Mind over matter

Learn how to manage your mind to keep it balanced and respondent rather than reactive.

“Mind over matter” is a phrase many have heard and possibly have spoken in an attempt to provide encouragement in others, or to find within yourself the will to persevere. In today’s society, anxiety, fears and negativity seem to be more prevalent or becoming the norm. In the book, Buddha’s Brain - The Practical Neuroscience of, Happiness, Love and Wisdom by Rick Hanson, PH.D. with Richard Mendius, MD, they explain that humans have been suffering since the beginning of time basically from these feelings of fear, anxiety and negativity in a large part because of how the human brain operates. The phrase “dodging sticks” is used to explain how the brain is built more for avoiding than approaching. They listed six ways your brain keeps you avoiding or dodging sticks:

  1. Vigilance and Anxiety: Your brain’s baseline resting state activates a “default network” with one of its functions is to track your environment and body for possible threats. This basic awareness is therefore often accompanied by a background feeling of anxiety that keeps you vigilant.
  2. Sensitivity to Negative Information: The brain typically detects negative information faster than positive information. In other words, the brain is drawn to bad news.
  3. High Priority Storage: The brain is like Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive ones – even through most of our experiences are probably positive.
  4. Negative Trumps Positive: Negative events generally have more impact than positive ones.
  5. Lingering Traces: Even if you’ve unlearned a negative experience, it still leaves an indelible trace in your brain. That residue lies waiting, ready to reactivate if you ever encounter a fear-provoking event like the previous one.
  6. Vicious Cycles: Negative experiences create vicious cycles by making you pessimistic, over reactive, and inclined to go negative.

Having an understanding of the brain and how it is “wired” provides an element of understanding of why we react the way we do. Our brain has a built-in negativity bias that primes us to avoid and “dodge”. This negativity bias fosters and sometimes intensifies other unpleasant emotions, such as anger, sorrow, depression, guilt and shame. This book provides valuable insights to the work that needs to develop around disciplining or brains how to learn, regulate and select rather than react.

Michigan State University Extension has social-emotional health and well-being community-based programming that provides personal and/or professional development on the topics of stress and anger management, bullying, and parenting. Peruse our counties page to find events near you.

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