How can you be your best self if your brain goes on automatic and you become blind to your disempowering habits? It is possible, in just a matter of seconds, to bring “online” the part of your brain that is wise, conscious, alert, and creative.
Before we share tips on how to reboot your brain, let’s take a brief look at your brain’s structure. For simplicity sake, let’s divide the brain into three parts. The brain stem is the lower layer and is the oldest part of your brain, which controls your breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, and sex drive. It is sometimes referred to as the “reptilian brain.”
At the top of the brain stem and broadening out through the middle of your brain is the limbic system, which stores long-term memory and generates strong emotions. Together the brain stem and the limbic system (sometimes called the “old brain”) conspire to spontaneously respond with the “fight-flight-freeze” mechanism.
The third area of the brain is the cerebral cortex. It sets on top of the two inner layers and is the seat of conscious thinking and cognitive functions. When you engage your prefrontal cortex, you are consciously focused on the moment, thinking, planning, and organizing information. This is the part of the brain that is purposeful and self-aware of who you are as a Creator.
When fearful situations arise, your brain stem and limbic system team-up to respond faster than your prefrontal cortex. The “old brain” that overrides the cortex—literally bumping it off line—is a valuable neurological wiring instinct. This “react first and think later” alliance developed over thousands of years to help our ancestors survive dangerous situations. The prefrontal cortex is slower to come online and developed later as a distinguishing characteristic of Homo sapiens.
There’s a second reason why the old brain engages faster than the prefrontal cortex. When there are not enough resources (e.g. proper diet and sleep) available for conscious processing, the brain conserves energy by going on automatic and making decisions based upon old habits and patterns.
This explains why learning something new or thinking about stressful situations can be so exhausting. The brain consumes 20-25% of the body’s energy but is only 2% of the human body mass! In today’s chaotic and fast paced world, stressful situations and new threats appear every day. Just check your news app for the latest list!
This brings us to the point of how to reboot your conscious brain to be the innovative and “at choice” Creator that you really are.
There are a few simple (but not always easy) steps you can practice to reboot and engage your conscious brain:
- When you feel reactive thoughts arising, discipline yourself to pause and consciously bring yourself present to the moment.
- Choose a word that names your feeling. Here’s how it may sound when you pause. “I am noticing I am feeling anxious.” You engage your prefrontal cortex when you differentiate a feeling and select a word that names it.
- Take a deep 3-breath break. The new oxygen molecules will rush to your brain and crowd-out the stress chemicals stimulated from your old brain (Cortisol is the most common).
From an early age, most of us have heard that it is good to “count to ten” before reacting. Neuroscientists have now demonstrated the validity of this old wives’ advice. Try the 1-2-3 reboot process. We believe you will begin to notice how much calmer you feel in situations where you used to get triggered.
When you understand how your brain works, that awareness increases your capacity to choose your response to life events—as the wise Creator you are!