In a recent webinar, psychiatrist Dr. Daniel Amen spoke about his new book, Change Your Brain Every Day, and the “tiny habits” necessary to do so.
It is important to understand, he explains, that our brains are lazy. If we are not intentionally engaging the brain on a daily basis, it will take the path of least resistance, meaning: your brain will only do the minimum required to keep your body going.
Therefore, before beginning these tiny daily habits, you must be intentional in telling your brain what you want.
FIRST ACTIVITY: take a few minutes and think about what you want in the different aspects of your life. Think about relationships, work, finances, physical health, mental health, and spiritual health. Write these things down on paper and place them somewhere you will see them each day.
NOW we are ready to look at the daily habits:
Tiny Habit #1…
Keeping what you want or the goals you have written down in mind, ask yourself each day, “Does my behavior match the goals I want for my life?”
Let’s say, for example, your goal is to make more friends. Ask yourself: Are you doing the things necessary to meet that goal? Things like talking to new people, joining new groups, participating when invited to do an activity with others, etc. If the answer is no, make an adjustment in your behavior or in your goal.
Tiny Habit #2… concerns the food we eat.
No one is saying you must become a health food fanatic, but consider your diet and how it affects your body. Even if you are loving the food you eat, it might not be loving you back. Some of the results of an unhealthy diet are obvious when your body significantly gains/loses weight or you generally feel lethargic & low on energy. It may be more challenging to see how an unhealthy diet affects your brain. Some negative effects on the brain include memory issues, brain fog, sleep problems, and lack of focus and concentration. You get the picture.
Try eating more whole foods that have been processed or refined as little as possible and are free from additives or other artificial substances. Cut down on sugary foods and soda. Drink more water. Just start by taking baby steps. Add one good thing and remove one bad thing each week. Before you know it, you’ll be seeing and feeling a difference.
Tiny Habit #3… concerns how our decisions/choices affect our brains.
For each choice/decision you make in your day, ask, “Is this good for my brain?”
Is my self-talk good for my brain? Are the friends I hang out with good for my brain? Is the food I’m eating good for my brain? Is adding more stress in my life good for my brain? Is exercising my body good for my brain? Is choosing to isolate away from people good for my brain? Is what I’m watching on TV good for my brain?
Of course, you can’t change every negative thing in your path. However, by simply asking the question, you become more aware of how these things affect your brain and how your brain, in turn, affects your response to the world in which you live. It makes choosing what you can change to improve your life easier.
Tiny Habit #4… concerns how we start and end our day.
When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself, “Today is going to be a great day!”
Even if you know the day ahead is going to be challenging and stressful, say it anyway. If you’re not quite sure you believe it, say it anyway. Stepping into your day with a positive outlook sets you on a track to success.
Before you go to sleep each night, go on a treasure hunt to find the bright spots in your day.
What made you smile? What brought you joy? What touched your heart? What made you feel productive or accomplished? You might have to do some digging through a messy, stressful day, but those moments are there. These are the things for which you can be grateful. Expressing that gratitude feeds your brain with positivity. Counting your blessings instead of your worries makes for a much better night’s sleep which, in turn, makes it much easier to wake up in the morning and say, “Today is going to be a great day!”
By starting with these 4 tiny habits each day, you will begin changing your brain AND feeling better!