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GBAs and PBAs

May 22, 2022 by  
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Just the other day, I was going through a ton of old stuff of mine. Most of it was old paperwork including my past journals in which I wrote mainly about my thoughts and actions, from work stuff to family trips.

I began reading a journal I wrote between 2003 and 2004. That brought back both good and bad memories. I particularly liked reading of my thoughts when going to a foreign country which always lifts my brain and body. I took my kids and, later, my grandkids on these trips. They were so much fun and always pushed my enjoyment of life to a higher level. It did the same for the kids and grandkids. When I just stay home and do almost nothing, the lack of activity causes me to get depressed.

In my journal, I wrote about Martin Seligman, and was reminded of his advice. Martin Seligman is a psychologist and author who gives talks and writes about positive psychology and what it can do for our well-being. He believes we should follow our passions, the type that takes us away to that wonderful place of total engagement. For me, that is usually writing. Amazingly enough, however, I spend so little time doing it these days!

Seligman believes it is vitally important, especially as an antidote to depression, to engage oneself in activities and projects that challenge us and cause us to think. That effort gratifies us as opposed to activities that take little or no thinking and require very little effort. For me, it is obvious that writing is in the first category of gratification-based activities, or GBA. That second category is pleasure-based activities, or PBA.

Here are two lists — one of gratification-based activities (GBA) and the other of pleasure-based activities (PBA). Which one do you think lifts the mind and body to a higher level?

PBA:

  • Watching T.V.
  • Shopping
  • Drinking at a bar
  • Excessive sleeping
  • Eating favorite foods
  • Back rubs/massages

GBA

  • Writing
  • Reading good books
  • Stimulating conversations
  • Playing tennis
  • Hiking in the mountains
  • Social gatherings

There are lots more on my list, but I don’t want to bore you. I’m sure you can make a great list of your own.

I should note that pleasure-based activities are not necessarily bad. The thing to remember is that when indulging in pleasures, you should try to enhance them by being very mindful and aware of what you’re doing, taking time to savor those pleasurable moments. It also helps to spread out the PBAs as well as change them up to keep them fresh and novel. The brain really loves novelty.

Paying attention to how the things we do in our life lifts our brains and bodies, or doesn’t, can help us to make better choices in how we spend our time. Pleasurable things are nice in the moment, but doing something that leaves us feeling gratified can give us a boost for days, weeks, or even years. We humans can, in fact, choose to change and lift our minds and find greater levels of gratification in so much of what we do.

A Sign for Unconditional Self-Acceptance

May 15, 2022 by  
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A few weeks ago, I wrote about “USA”, an acronym for Unconditional Self-Acceptance, discussing how we should think about what that stands for anytime we are down on ourselves for doing something stupid or worrying about tomorrow. When a psychologist introduced me to that term and encouraged me to think about that when I’m down on myself, I put that to work on my brain. It turned out to be very, very mind boosting.

After a while, however, I realized I wasn’t thinking about that as often as I used to, so I did something to help me remember it, putting it into regular use when needed.

What did I do different? Well, I kept in mind that when I set a goal and write it down, I am so much more likely to work on that goal. I figured I could make writing things down work for this too. I took a large piece of paper and a black magic marker and wrote in big capital letters: USA. I put it on my bedroom wall where I could see it every day, many times a day.

That little step has helped a ton. The human brain can be so fantastic and little things like posting a reminder on my wall really helped my brain to keep it at the front of my mind as well as helping me to not be so hard on myself. 

Yep, positive self-talk is such a great thing for us humans and little things like a piece of paper with a message on it can help more than you might expect.

So, if you are being hard on yourself for some mistake you made, or worrying needlessly about something in the future, just take time to think about “USA”. Go a step further even and post a reminder in a location where you’ll see it often. Go ahead and do it now and see how well that works! 

Slowing Down Time

April 10, 2022 by  
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I don’t know about you, but I am so amazed by how quickly 2021 went by. It was gone in a flash. And now we are almost a quarter of the way through 2022. Why does time seem to go at warp speed these days? Well, there are actually very specific answers to that question and your age has a lot to do with how quickly or slowly time passes for you, but it’s not the whole story.

The speed of time is, for one, perceived quite differently by kids and young people compared to older folks. When we are young, time seemed to go so slowly. Do you remember when you were 15 years old but just months away from turning 16 when you could then drive by yourself? Wow, the time then seemed to slow down so much it almost stopped.

But have you noticed that now, being older time seems to have sped up? I just turned 78 last week, but it seems so much less than one year ago that I cerebrated my 77th birthday. That was a really fast year.

The reason for this has a lot to do with how many new experiences we have. Our brain encodes new experiences differently than familiar ones and our subjective experience of time is tied to the number of new memories we create. The more new experiences we have, the more memories we are storing and the slower time will seem to pass. That does make sense to my brain as I get older and pay attention to my thinking and my life and the speed of our human existence.

In BBC’s Science Focus magazine, Dr. Kit Yates, author of The Math of Life and Death, writes that, “The greater our acquaintance with the routines of everyday life, the quicker we perceive time to pass and, generally, as we age, this familiarity increases.”  

He goes on to say that this theory, “suggests that, in order to make our time last longer, we should fill our lives with new and varied experiences, eschewing the time-sapping routine of the everyday.” I’d like to add that seeking out new and novel experiences is also really great for the health of your brain. It’s even been suggested that the desire to have novel experiences can be a predictor of a healthier, happier, and maybe even longer life.

If you are interested in these challenging ideas that we face as we age, I encourage you to search the internet and find out more about why time passes quicker as we age as well as ideas for adding new experiences to your life so you can slow time down and benefit from a happier and healthier brain.

Keys to a Fit Brain

April 3, 2022 by  
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The human brain really is a very powerful instrument and is used for the most wonderful things, but it also can be very harmful, depending on what you put in it.   

For instance, we can read books that help move us towards our goals in life or that comfort us. Alternately, we could read garbage online that skews what we think or discourages us from even trying to make our dreams a reality. We can choose to be friends with very smart people, allowing us to learn from them and grow from that knowledge. Or we can surround ourselves with people that are vindictive, derogatory, or pessimistic. Which do you think would help your brain and improve your life? That’s easy to figure out.

But even if we read great books and keep the best and most positive people around us, we also need to keep our brains fit and ready to take in all that good stuff that helps us greatly improve our lives. Here’s a few ideas that might be just what you need to keep your brain in great shape.

1. Think about thinking. This is sometimes called metacognition, and it makes you aware of how you learn so you can improve your learning and problem-solving skills.

2. Read books about improving the brain. Just search my blog under the keyword “brain” for my many recommendations.

3. Associate with intelligent people so that you are constantly learning.

4. Look into food and supplements that can help the brain, like gingko biloba or DHEA. Be sure to read up on dosage and side effects as even natural supplements can be dangerous in certain situations. For instance, gingko is a blood thinner which could be a problem if you take a blood thinning medication. Other good supplements include B-complex vitamins, vitamins C, D, and E, magnesium, choline, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids.

5. Meditate. It can help improve your concentration and memory, reduce stress and anxiety and help preserve your brain function as you age.

6. Exercise. Blood flow to the brain is a huge brain helper and exercise increases that blood flow. Running can be great, but if you don’t like running, walking is also tremendously helpful.

Speaking of walking, I have a daily 20,000 step goal and I almost always hit that thanks to the Fit Bit I keep in my pocket. I challenge you to set some walking goals to make you feel better, help your brain and most likely increase your life expectancy! That, along with the stuff listed above, will keep your brain fit and healthy for years to come, if not for the rest of your life!

Our Amazing Brain

March 27, 2022 by  
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Wow, what an incredible machine we all have and often take for granted. I’m talking about the human brain and it does so much more than we fully realize. Even as I write this, I have to stop and take note of the fact that my brain knows where each key on my computer is located to the point that I don’t even have to think about it. Likewise, when we are sleeping, the brain continues to work without our input. Then, when we are awake, we can, again, choose what we want to think about.

When I decide to accomplish a particular thing, I can think about it and set my sights on it, keeping my decision and the steps I need to get there in my mind. I can set a goal with a time frame on it and most of the time I can reach that goal, mainly because of the powerful machine in my head.

When we take a big look at the world, we can see what the human brain has been able to come up with. It came up with the automobile, airplanes, rocket ships, computers, space stations, and even heart replacement surgery! And that’s just a tiny list of the amazing things it can invent.

I’m very, very impressed by the brain’s ability to remember things, especially my wife’s. She remembers everything and with so many details that I am constantly surprised. On the other hand, the older I get, the less my brain remembers, although it’s still amazing.

The change, however, has motivated me to find various methods to kick it into gear. One that works really well for me is when I am trying to remember a person’s name that I haven’t seen or talked to in a very long time. I mentally go through the alphabet and usually, when I come to the first letter of their name, bingo, I remember it. For example, I was trying to think of a tennis friend in Kauai that I hadn’t seen in sometime so I started going through the alphabet and, wow, the first letter did it. His name was Al.

So, how do we wake up the power of our mind and intentionally and productively choose what we think about? To start, we all need to be conscious of what we are putting into our brain. What kind of information do you feed it? Do you give it challenges and problems to figure out to keep it agile? And what do you eat to keep your brain healthy?

There are a lot of ways to support your amazing brain. But the first thing you need to do is decide to intentionally take care of it and make it a priority. Once you’ve done that, be on the lookout for ways to keep it fit, healthy, and amazing.

I’ll talk more about what you can do to keep your brain fit and healthy in next week’s post.

The Mutual Benefits of Writing

January 23, 2022 by  
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Life can be so very interesting and exciting. It’s amazing to me that such a great source of excitement and energy, as well as fascinating discoveries for my brain, comes from just writing. I’ve found, over the years that I’ve been writing, that my words can affect me as much as they can affect any reader.

Whether it’s a book or my weekly blog, and especially if I’m writing about a subject that I’m not very good at or one that I’m not actively doing, I often find that the writing gets me thinking about it, and I begin changing and improving myself. So, not only do I write about it, writing about it makes me do it as well. I’ve said this many times over the years — whenever I preach or write to others, I am also talking to myself!

Whether it’s reading more, exercising, getting more social, or, actually, pretty much anything, I do more of the helpful things I write about after I write about it. I guess the process of writing about a behavior or habit makes an impression on my brain and that little nudge can make a big, big difference in my life. What the brain is reminded of can really make a huge difference in the lives of so many of us humans, including both good and bad things.

I don’t think most of us fully realize the great power of the brain and how we can direct it to help us accomplish almost anything we want to do in our lives. When we spend time writing about a particular subject, our brains take the hint and push us to do more about it. That is one huge benefit we can get from writing. Whether we write it in a letter to someone or in a journal or diary (or, for me, writing in my weekly blog), we usually come to understand and retain that information as well as having a chance to learn a lot about ourselves.

Wow, having now written about all the good stuff writing can do for me, I’ve decided to do a lot more of it. How about you?

That Natural High

November 21, 2021 by  
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I’ve written about my kid brother Scott a lot in the previous few posts. I was with him the last day of his 75 years, but, wow, were those 75 years packed with adventure, excitement and quite a bit of risk! Danger and risk can certainly bring on a big rush, increasing the heart rate and pumping adrenaline into your system. Some people really love that kind of excitement. My brother Scott was one of those people. He loved that adrenaline rush, and he went about his life looking for more of it.

Scott loved being a cop and enjoyed working the shifts that had the most risk and excitement. He loved going after the bad guy, especially the worst of the bad, like Cameron David Bishop who was on the FBI’s most wanted list. Scott and his partner were brave enough, and aware enough, to bust this big-time crook. Yes, it was a high-risk job, and it was very fortunate that neither Scott nor his partner were injured, but these two brave guys brought the bad guy to justice and enjoyed it.

I’m not a person who likes to take the kind of risks that could cost me my life or where I could end up in the hospital. I guess it’s probably a good thing that some people, like my brother, are out there saving us from the bad guys and the terrible things they do. Of course, I do take some risk when it comes to buying certain properties, but I’ve always done a lot of calculations that showed me the financial risk was not great compared to the possible profit and financial gains.

As I mentioned in the last post, Scott wrote a book not long before he died. His book is entitled Cop Living On the Edge and Scott certainly did that. You can tell in his words that he absolutely loved the excitement, risks, and rewards that came with catching criminals. Bringing in the bad guys was very satisfying, as well as being so very helpful to his community, family, and friends.

It may seem odd that anyone would seek out situations that cause fear, but our brains are pretty complex and amazing. If we are faced with a scary situation, our brains can quickly generate the raw energy we need to deal with it. Fear can stimulate the release of endorphins which act on the opiate receptors in our brain, reducing pain and boosting pleasure, giving us a natural high.

However, taking a big, scary risk is not the only way to raise our energy level or get a natural high. Here’s a short list of other things you can do to boost your energy and mood:

1. Positive thinking

2. Being around great people

3. Being very grateful

4. Reading the right books

5. Living in the now

6. Decluttering the mind

7. Getting outside for a walk

8. Having fun

9. Meditation

10. Trying new things

Go ahead and make your own specific list of things that raise your energy and mood. It’ll give you something to turn to next time you crave a natural high.

Controlling the Fear

October 17, 2021 by  
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Last week I wrote a bit about my health problems and going to the hospital over an issue with my cardiovascular system. So this past week, I went through the recommended procedures and was relieved to hear that the doctors didn’t think I needed a stent. Great. I relaxed a bit after that.

But then, a few days later, I was asked to come back to the hospital. The doctors had completed a review and had become concerned. They now wanted to perform a procedure called an angiogram because they had found that the lower chamber of my heart had too many beats for the upper chamber, which, of course, is a problem.

Well, talk about getting nervous, worried, and scared! Man, oh man, my anxiety rose to a new high. I was a wreck.

What pushed my anxiety to a new high level was that I mistakenly thought an angiogram was the same as an MRI. All I could think about was the MRI I went in for about a year earlier. When they put me in the little, tight tube of the MRI machine, I freaked. I told the doctor and assistants that I was getting out as I was claustrophobic. Even though they were very insistent that I should stay in the machine until they were finished, I crawled out anyway.

So here I was last week, facing an angiogram but thinking it was going to be an MRI. My anxiety was through the roof. My own brain was beating me up.

I really do believe that our brains have so much power. It’s amazing. But internal thinking can be a great asset or a huge liability. Our brains can raise our spirits and lift us to a higher and happier place, or it can wreak havoc on our bodies, our souls, and our lives. 

So, I did a lot of thinking about my brain and how my thoughts were hurting me with all this worry. That’s when I realized that if I redirected my brain and thoughts, I could, most likely, get rid of my super high anxiety.

We human beings really do have the power to direct our brains down positive paths, even though it may take some time and a lot of mental work and discipline to do it. But we CAN do it! I did decide to get to work on that, attempting to remove my high anxiety. Soon enough, I found that my work on it was working!

So, I went to the hospital and got my angiogram a few days ago. Wow. My positive thinking really helped me stay calm, plus the angiogram was nothing close to having an MRI. It also turned out to be a great lesson about anxiety, fear and how we can control so much with our brains.

Yes, controlling our emotions takes time and effort, but it is so well worth it. Our brains really can lift our contentment level and make our lives so full of happiness. So, let’s all keep working on getting our brains to totally work for us and not against us!

You Are What You Think You Are

August 29, 2021 by  
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Too many of us stumble through life on one consistently low plane. We see ourselves as failures in the things that really matter. When it comes to high stakes, “Count me out,” we say. “I can succeed at little things, but when the big times come along, I’m a total failure.”

And amazingly, we are right many times. We are what we think we are. We’re much like the fictional character in the novel by Harry Leon Wilson called Bunker Bean. Bunker Bean had a lot of potential locked up inside him, but because it was locked so deep, he didn’t know about it. But then something happened to make Bunker believe in himself, and despite his humble beginnings, he went on to make a fortune, overcoming his fears and weaknesses and becoming a giant of a leader.

Many, if not most people live and die with too small an estimate of their own abilities. As a result, they spend their strength on small tasks and never put their real powers to the test.

So it was with Bunker Bean, at least in the beginning. When Bunker was very young, both his parents died, leaving him alone and friendless in a cold world. As he roamed through his years in rags, living timidly through various terrors, he developed fears of all kinds. He also began to feel inferior because he couldn’t do anything right and his acquaintances made fun of him.

Bunker Bean’s life was one of misery. He was afraid of almost everything—policemen, elevators, streets, social and business situations. He was afraid to make decisions. He was afraid of the future. He was even afraid of himself.

Eventually, Bunker moved into a cheap, rundown boarding house on the unhappy side of town where he met a man who claimed to be a spiritualist medium. This new friend told Bunker that just as we cast off our old shoes and clothes, so we cast off our old bodies when we die; in fact, we are reincarnated as a new person.

The spiritualist was pretty convincing. He was so convincing, in fact, that when he said he had supernatural powers given to him from another world, Bunker believed him and paid his new friend to find out who he was in his previous life. When Bunker was told he had been Napoleon, he totally believed the fake spiritualist. Thinking he had been this great, confident leader in his previous life, he changed to match the image of his prior self which lifted him to a huge and higher life.

I think it’s absolutely incredible how our brains can work to lift us to a much, much higher level of living. Next week I will finish the story of where and how Bunker Bean lifted his life!

Time to Appreciate

August 1, 2021 by  
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As I was walking down our very long driveway to pick up the garbage cans, I looked up at the same sky I see every day, but this time I focused in on the absolutely beautiful blueness and the great billowy white clouds. It almost took my breath away. 

Probably the biggest reason that I was so moved is because for the last few days we’ve had thick, ugly, smoke-filled air caused by the huge fires in the western part of Utah and from all the way over on the west coast. Seeing the beautiful blue sky I had missed over the previous days just made me really appreciate it.

While I admired our clear skies, the thought hit me that there are so many times in our lives that we just take things for granted. The truth is, we often don’t really appreciate them until they are taken away from us.

That was certainly the case for me when the pandemic restrictions started to be pulled back. The lock downs took away my social life and, as I wrote several posts back, the pandemic restrictions made me realize how very important my social life and friends are in my life.

So, up until the day all that dirty air and smoke hit our city and state, I took all that good clean air for granted. Ugh! But now, wow, I notice and totally appreciate our beautiful sky and clear air. 

After this mental breakthrough, I started making a list of the many things I love but don’t always take time to appreciate. Here’s part of that list. The first 6 are all good “F” words:

1. Family, especially my wife

2. Friends

3. Freedom

4. Finances

5. Fun

6. Future

7. Health

8. A brain that works fairly well. (Okay, my wife may dispute that one!)

9. Home

10. Country

11. Nature

12. Kindness

I think I need to make more and more lists and review those lists and on a regular basis. I am sure that will lift my spirts and my life. I would encourage and challenge you to do the same!

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