Discover Your Brain Strengths to Navigate Life
Do you experience internal resistance to engagement with certain activities, and find yourself pushing back or procrastinating? Examples include dealing with relationship conflict, finding a new job, saving money, starting an exercise program, public speaking, organizing a closet, or enrolling in a self-improvement course. Why do you push back on some things, but others come easily and naturally? Practical neuroscience provides understanding and solutions that help overcome resistance to accomplishing important things in your life.
The Pleasure-Memory Connection
Dr. Arych Routhenber, neuroscientist from Northwestern University, says that the brain reward pathways play an important role in learning and memory. He was one of the first to discover that the pathways that generate pleasure-producing endorphins are also the same centers for locking in memory. Most people verify that they most easily remember and recall events and situations where they experienced strong, positive emotions.
The greater the pleasure and reward, the stronger the memories are likely to be. Positive and pleasant memories are created when solving problems successfully, overcoming challenges, enjoying a wonderful meal, maybe experiencing your first kiss, learning something new, or making satisfying changes in your life. The pleasure reward mechanism can also be activated by environmental elements like an inspiring nature scene, art, or music, present while you are doing or experiencing something. Extrinsic rewards like money, acknowledgment, kind words, seeing smiling faces, receiving a pat on the back, or hearing a of round of applause all activate your pleasure-memory mechanism. The type and source of the reward is not important, only that the pleasure is registered and valued in your brain.
All people have things they don’t want to do, prompting them to push back. It’s likely that you have negative emotions associated with what you don’t want to do. These emotions may be real and should be honored; or, perhaps, they are imaginary and stem from false programming and mistaken experiences. The natures of the feelings associated with your thoughts drive your willingness or resistance to doing certain things. The following practical neuroscience steps help you gain clarity on your thoughts and feelings, make intelligent decisions, and remove obstacles for positive life changes.
1. Establish value and desired outcomes.
It’s best to first establish the value and desired outcomes to build the foundation for motivation, action, and new positive behaviors. Why would you engage in changing a mindset or commencing on new life pathways unless there were redeeming rewards, intrinsic and/or extrinsic? This first step is essential to making a conscious decision if you really want to expend time and energy to change your life. It may be that the subject you are resisting has adverse consequences and low value; if this is the case, you can get this subject off your plate in a guilt-free manner. Conversely, the outcomes may be highly advantageous; then, the remaining step is to remove the obstacles. These defining questions guide you through the process of establishing value:
2. Activate your pleasure-memory connection before taking outward action.
World-class athletes and coaches know that practicing in their “mind’s-eye” yields equal or better results than actually “doing it” physically. The brain can’t tell the difference between what it perceives internally and what is perceived externally. Neuroscientists have conducted brain scans of people imagining moving their finger and compared them with those of people actually doing it; the same region of the brain “lights up” each time.
Doesn’t it make sense that you can use the principle above to activate your pleasure-memory connection before having to move into “outer world” action? It’s like a free trial run or a free taste test that doesn’t require a full commitment. Assuming you’ve decided to remove an obstacle or resistance to something, you have a seemingly magical and safe way to kick-start this natural, practical neuroscience process that gets you rolling forward in the right direction.
You might want to start the process by studying and observing others doing what you want to accomplish; resources include people you know, TV, videos, movies, books, magazines and internet resources. This research gives you ideas, best practices and models-of-excellence to replicate in your mental practice sessions. Get into a quiet, safe and comfortable environment. Close your eyes. See and feel yourself doing the activities with ease and in total flow; imagine having fun. Play some background classical music that calms negative emotions and stimulates your imagination. It’s likely you will automatically start doing the activities naturally in your “outer life” after a couple of “inner world” practice sessions. This process can be applied to virtually anything in your life.
In conclusion, practical neuroscience principles and practices help you overcome obstacles and resistance to making positive changes in your life, allowing joyful engagement in personal improvement programs. The key steps are to decide on the redeeming, long-term value of changing your old and outdated patterns of behavior, followed by practicing new and improved behaviors in your imagination to activate your pleasure-memory connection. This process gives you more of what you really want to improve your quality-of-life.
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