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My Modern Brain

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The Modern Brain – Handle With Care

Good news first:

The Human brain has a lot of “plasticity,” or the ability to change its structure. This is great news if you’ve been suffering from a creative block, a performance block or a mental health issue like anxiety, depression or a substance use disorder (yes, addiction is a mental health issue.) Anyway, I want you to know that even if your brain feels hopelessly stuck, it has amazing capacity to regenerate and compensate for damage it has experienced. Yay!

Now here is the bad news:

Over all, human biological evolution is happening pretty slowly. This includes the evolution of the brain. The collective knowledge and technology of human beings has increased exponentially over the past 120 years. But our brains, sadly, have not evolved nearly as quickly as our technology has developed. We still have basically the same brains that we had 120 years ago, with way more demand on them than we have ever had before. For many of us, this means constant over-stimulation and extreme demands. Here are some examples.

120 years ago, most people slept 10 hours per night. Maybe it was because we had to work harder physically to do basic things, or maybe it was because candles were expensive and gas lights were poor and dangerous. I think that the real reason was because we needed it. And we still do. All of those people saying you only need 7-8 hours of sleep per night? If you are under 25 years old, they are just wrong. The human brain has not fully matured until 24-26 years of age, and the developing brain needs 9-12 hours of sleep per night. If you are over 25 years old, the 7-8 hour mark is likely inadequate as well. Here is why:

The sheer quantity of data that we ask our brains to process in our daily life is immense. We are constantly connected to a seemingly infinite database of information called the Internet. Not to mention the increase in television, streaming video, vast music libraries, billboards and advertisements at every possible moment. And here’s the kicker: these things are engineered by very smart people, who have lots of money to spend on the best research and technology, to catch and hold your brain’s attention. Compared to driving a team of horses through town just a few generations ago, commuting to work in the modern era is like the combination of a concert, a cattle drive and a carnival barker all rolled into one, depending on your radio station. And probably just as physically dangerous, too.stress sleep bills brain anxiety performance peak optimum optimal

All of this adds up to over-stressed brains that just beg for the sweet sweet down time of sleep. And research is telling us that we are getting less precious sleep than ever before as a species.

Our brains also long for meaningful manual labor. All of our dishwashers and lawnmowers and automobiles mean that many of us don’t really use our bodies very well or frequently. When we had a 10-60 minute walk to the next farm or village, and it took an hour to prepare a meal from basic ingredients, our brains had much more down time to process things that happened in our lives. Now we fill any scrap of brain down-time with streaming music, background television, or a quick call/text.

Okay, Jim, what is your point with all this?

My point is this: to get optimum performance out of our modern brains, we need to treat them like ancient brains. We need the best that our food supply and medical system have to offer. 120 years ago, we knew a tiny fraction of what we know now about nutrition, exercise, medicine and self-care. Now that we have this knowledge as a species, we need to use it.

Every human brain is a little different than the next. Reaching your optimum brain performance and discovering how to sustain that performance is a personal journey. If there was one prescription for living that fit all human brains, I would just write a book and retire. Instead, I have the genuine pleasure of coming alongside amazing individuals for a significant part of their journey. Sometimes we reach a person’s optimum performance during our time together. More often, I help clear out blockages and equip them with skills and tools, and send them back into their lives to reach and sustain peak performance on their own.

If you are interested, I would love to help you through part of your journey. It may mean a tune-up, or a complete overhaul. Either way, if you can supply the “want-to,” I can supply the “how.” Contact me here for more information about individual appointments.


Noticing the Negative

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Top of the Food Chain

As humans, our brains are hardwired to notice the negative. It’s an unfortunate reality of our existence, mainly handed down from our ancestors who were mostly hunter-gatherers and primitive farmers.

Think about it this way: You are a cave dweller walking through the tall grass looking for yummy roots and berries. Suddenly you hear a crunching sound off to your right and freeze. In a split second, you analyze the threat and decide whether to stay frozen, use your club to fight, or run for your life. Of course, there is a 99% chance that the crunch was just a harmless deer. But 1 time out of 100, it will be a lion or a bear hunting YOU. The one time you miss the predator is the one time you get eaten. And if you get eaten, you don’t get the chance to make little cave-babies and pass on your DNA. However, if you are quick to notice the negative, you and your children will survive.

We are reading this because our ancestors, ancient and recent, likely survived because they were very good at noticing the negative. Yay for modern us! The only problem is that many of us are not struggling for daily survival. So these primitive brains of ours get bored and start looking for bears and lions in the grass. Our powerful imaginations start creating things to be anxious about. We stay on high alert even when we don’t need to be.

This affects our performance. To perform at our peak, we need to be physically relaxed and emotionally confident. We need to be the lion, stretched out in the sun, ready to run and pounce or take a nap on a moment’s notice. Now that we have clawed our way to the top of the food chain, it’s time for us strong, smart human beings to re-wire our brains. I can help with that. The human brain is remarkably malleable. Using cutting-edge research-based EMDR therapy, we can maximize your strengths and clear out your internal barriers. Peak performance is right over the next hill.    Contact me for an appointment.