Suzette Martinez Standring: Befriend your brain: A strategy for coping with chaos
Be positive. Feel joy. Envision success. Sometimes it feels like a prescription of platitudes when bad news besets me on all sides. Lord, help me, and he speaks through science. I need to befriend my brain.
Voila, I give you the human brain, capable of producing both genius or genocide. It’s my choice to work it for the good, and I’m talking about my own good.
Nowadays, threats invade daily when a 24-hour news cycle features terror, abuse, killings, and corruption. I can’t help buying tickets on the guilt trip. For reasons that counseling may uncover with time, everything seems to be my fault, my failure. Why? I don’t do enough. I feel ineffective. I’m overwhelmed.
Science shows that bad news lingers longer than good news in our memories. Why? It’s an ancient survival mechanism designed to save our lives. Fear triggers fight or flight. But most of us don’t need to be adrenalin-fueled every day. Prolonged feelings of, for example, frustration or anxiety can raise blood pressure and a host of reactions that lead to illness.
Is the answer to turn off the TV, and pretend nothing is happening? No.
Befriend your brain, and try detachment, the Buddhists’ mindful approach to struggle. Become the observer without emotional involvement. Know it’s the ego that wants to own success or to suffer failure. It’s not about me. Take right action, work for good, but don’t be consumed by emotion.
Living with frustration or rage can etch themselves into one’s personality. Are you on the way to becoming the neighborhood crank? Instead of dwelling on downers, experience happiness. Laugh with a friend. Enjoy kindred spirits through church, or groups, or socials. Play with a dog. Practice charity. Physically, such actions do raise levels of endorphins and other hormones associated with well-being.
In fact, pleasure, engagement, and having a purpose are cited by psychologist Martin Seligman for increasing life satisfaction. Positive results are measurable.
Last of all, be still my brain. Meditation can change brain waves, leading to a serene outlook and kinder disposition. Controlling the world is an illusion. How’s that working for you anyway? Even though distress causes me to wander far afield, I return to meditation because it works.
I once asked a friend, “What’s the difference between prayer and meditation?”
Her answer is lifelong guidance. “Prayer is when you’re talking to God, telling him what you’re going through, and asking for help. Meditation is when you pipe down and listen to his answer.”
The brain has the amazing ability to reset life toward healing. Stop the chatter-run-amok, distance yourself from negative feelings, and realize control is not yours. Befriend your brain and give God a chance to answer.
— Email Suzette Martinez Standring at firstname.lastname@example.org.