Did you know that your brain controls more than just your thoughts?
It has an impact on your overall health as well. And, what you allow your brain to dwell on matters. Yes, you should be diligent about hand washing, disinfecting and social distancing right now– but are you also being as diligent about what you allow yourself to think about? This is why when you harness your thinking in the right way you will experience a more holistic mind and body.
Our brains are constantly scanning our environments – trying to assess whether we feel safe or threatened. And our brain doesn’t differentiate between physical safety and emotional safety. Listening to news updates, feeling concern for the elderly and those more susceptible, seeing the economic impact across all sectors – especially small business owners, fear of the unknown, and a plethora of other concerns, are all very legitimate and real as we step into unfamiliar territories.
“Fear creates a chemical release of cortisol. This affects your ability to think rationally, and controls how effectively your physical body is performing and maintaining your overall health.“
As you navigate your concerns; I would encourage you to try and ‘think about your thinking’. Fear creates a chemical release of cortisol. This affects your ability to think rationally, and controls how effectively your physical body is performing and maintaining your overall health. David Rock, co-founder of the Neuroleadership Institute gave insight into this topic in a recent post: Why You Should Stop Obsessing About Coronavirus News, and How to Do It. It talks about the long-term health effects for those who were not directly involved in a crisis but have absorbed a lot of media coverage around the event. One study ‘found that after the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013, people who reported the highest media exposure also reported a higher level of acute stress than those who were actually there.’ Media coverage and information are important – but we need to control our obsession. Rock’s advice is to limit your COVID-19 media consumption to 10 minutes a day – not 10 minutes an hour.
How do we do this? How do we try to keep our cortisol levels under control? It’s not easy and it’s not our natural tendency – but it can be done. We need to be more intentional about redirecting our thoughts. Here are some ideas to get you started:
Express gratitude. A leader in one of our Become Unmistakable workshops shared that he starts every morning with an email to one of his team members – thanking them for the work they are doing or sharing something he appreciates about them. What a great habit for all of us to practice! Gratitude creates a release of dopamine – having the opposite effect of cortisol. Not only is he raising his dopamine level, but that of his team member as well.
Seek human connection. As more of us are working from home – be quicker to use some type of video conferencing as opposed to just audio. Our brains desire social connection – but we can still do that from a distance. Being able to see the face of the person you are talking with adds another component to the relationship and affects how connected we feel to each other. Also – don’t just connect on business matters. Take time to connect personally in the meeting as well.
Create positive experiences. Spend intentional time focusing on those in your home and creating happy memories. Turn off the news, play games, draw pictures, share interesting stories from your past, dance to your favorite music, linger over a meal, watch a movie together – whatever you can do to deepen those relationships with those most dear to you. Our friends and families need space from the difficult news conversations as well.
Do something for someone else. Volunteering is a natural dopamine hit. There are still things we all can do right now to help those less fortunate – while still keeping social distance. Facetime a family member you haven’t connected within a while, connect with local non-profits to see what help you might be able to offer, write letters to our military servicemen and women, send a thank you to someone who has impacted your life – find a way to bring hope and healing to others.
Get outdoors! We have such beauty around us – and there is plenty of room to stay in safe ‘social distance’ from others. Talk a long walk, get some exercise, be intentional about noticing things you may have not noticed before. All of these are healthy brain habits.
If we all just take one more step towards a more intentional thought process, perhaps we can all become a better version of ourselves through these changing times.