and other positive emotions are ideal for generating lasting memories.  While sadness helps, I wouldn’t recommend you generate feelings of sadness in order to learn.  That’s got to have other negative impact. Stress strongly inhibits quality memories so cram studying under stress is NOT a good way to learn.

To enhance you learning and memory, generate a positive emotional state just prior to learning something new.  Doug Bench calls this “Triggering a Thunderstorm” of emotion.  I love the way that sounds.  I suggest loving-kindness or mindful meditation.  Laughing is an excellent way to improve your brain function.  Do whatever you want to generate positive emotions.  The more intense and visual the better.  Then learn, learn, learn.

12 – You Don’t Take in New Information While You Sleep

Don’t bother with high-priced subliminal courses that claim to teach while you are asleep.  Studies show they don’t work and the scientists can see why by watching your brain during attempted sleep learning.  Structures in the brain deflect new information so it can consolidate and organize the day’s information.  Interestingly while you sleep your brain stores long term memories for things it deems important and weakens those connections it considers unimportant.  So sleep doesn’t improve everything, it only improves what your brain thinks is should improve.

You may think they these learn-while-you-sleep courses work but they don’t.  One reason you think they work is because right before you go to sleep is by far the best time to learn.  That 30 minute period right before you fall asleep is prime time.  Maybe some people who are using these courses are learning so much from this time period that they assume the audio is having an effect all night.  It’s not.  The next best time to learn is the 30 minute period right after you wake up.

What This Means to You:

You have one hour a day that memories and learning are significantly enhanced.  The 30 minute time periods right before you go to sleep and right after you wake up should be utilized.  I know many people recommend winding down and doing nothing in the hour or so before bedtime, but I don’t recommend giving up this wonderful time period.  The science is clear.  Why don’t you use it to visualize your dreams at least?  They will be more vivid and powerful as a result

13 – Your Brain on Water

If you are 10% dehydrated the ability of your neurotransmitters to cross the synaptic gap is reduced by 50%. At least that’s what Doug Bench claims.  Regardless, everyone agrees that dehydration impacts the brain’s ability to function.  That’s scary because you do not get thirsty until you are somewhat dehydrated.  All levels of dehydration degrade your brain function.  Keep in mind your brain operates your physical body and so things like movement and coordination are also impacted by even slight levels of dehydration.

What This Means to You:

You need to drink all day every day if you want a maximally functioning brain.  Personally I follow the drink water every hour recommendation.  While the amount of water needed by each person is highly variable, I think the best general rule I usually see recommended is drink ounces equal to 1/2 your body weight in bounds.  So a 160 pound person would need to drink about 80 ounces of water per day.  Increase this if you engage in a lot of physical activity, live in a very warm climate, or sweat a lot.

14 – Light Up Your Brain.

In The Sun is Critical to Your Sleep, I discussed how important sunlight is to your sleep cycle.  Well the news is that it is important to your brain function in other ways as well.  What has been discovered is that early morning light improves test scores.  People score better on mental test the brighter the light they are exposed to in the morning.  Strangely this impact is not seen in the afternoon.  Nobody knows why.

What This Means to You:

Bright indoor light is better than dim indoor light and sunlight is the best of all by far.  I walk in the sunshine every morning if possible.  Even overcast days outside provide twice as much healthy light as bright indoor lighting.  In general sunshine is about 10 to 20 times as strong as indoor lighting.  We did not develop with incandescent lighting.  Our brains developed outdoors.  Light up your brain and light up your life!

15 – Your Reticular Activating System (RAS)

I’m sure you’ve all had this experience.  There is a conversation going on near you that you are paying no attention to.  You are not consciously aware of it.  All of a sudden you hear you name spoken.  How did that happen?

Here’s another one.  You buy a new car.  You are so happy and so proud of it.  All of a sudden you notice a lot of other people have the same car.  They may even have the same color.  What is going on here?

Your brain contains bundles of nerves that are known collectively as the RAS.  One job of your RAS is to monitor sensory stimuli and filter out what is not important to you.  If your RAS detects something in your environment that it thinks is important it will arouse you and direct your attention to that fact.

What This Means to You:

Oh boy this one is important!  If you program your mind correctly, your RAS will be on the constant look out for things that are important to you and will make you notice them.  It will bring them directly to your conscious attention.  When you have your non-conscious brain looking for ways to achieve your goals, you will be amazed at the opportunities that just seem to come out of nowhere.  The will appear all around you just like copies of your new car.

I will get to the techniques for this later, but in general you visualize and dream your dreams.  You ratchet this up with vivid detail and emotion and program your RAS to be on the constant look out for opportunities.  It is powerful stuff.

16 – You Have Been Infested With ANT’s

Huh? Automatic Negative Thoughts.  Daniel Amen, a wonderful writer and researcher came up with this.  He says just like ants at a picnic, ANT’s in your head can ruin your day.  We developed in a dangerous physical environment.  Because of that we have been selected to be highly negative and avoid risks.  Those who were always on the alert for something dangerous or something bad were those that survived to pass their genes on to you and me.  Those who took risks were eaten.  Studies show ANT’s are about 80% of your thoughts.

Dr. Amen identifies nine different species of ANT:

  1. Always Thinking: Over generalizing a situation and starting thoughts with words like always, never, everyone, every time
  2. Focusing on the Negative: Preoccupying yourself with what’s going wrong in a situation and ignoring everything that could be construed as positive
  3. Fortune-telling: Predicting the future in a negative way
  4. Mind Reading: Arbitrarily believing you know what another person thinks, even though they have not told you
  5. Thinking with Your Feelings: Believing your negative feelings without ever questioning them
  6. Guilt Beatings: Thinking with words like should, must, ought or have to that produce feelings of guilt
  7. Labeling: Attaching a negative label to yourself or others
  8. Personalization: Allowing innocuous events to take on a personal meaning
  9. Blame: Blaming other people for the problems in your life

What This Means to You:

That may have been good for caveman, but it is not good for you and me our very safe physical world.  Those same brain tendencies that kept our remote ancestors safe and always on the lookout for the negative, keep us in our daily ruts and comfort zones.  So we need to take the advice of Daniel Amen and STOP THOSE ANT’S!

Next up:  Techniques

The next article will contain some of the techniques I have learned to help program your non-conscious brain.  Stay tuned…

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What You Need to Know About Your Amazing Brain – Part II — The Rat Race Trap
April 21, 2009 at 12:20 pm
Harness the Power of Your Subconscious Mind by Changing Your Inner State — The Rat Race Trap
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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Jonathan - Advanced Life Skills April 21, 2009 at 2:29 pm

Stephen, this is so good I hardly know where to start. The way you made practical application for each point was extremely valuable. A couple of points that I really appreciated where the ones on emotions and sunshine.

Researchers say that one of the reasons women tend to have better memories than men (speaking generally of course) is because they attach emotional significance to events more than men do. This gives the memories of these events a higher priority than those lacking the emotional component.

Science now recognizes that sunshine is the only source of biophotons. This biophoton light is stored in the DNA molecules of the cells of the organism. There they produce a dynamic web of light that is constantly released and absorbed by the DNA which may serve as the organism’s main communication network and as the principal regulating instance for all life processes.

Reply

Roger | A Content Life April 21, 2009 at 4:30 pm

This is a great series!

I think meditation calms my mind enough that non-conscious thoughts have an opportunity to arise. At least, that has been my experience.

Reply

Tracy April 21, 2009 at 11:13 pm

The ANTS made me laugh, because that’s what I’m working on right now.

It’s amazing how much light affects our mood and functioning. Even my small children get out of sorts if we have too many days of dark, gloomy weather. There is nothing better for my mood than waking up on a bright sunny day and getting outside!

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Stephen Mills April 22, 2009 at 6:40 am

@Jonathan, thanks for your comments. I have not heard of the biophotons before but you have certainly piqued my interest in them. I believe the sunshine has had a major impact on how I feel.

@Roger, that’s fantastic. I hope to become an expert at meditation someday.

@Tracy, I’m with you on the sunshine. It’s something we seem to ignore in our modern techno-world. When I was a kid we played outside. That seems to happen less and less nowadays.

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Joe April 22, 2009 at 3:43 pm

This post is extremely thorough! I myself always notice that my best ideas pop up in bed or in the shower, as you mentioned.

In regards to the section about sunlight and sleep, I’m interested to know if you’re familiar at all with polyphasic sleep schedules. It’s a complicated process to explain quickly so I’ll spare the details, but overall, it does not follow the standard binary system of sleep. It’d be a worthwhile study to see the effects of morning sunlight on those who sleep polyphasically.

I really liked this post, and I hope that you keep up the excellent work!

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Jens Upton April 22, 2009 at 5:14 pm

Hiya

Marvellous post with lots of useful stuff.
Emotions certainly make memories and are ‘active’ in every conscious experience (in my opinion). We may intellectually separate the mind, body and emotions but realistically the experience is that they’re integrated.
The ANTs section alone is enough to highlight possible areas for a positive change.

Thanks
Jens

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Alik Levin | PracticeThis.com April 22, 2009 at 7:37 pm

Incredible stuff and enjoyable reading!
Cannot wait for the next part, the techniques 😉

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Ken April 28, 2009 at 2:36 pm

Great stuff, It is so good I hope you don’t mind if I put a link from my blog to yours.

Reply

Stephen Mills April 28, 2009 at 6:31 pm

@Ken, Of course not. I would love it, thanks!

@Alik, thanks.

@Jens, thanks for your comments. I love to stomp the ants with emotion. 🙂

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Sandeep August 28, 2009 at 3:41 am

Stephen, This is very interesting view point. I am trying to locate an area in brain which raises negative thoughts. If we can visualise that area physically, we can control it. Its also strange how we swing between same thought as positive aand negative. For e.g. before any travel, my brain sends me all possible worst messages, starting from missing family, never be able to see them again to plane crash etc. Once i reach the desitination, i am overjoyed and more than gald to be there. If I have better control on my negative thoughts, i might enjoy my journey more. This could be true for every activity in our lives. I also belive that we need to keep speaking to our sub-cousious mind. Instruct it to find solutions, and to my experience it works most of the times. Very helpful incase one has repeated problems like, for e.g. health. Instruct your brain, that it has to do everything neede to repair your body..do it every day…and results at times are positively surprising. Cheers Sir. Looking forward to reading more from you…..

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JaydotSee December 1, 2009 at 8:28 pm

Hi, great articles. I’m just wondering if you have written the article on the techniques? Thanks

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Irene November 19, 2011 at 7:56 pm

Thank you for the very informative articles. I’m in the process of changing my thought process because I tend to think negatively and it is affecting my decisions unfavorably. I have a better understanding now of how the brain works. I am trying relentlessly to change the way I think and the ANTS is a very good guideline.

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