Homeschooling Teen

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Having a Bad Day? Retrain Your Brain!

By Diann B.

Have you ever had everything go “off course,” “haywire,” or “wrong,” when you had the best hopes and plans for the day? Have you ever noticed that most of your problems stem from… PEOPLE!

Much research online has led me to learn more about the brain than I ever knew before. All I can say is that it is a most complex, amazing organ – when it works right. However, studies are showing that even when the brain is affected by strokes, injuries, etc., it has the capability to be rewired and reprogrammed.

It is also possible for those without any serious physical issues with the brain – such as individuals with ADHD, anxiety, anger, etc. – to do things to change the way their brain receives and reacts to input. This process is referred to as neuroplasticity.

Our Brain’s Negative Bias

Believe it or not, the brain is actually programmed for NEGATIVITY. No matter whether you are a pessimist or an optimist, everyone’s brain is wired with a greater sensitivity to negative stimuli. The brain quickly picks up on anything negative which then sticks like VELCRO.

The daily news is continuous negative input for the brain with all the violence, tragedies, killings, accidents, etc. But one can control that. The best thing to do is simply turn off the TV! We have always muted the commercials; now it has also become necessary to block out the news negativity from entering our brain.

On a computer or mobile device, one can also choose more positive input in place of negative input. Are people bugging you on Facebook? Turn off your notifications, or maybe there’s someone you want to block completely, and that’s okay – it’s best for your own sanity!

Be alert for when negativity is entering your personal space and do not let your brain become emotionally involved with it. When aware, let it pass by or just let it be. Say to yourself, “There it goes – trying to suck me into the abyss of negative thoughts. I am not going to let that happen.”

Think on These Things

The brain can be retrained to have resistance to negative stuff. But it needs practice to be more aware that there ARE positive things in our environment (both small and large). Just think of your favorite things. Remember this song from The Sound of Music?

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens,
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens,
Brown paper packages tied up with strings,
These are a few of my favorite things.
Cream colored ponies and crisp apple streudels,
Doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles,
Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings,
These are a few of my favorite things.
Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes,
Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes,
Silver white winters that melt into springs,
These are a few of my favorite things…
When the dog bites
When the bee stings
When I’m feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don’t feel so bad.

That’s great advice! Even the Bible tells us to take control of our thinking and to focus on the positive:

Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—think on these things(Philippians 4:8).

What this means is, among other things, don’t dwell on mean people – they’re not worth it. Instead, think of those who are nice to you and have done you a favor.

“What you resist, persists.” –Carl Jung, psychologist

As you actively try to think of good things, do not try to fight or prevent negative thoughts. Because by concentrating on what we don’t want, we only end up focusing more attention on it.

But when you do have negative thoughts, practice re-focusing your mind (brain) on something more pleasant TO YOU. Listen to your favorite music, look at cute kitten pictures, watch an uplifting movie, read a motivational book, take a walk in the park, go for a bike ride.

Food for Thought

This is amazing and mind boggling when one thinks about it! Every person on the earth is different. Every person is different from you. Every person has their own unique brain. Every person has their own individual thoughts. As we proceed through life, our thoughts obviously become influenced by a variety of things which adds to more differences. Plus, our brains can react differently to different situations.

So, the challenge we face is in accepting, understanding, and refuting the thoughts and ideas of all the people with brains so different than ours. If we look at most of the daily life situations that arise causing disagreements, friction, aggravation, etc., most of it due to having different thoughts (which become opinions) because we have different brains.

Be a Neutral Observer

We need to become more of an impersonal observer of people, rather than be emotionally drawn in to “battle” as a participant. The brain quickly and easily starts to “have a party” at our expense. This not only wastes our valuable time but can affect our mental and physical health.

Pretend that you are a researcher simply observing the behavior of say, students in a school setting, just as a naturalist would watch an animal in the forest. Challenge yourself to look at each person through the eyes of an impartial observer – to retrain your brain NOT to latch on to their negative comments or actions like Velcro!

Obviously, it’s best to start the process when one is young. The more set your brain is, the harder the process. But brain studies show it can be done with intention, attention, and practice. I am going to give it a try anyway!

How about you?

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