A PIECE OF MY MIND

Here you will find this month's newsletter.
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I want to start by saying that explanations have their place and sometimes they are important and necessary. But sometimes there are too many explanations. And it can sometimes do more harm than good.
 
Let's take an example. You forgot to call a friend you promised. Once it hits you, what do you do? Do you say sorry, I forgot and add an explanation? Is the explanation/excuse reasonable, or do you add it to cover up the fact that you actually forgot? Common and very human thing to do.
 
But… when you explain, it starts to be about you. The recipient doesn’t always feel the excuse. You think the explanation is a part of the excuse, but often it's mostly about you protecting yourself, covering up or making yourself look good.   
 
Explaining can easily become an excuse to avoid taking responsibility. It’s not you who made the mistake, there is an explanation, a reason why it turned out the way it did. As a recipient, it doesn’t feel good. A better response is to own the mistake and just say sorry, I made a mistake. It is straight-backed and genuine.

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If you haven’t seen the movie "Don’t look up" which shows on Netflix, do it. It is a hysterical movie about an asteroid that is on its way to Earth and man's total denial of the threat of extinction. One can easily draw parallels with climate change and emissions.
 
If you watch the movie, or at least the trailer, the natural question will be "how can so many people close their eyes when everything it's going to h*ll"? According to Sébastien Bohler, author and specialist in molecular neurobiology, it’s the brain's pleasure and reward center that is the troublemaker here. Its task is to ensure that we move forward day by day, instead of planning for the future. Much like when we lived tens of thousands of years ago and the most important thing was to survive the day. Our brain hasn’t been significantly updated. So even though our brain has evolved evolutionarily with a front part, the neocortex, with an intellect that understands that we need to plan ahead and make wise choices for our future to be better, this more long-term intellect competes with our reward center that shoots out the reward hormone dopamine. It's easy for us to become addicted to the fast kicks. Everything should happen quickly, here and now.
 
Dopamine itself is not bad, it helps us to experience pleasure, satisfaction and motivation. Like when you have succeeded in something and you feel satisfied, it’s the dopamine that flows in the brain. The problem arises when we become addicted to the kicks and can’t wait for the reward that comes later, or when we can’t think wisely today to create a better future. Due to the brain's tug of war between the will to do the right thing and the desire for reward, we will always be inconsistent and alternate between one moment sorting garbage in the right container, and the next moment indulging in a trip to Spain that eats up our entire carbon budget for the year.
 
If you regularly increase your dopamine levels, it will be easier for you to also persevere and fight for the more long-term goals. You can increase dopamine quite naturally with:
 

  • Exercise
  • Cold showers
  • Massage
  • Good sleep
  • Listen to music
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We go on autopilot several times during the day and that is completely normal. Your brain always saves energy for future needs, and does so by automating and simplifying most of what you do. This is called your default mode network (DMN) or autopilot. Your autopilot is very good to have, so you don’t have to think about everything. Imagine if every time you brushed your teeth you would have to think about how you held the toothbrush. Or which leg should go first in each trouser leg. Or how to turn on the coffee maker. Or how to open the front door. Your subconscious mind allows you to do lots of things on autopilot, otherwise you would have zero energy left in your brain.
 
The problem is not that we automate, but when we go on autopilot most of the time. That's when we are not present, we can’t make conscious choices and we get stuck in a route or certain reactions. As you become more self-aware, you can start noticing when you are on autopilot and when you need to get back to the present.
 
Signs of being on autopilot

  • You do what you are supposed to, but are not present in everyday life. You are not growing and your decisions are not well thought out.
  • You wake up in the morning and are overwhelmed, stressed and unprepared for the day.
  • You are always on your mobile phone. It’s the first thing you check in the morning, you scroll through social media and e-mail many times during the day and the mobile phone is the last thing you see before you fall asleep in the evening.
  • You dwell on the past. You often think about the mistakes you have made, what you regret and "what if…."
  • You have a hard time remembering simple things, because you are not present. Where did I put the keys? Did I close the door or not? What did she say?
  • You often think negatively about yourself in different situations, it happens automatically. You criticize yourself, belittle yourself and don’t think you can handle things. You rarely think of something positive about yourself, because the negative is automated.
  • You are not present in the room. You are there physically, but mentally you are somewhere else.

 

How can you get out of your autopilot?
  1. The first step is to realize when you are in autopilot.
  2. Be more present in what you do and around your choices.
  3. Connect with yourself by moving your body, meditation or breathing.
  4. Say STOP to yourself as soon as you notice that you are on autopilot, slow down for a minute and really think and feel, then choose a new route.
  5. Understand that you need to do this over and over again, every day, until you become so aware when you’re on autopilot that you can stop it before it happens.
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Now that Christmas is approaching, many people feel extra stressed. Christmas presents are to be bought, we want to finish our projects at work and we want to clean the house a little extra before the family reunion. But this stress doesn’t have to be negative. You need to dispel the myth that the most important thing is a calm nervous system.
 
A healthy nervous system isn’t always calm and relaxed. It’s flexible and adaptable. It can come back to a calm state after a stressful situation.
 
So when you stand up for yourself, or raise your hand to speak at a meeting, or rush to catch the train, your sympathetic nervous system is switched ON. The vagal brake (the vagus nerve) then helps you to return to the green zone again, after the choir or challenge is completed.
 
The problem is that if you frequently are in this stressful state, the nervous system keeps the stress responses activated. You’re switch ON gets stuck, the vagal brake that slows you down stops functioning in a good way and you lose the ability to feel safe, and to rest and repair. This can trigger anxiety, irritation, exhaustion, or the feeling of being speed.
 
Since you can’t be relaxed all the time, teaching your nervous system to build resilience and helping it to go back to the green zone after a stress response is the most important thing.
 
How do you do this?
Here are 3 examples of how you can do it:

  • One way is to consciously push yourself outside your comfort zone. Cold showers, like my trainer Wim Hof does. I highly recommend it.
  • Move/exercise every day.
  • Heartflow Breathing.
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The best way to predict your future, is to create it
 
Visualizing your future – the day, a meeting, a situation, a year from now – is very efficient in creating your own future. Even Navy SEALs, the US Navy's toughest guys and one of the world's toughest elite troops, often brought in for impossibly difficult assignments, learn to visualize how they succeed in their challenges and the steps they take toward their goals.
 
Mentally rehearsing your future, rehearsing THE ACTION of what you want, is going to help you create your own future. Why is it so effective? Because the brain doesn’t know the difference between what you are imagining and what you are experiencing in the world.
 
The brain is a predictor. The brain gets information from the senses and through sensations from the body. The brain doesn’t have access to the causes, only the effects. The brain has to guess about the causes, so it uses past experiences as a reference point. Then the brain reacts accordingly to these predictions. This is why we often are stuck in a route. Our brain predicts what is going to happen, and then uses the same reactions and coping mechanisms as in the past and therefore creating the same future over and over again.
 
If you instead teach your brain/body how you ACT to get the results, and how the future FEELS like, ahead of the actual event happening, you will create the power to move forward.
 
Here is where most of us twist things around. We wait for something outside of us to make us feel good on the inside. We say “when I’m in a relationship, I will be happy” or “when I get this job, I will feel good about myself” You can’t wait for a relationship to feel love, or a job to feel successful. When you start to feel love, abundance, wholeness, successful IN THE MOMENT, you cause an effect. When you visualize, you use your brain as a map of the future. You will become a creator of your world, your future.
 
Every morning, VISUALIZE for 1 minute how you want to ACT during the day, or in life generally. See yourself doing the things that lead you to your goal or your future self. Then add FEELINGS. How does it feel to be that person, doing your thing? After the visualization, go to the mirror and “high-five” yourself for being the creator.
 

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