Mindcraft: Become the Boss of Your Brain & Live Your Best Life
By Dr. Kimberly Quinn
Thoughts come first and feelings second. Allowing the "monkey mind" to have control with anxious and fearful thoughts thereby leaves us feeling anxious and fearful. There are only two choices in life with this, either we control our thoughts or our thoughts control us. Like anything else, what we practice we inevitably get good at. Retraining the brain is the key to a high quality existence. Just like toddlers, neurons need to be told what to do and then reinforced with consistency and practice. Become less anxious, fearful, and/or depressed by learning how to become the "boss of your brain."
More often than not, when we really don't like how life is going-a relationship on the brink of fizzling, a much needed job change, a missed opportunity, as well as the daily curveballs that life throws at us, we dig in. We hang on and resist with everything we've got to make the present moment into something other than it is. The result? Stress. And lots of it. In fact, one way to measure unhappiness is the difference between where you wish you were and where you actually are. Acceptance. Not complacency. Once we learn to genuinely accept this moment exactly as it is, things immediately get easier. Learning to take life as it comes opens the door for peace of mind, increased happiness, creativity, and productivity.
Motivation is not something we pick up at the grocery store or find in a closet. It is a process, one that ignites and paves the way to goal-oriented behavior. Many of us have tricks that have worked to pull us out from being stuck and unmotivated in the past. However, now that we are nearly a year into the pandemic many of us are finding that these tricks are no longer working, leaving us feeling uninspired and unmotivated. We need to find our match, spark, and fan to find our way up and out of this place and back to a meaningful and exciting existence.
So many of us are walking around out there like remote-controlled zombies, often unaware the we have been swept up in the "current of overwhelm." One minute rolls into the next, days fly by, then weeks, and then another year gone. Many of us are faced with the fear that long ago drove Thoreau into the woods, in order to live life deliberately so that, "when I came to die, discover that I had not lived." Surviving and living are different. To truly live is to realize the power of intention, and to realize that we are the authors of our own life-script. When we live deliberately, we spend our life-minutes as if they were cash.
Separating work from home has always been a healthy way to go, though never has this been as essential as it is now. Our lives have begun to seem like "Ground Hog's Day," where one day runs into the other. This has led to a blend of work and home, and a feeling that we are never truly "off." The result has been an overall fatigue, leaving many of us feeling like robots stuck in a rut, not knowing how to climb out and get our lives back.
No one likes to be uncomfortable. Not at the dentist. Not in social situations, work, or relationships. And, not with the larger curveballs life throws at us. Our instinct is to rid ourselves of this discomfort like a splinter, ignore it until it gets infected, and often to build impenetrable walls to protect ourselves from further injury. Most of us will do anything to avoid pain. Unfortunately, these walls that we build strong and tall to protect us also keep out the good stuff, all that we need and crave for the full human experience. Only when we stop to feel our pain can we find meaning in our suffering and become stronger. Only when we can show compassion to our perfect and imperfect self can we be truly happy.
Many people sadly sign off art as being for "those creative people," without realizing its tremendous power to heal the mind. Art can help us to drop harmful defenses, heal from shame, and help us reconnect with a disconnected sense of self. By calming the limbic system, art can help reduce feelings of anxiety and depression, as well as set us free from old wounds. Art can even assist us with getting unstuck from being trapped in the "survival brain" of trauma.
Independence and freedom go hand and hand. It is therefore important for us to remain independent from the opinions of others whether they are positive or negative, and to think for ourselves, It is all too easy to be driven by external approval and praise or even disfavor, as this often results in a need to push back. Either way, our lives become dictated by external forces. On a societal level this is not different, as when we steer away from independent and critical thinking we become less free.
Practicing inner peace, just like anything else, involves deliberate effort. There is a Tibetan word "shenpa," which describes that sticky, very seductive feeling we often get right before we react to a criticism or anything (anyone) we don't like. Shenpa is said to be the root source of aggression and craving, that momentous feeling we get just prior to reacting which feels much like trying to hold in a sneeze. We have to say or do whatever it is. We have to scratch the itch. At the very center of our inner peace practice is "shenpa awareness." It is in that moment that we need to sit with this seductive urge to react and look inward instead to whatever insecurity is going on inside us. Practicing patience being comfortable with the uncomfortable will increase our ability to "push the pause button" and to listen rather than react. And, peace on the inside leads to peace on the outside . . .
To savor life means to slow down and notice the details--to fully experience these in the Now. Savoring means to delight in the mundane, to embrace life's hidden treasures, and to experience pure joy in the simplest of pleasures. It is mindfulness and gratitude taken to a higher level. Savoring involves one's senses to be engaged and hyper-vigilant. To savor means to grab life by the ass and live deliberately . . .
Bringing the magic back into our relationships is much easier than it may seem. Allowing ourselves to coast along on autopilot is often largely the source of a derailed or unsatisfying relationship. These habits take on a life of their own and become stronger with each irritation we experience. Shifting into more deliberate thinking leads to more deliberate living. This brings about the awareness that what we do to others, we also do to ourselves.
With roughly 7.5 billion people in the world it is a sad reality that so many of us are walking around feeling lonely. In fact, some experts have referred to this as a "Loneliness Epidemic." The source is disconnection, which is ironic in the age of so called "connection." This feeling of alone-ness is brought about by the dissonance between the connection we need and the connection we have. Though there is no quick-fix for loneliness, there are most definitely steps we can take toward climbing out . . .
Life is not like a pizza or cake in the sense that if we take an extra piece this will take away from someone else. The abundance out there in the Universe is infinite. This means that there is no end to the good things that can land in our laps. Shifting ourselves away from the "blockers" and developing a prosperity mindset is about being open to receiving these gifts and is key to a thriving lifestyle.
This continued discussion is about learning to stop reacting and being blown about with the slightest change in wind pattern. From there we move toward surrender from the urge to control, compulsively care-take, rescue, as well as the triangle of victimization, rescue, and persecution. As we bring our approval-meter inside, we are well on our way to emotional disentanglement and freedom . . .
Codependency can be a lot to wake up from, much like someone sticking a smelling salts beneath your nose. With this new sobering awareness we can now take a big step forward on the path of recovery, with the very first place we visit being detachment. Detachment is a skill that is essential for the codependent to become free from the shackles of the entanglement of their relationship (s). When we learn to detach with love, we become that much closer to living the authentic and fulfilling life we were meant to lead . . .
Pay Yourself First is a phrase most commonly heard rolling out of the mouths of financial advisors, and is certainly some sound advice. For those of us experiencing pandemic fatigue, however, this has taken on a new meaning. Even those of us who consider ourselves somewhat good with self-care, have found that the Rona virus has thrown a wrench into our wheel of motivation. Here are ten tips to "replenish your well" amid pandemic fatigue.
There are so many ways for codependency to manifest and leak into our adult relationships. Part 2 zooms in on the source of codependency which is the underlying feeling of being unlovable. This is behind why we compulsively rescue, care-take, people-please, control, seek out people who mistreat us, and look to find approval and happiness externally. This is a deeper dive into why we have difficulty with trust, expressing anger, accepting compliments, and loving ourselves in general.
Many of us don't realize until we are deep into adulthood that we may have developed some codependent patterns along the way. As adults, these may now be showing up in our relationships. Some become rescuers, people-pleasers, controllers and control-ees, abusers and abusees. Many would rather remain in an abusive relationship than go it alone. Still others may have a seemingly endless need for reassurance and approval-seeking. Becoming aware of these unhealthy learned behaviors is the first step toward developing healthy, long-lasting relationships.
Once we figure out what toxic shame is and how it hides, it is time to take a big, deep breath and come out in the open with it. We need to embrace our shame in order to release it. We often must grieve our lost childhoods to arrive at a place of genuine acceptance. Only then can we move toward letting go and moving on to a new shame-free existence . . .
This is a continued discussion on how toxic shame hides. Among these "tree forts" for shame are arrogance, contempt, rage, patronizing, envy, people-pleasing, and the compulsive need for care-giving. This is because the underlying pain of shame, that feeling of being flawed and defective is unbearable, and we must therefore find a way to alleviate this. Becoming aware of these hiding places helps us to uncover and reveal our shame for what it is. Only when we truly get it, can we begin to talk back to these toxic internal messages and rewire our minds with new dialogue based in our own truth.
Shame is toxic, the most intense and excruciating emotion a human being can feel. It is the feeling of being flawed and defective. This is why dysfunctional parents so often "project" their shame onto their children, often resulting in kids carrying their parents' shame and eventually becoming "shame-based" themselves. This is also why shame manifests in so many different ways, as we want to hide this feeling of being unworthy. These "hiding places" can take many forms, one of the most common being perfectionism. The first step toward healing is to become aware of the unconscious defenses that keep us stuck.
Original worthiness, that feeling we were born into this world with before any negative and shameful messages were said to us, can get lost. We often internalize these messages, creating our own feedback loop of toxic internal dialogue. As these messages are replayed we begin to believe these untruths about ourselves, frequently manifesting as obsessive desires to self-deprecate, catastrophize, or ruminate over a wake of should-ofs, could-ofs, and would-ofs . . . While these automatic negative thoughts drive the bus, the authentic self waits patiently to return to power . . . join in and learn how to make this happen!
Much like farmers cultivate their land to produce rich soil that then yields an abundant harvest, so this is true with cultivating the attitudes that drive our very existence. Our attitudes can be our biggest assets or the most crippling of disabilities. We can exercise and strengthen our bounce-back muscles with practice, and by learning to develop the cognitive fortitude of the "Warrior Mind." Seven skills for resilience are discussed to Nanakorobi yaoki, a Japanese proverb which means to "fall down seven times and get up eight . . . "
Scarcity captures the mind, affecting how we think, feel, and behave. Getting stuck in a pattern of scarcity attracts more scarcity. This does not only occur with money, but with time as well. For many of us working and learning virtually, the amount of screen-time we have engaged in has been overwhelming. We have often found ourselves double-booked, over-booked, and mistakenly missing meetings. This has sometimes led to feelings of embarrassment, guilt, and inadequacy, not to mention brain-fog. Quite frankly, we are "Zoomed-out." Shifting out of this chaotic head-space where we are constantly playing "catch-up," apologizing, and borrowing from next week's time-bank to make even more commitments, is the first step back to sanity during these rapidly changing and uncertain times.
In some ways, 2020 has seemed like the year that just won’t end . . .
After the world closed down in mid-March, many of us who were not considered essential workers were forced into un-pioneered territory, making an abrupt shift to working virtually from our dining room tables, or not at all, to online learning, etc, all while under enormous stress.
At this point, we have adjusted (if we really want to call it that) to 24-hour togetherness with family, perpetual over-stimulation due to no space to call our own, board game fatigue, running out of things to binge-watch, as well as the accompanying low to medium grade anxiety that has percolated all day every day like a stale cup of coffee from a gas station. We are now being asked to re-enter. COVacay is over.
Worrying is a roadblock to the abundance trying to make its way into our lives, including money. By practicing being nervous and stressed (worrying), we can become quite good at it, impairing our overall well-being as well as our ability to be financially successful. Worrying also sucks up lots of time we could use to be productive, never mind that it is draining, exhausting, and a waste of our valuable life-minutes. By actively working toward a more worry-free mindset, we open the door wide for creativity, more confidence in the workplace, asking for a raise, speaking to groups, less sensitivity to criticism and rejection, as well as trying new things and taking healthy risks.
We have heard lots about random acts of kindness and these are certainly good, too. Being kind consciously; however, feeds the soul, because we are choosing this with someone else's well-being in mind. It also increases our own level of happiness as this actually causes a release of dopamine, the brain's "feel good" chemical. Happiness is a lifestyle, and working in small acts of kindness will further strengthen our positivity muscles just like going to the gym.
Many people hold the belief that once they become successful they will become happy, when in reality the opposite is true. Happiness is not merely a feeling. Happiness is magnetic energy that attracts more positivity and brings with it lots and lots of advantages in relationships, school, the workplace. Happiness gives us an overall competitive edge in life.
The need to prove ourselves is something that most of us have been roped into along our life journeys, whether it be as the new kid in middle school, when trying out for a high school sports team, or as an adult beginning an exciting new job or relationship. The butterflies whirl around in our stomachs and adrenaline surges through our veins, as we give it everything we've got to acquire that external approval we've been tricked into thinking we need by the ego. Proving ourselves can set us up for a dangerous trap, as it takes tremendous energy to convince others of our own self worth. Not only this, but the less we actively seek out external approval the more it lands in our laps. Practicing humility leads to authenticity, and authentic confidence has nothing to prove.
Weatherproofing refers to looking for cracks, chips, or faulty parts of a house that we then plan to fix. This is also something we can do with other people and ourselves. Often we think that fault-finding is about the other person's annoying or challenging behavior, when in reality it says nothing about them and everything about us. We get roped into this habit and begin to see life as not being all it's cracked up to be and that nothing will ever be enough. When we shift this habit over to looking at these challenging people as "Personal Emotional Trainers" it can change our entire attitude, our relationships, and our lives.
Many of us walk around dodging genuine compliments as if they were horseflies. We often break eye-contact when someone says something truly heart-felt, followed by an abrupt change of topic and polite dismissal of the nice-sayer. We need to make a conscious effort to become comfortable with the uncomfortable in order to allow the good in and to get used to how this feels. As when we do, we attract more good into our lives. By practicing letting in the good we gradually learn to accept and live from our authentic greatness . . .
Each inner conflict, emotional need, or craving needs a solution that matches the "problem" or area in need of healing. Just like someone with scurvy would take vitamin C and not vitamin B12 or a calcium supplement, we need to fill our selves up with the soul food that matches the wound or deficit within us. This week we continue our discussion on becoming hardwired for happiness by further exploring the three operating systems of the mind, avoiding, approaching, and attaching (based on the work of Rick Hanson), and then providing strategies to find your "Vitamin C."
There is a reason that we are drawn to wallow in sadness and hit replay on hurt feelings to relive each and every detail. Our brains are hardwired for negativity bias, meaning that we learn faster from bad things happening than we do from good ones. This is very primal, from way back when we were being chased by Saber-tooth tigers and needing to learn fast lessons of survival. The good news is that we have the power to re-wire our hard-drives for happiness by learning to be and work with the mind, something referred to as self-directed neuroplasticity. By actively inviting positive experiences in and becoming comfortable with this good feeling, our brain's neural networks change in a way that allows for more good to come in as well as for authentic self-compassion and assertiveness.
Gratitude is a key factor in achieving happiness and creating a fulfilling life. We are the authors of our own story, writing our own script. When we practice gratitude daily, our thoughts begin to shift as neurons respond to this consistent and disciplined effort. Neurons that wire together fire together and this new thought pattern of gratitude and positivity can actually be seen on an fMRI brain scan. Being grateful in advance for what we already have attracts more goodness to our lives . . . people, money, travel, and many other opportunities. It comes down to simply surviving life or living it to its fullest . . .
Suffering can intensify when we develop the habit of judging and blaming ourselves for our own thoughts and feelings, and this self criticism can fuel depression like lighter fluid. By practicing mindfulness, we can shift this habit to one that cultivates balance as we learn to pay attention to the present moment in a nonjudgmental, curious, and compassionate way. What we practice we inevitably get good at. By practicing mindfulness, we become less reactive and more accepting of ourselves and others. Mindfulness opens the door for us to observe and change how we treat ourselves.
This week's episode is a continuation of our discussion on the depressed pattern of thinking, how this can sneak up from behind and grab us . . . pulling us down a worm hole where we lose touch with ourselves and what it was once like to feel happy and excited about life. This episode speaks to teens, young adults, and seasoned adults, while also addressing the additional dark forces of the pandemic and blatant racism going on. We will then wind up with a concentrated shift of focus on how to climb out of this worm hole to a lighter and brighter existence, with emphasis on the importance of quality relationships, as well as a sense of purpose, meaning, and accomplishment . . .
Getting swallowed up by the dark thoughts of depression can be frustrating, frightening, and seemingly endless. To make things worse, we are often judged by the world and ourselves for being unable to handle it, and labeled with being attention-seeking, dramatic, and just plain weak. This stigma can attach itself to us like super-glue to the point that we internalize this toxic internal dialogue, believing that something about us must be inherently defective. Join us this week to learn about the cycle of distorted thinking that can pull us into the black hole of depression and ways to manage this.
The mind and body are intimately connected. In fact, it has often been said that if you want to know what's going on in the mind just ask the body . . . as what we think directly affects how we feel. Many of us are also walking around out there with "brain fog" going on and wondering if we're losing it, unaware that the whole world has actually experienced trauma and that trauma significantly impacts the mind and body. Most of us have been in "survival mode" for several months, becoming accustomed to this slow burn and fogged over feeling of uncertainty and fear-based thinking. Those of us who have had past trauma may have had our "switches flipped," bringing us right back to a place of protect-mode, anxiety, and insecurity. Add in the recent racial riots across the country, and anyone experiencing the complex and chronic trauma of racism has been hit even harder by the pandemic. What's going on right now is HUGE and it is important to understand how this is affecting all of us, and to show ourselves and others the kindness and compassion we so desperately need right now.
It's ironic that what is meant to be a form of connection actually disconnects us from ourselves and others. Most things done in moderation are alright; however, social media is not being used this way by most teens and young adults, with an estimated 7 hours per day of screen time (not counting work or school). This is more than a full-time job and has taken its toll on the younger generations as they feel pressure to stay connected 24/7, and then comparing their very real selves against a backdrop of the ideal. Make-Pretend-Land has become their reality and it is exhausting to keep up with. This constant social comparison has left many teens and young adults anxious, depressed, more distracted and impulsive, with some finding themselves unable to stop. Many check SM sites before they even get out of bed in the morning, before they go to sleep at night, and use social media to avoid boredom and personal responsibilities. Each ding, bing, and buzz notifying us of a new profile update or photo yanks us out of the present moment and into a worm-hole of false reality, robbing us of our valuable life minutes . . .
Time to log off . . . and be here.
Say what? Stress can be a positive thing in my life? The answer is yes, it absolutely can, and making this choice to shift to a new and improved positive stress mindset can be life-changing . . . Join us this week for a short and sweet discussion on what defines a negative and positive stress mindset, as well as some simple steps to take action toward a healthier way of living and accomplishing what matters most to you . . .
When the world closed due to Covid-19, many of us were forced to pivot quickly . . . with schools and colleges shutting their doors on a dime's notice, unforeseen job furloughs, our living room becoming our new office, and instant overwhelming change on the home front with no space or time to call our own. Students have struggled with the challenges of online learning from home, a loss of independence, routine, and connection with friends. Many parents have been in the trenches doing their very best to do it all, homeschooling while trying to work virtually themselves, while furloughed and under massive financial stress, managing children with special needs now at home full time, and so much more. Lots of us have been giving this thing everything we've got, while one day runs into the next and wondering when this nightmare will be over. Good people have been doing their best, their very best, and still have been left feeling depleted and not enough . . . that they have come up short. If there were ever a time to cut ourselves some slack, it's now.
How we "filter" external information and events has consequences for our lives, especially with how we interpret and process setbacks and failure. When Dr. Seus was just getting started his book was turned down by 27 publishers. Oprah Winfrey, early on in her career, was turned down by a network as they did not think she was "a good fit for television." Children in a low-income public school district, when treated and taught as if they were little geniuses, managed to out-score districts with higher income families and more generous budgets. We often identify with labels early on and our beliefs about ourselves, or mindsets, influence our ability to succeed in school, the workplace, relationships, as well as our overall quality of well-being.
Some people think that they are inherently pessimistic and that others won the winning ticket in the "Happiness Lottery." They are unaware of how their explanatory style affects themselves as well as those around them. For pessimists, they filter most incoming information as personal, pervasive, and permanent. Optimistic people are less likely to become depressed, are more resilient, and live longer. Learn how to cross over from the dark side to a more optimistic lifestyle . . .
People often have such a difficult time with letting go of old injury and wrong-doing, not realizing what a gift forgiveness is to the self. Much of the reason is because they believe this justifies the wrong-doer's action when it absolutely does not. They are also often unaware of the detriments of hanging onto grudges, anger, and resentments, not realizing that we only have so much emotional energy in one day. By residing in this pain from the past we voluntarily surrender our destiny, the fullness of all who we were meant to be. By letting go, we reclaim our power . . .
Too much time on our hands can be fun for some, but for those over-thinkers not so much . . . Especially for young adults who had just begun "talking" with someone prior to the pandemic, there is just too much uncertainty to obsess over. Also, today's Millennial and Gen Z-ers frequently feel the pressure to stay on track with how life "should" unfold which often includes becoming a couple, adding even more to an already overwhelming feeling of a lack of control during quarantine . . .
Stay tuned for some young adult wisdom to help you get through . . .
We make assumptions everyday, especially in our relationships, leading to lots of unnecessary anger, hurt feelings, resentment, break-ups, and overall drama. Find out why we have a tendency to jump to conclusions, what is going on behind the curtain in the brain, and how to break free from this very, very not-so-good habit.
As the old cliche goes . . . misery loves company. This is incorrect, as misery loves miserable company . . . The same is true with positivity, as good vibes tend to attract more good vibes. This episode continues the discussion on the insatiable "ego-mind" and how making even one seemingly small change can move us further along the path to personal freedom. Learn about the detriments of the "complaining brain" and how to stop this vicious cycle of dysfunctional egoic thinking for a much, much happier life . . .
Many of us are walking around stuck and not even aware of it, as we have gradually grown accustomed to living a life of imitation and falsity, often trying to measure up to a world outside ourselves. This discussion on "becoming free" begins with understanding the ego-mind and it's constant yearning for attention, approval, and appreciation. Anyone who has gotten wrapped up in a relationship pattern of needing constant reassurance, or the need to be a "rescuer" or "people-pleaser," knows all too well what it's like to be trapped in emotional jail. As the authentic self is whole and complete it does not have these needs. Developing ego-awareness helps us to shift away from these unpleasant behaviors toward a path of authenticity, one of joy and personal freedom.
Note: Codependency itself will be discussed in depth in a later episode.
The importance of mindfulness during a pandemic, or any crisis, is just so important . . . yet, we often tend to do the opposite and get swept right up in the momentum of the threat. We reside in the "what if's" of the future, catastrophizing and rehearsing the solutions to problems that don't exist. Meanwhile, our valuable life minutes are slipping through our finger tips . . . and we can never get these back, ever. Residing in the past or future derails focus, creativity, and productivity as well as keeps us from being emotionally available to those we love and ourselves.
Being fully present also leads to a calm and joyful mind.
Life is now in session.
Part I looked at the neuroscience behind the very primal feelings of anxiety and fear, as well as offering some very practical strategies to manage these feelings. Part II will now expand upon this into the various ways these raw emotions can manifest, as well as what happens when there is a pandemic . . . bringing with it the immediate fear of scarcity for many.
We will discuss how scarcity can become a conditioned response, very quickly pushing the "panic button" for those whom were already in a place of deprivation. We will also explore what it means to have a "deprivation-based" pattern of thinking and how this can stem from economic, physical, emotional, or spiritual deprivation.
Our discussion will wind up with yet more ways to make the shift towards a less busy, worried, and fearful mind.
This episode continues the discussion on the obsessive compulsive thought pattern as it relates to fear, and further describes what is specifically going on with the worry circuit, leading to the realization that anxious, fear-based thinking is a brain-thing and therefore not our fault. From here, very practical strategies are provided to reduce the activity of the threat circuit, offering the fear-based mind freedom from "mental prison" . . . opening the door wide for fear to be transformed into something manageable, leading to a happier and more authentic life.
This episode continues the discussion on how the "Monkey Mind" works as well as how to manage it. As anxiety is clearly not going to accommodate us . . . we need to make room for it and let it run it's course. When we learn to welcome anxiety rather than resist it, the door opens wide for us to take control and become the "Boss" of our brain . . . leading us down a new path toward living our best life.
We tend to blame our brain a great deal — for the inability to remember when put on the spot, for intrusive thoughts making us feel badly, for being slow when we need it to be fast … — as if it were a tyrannical ruler whom the rest of our body needs to follow no matter what. We refuse to take responsibility for our brain’s health and our own personal happiness. If we did this, we could then experience this amazing organ as our loyal friend rather than a relentless enemy.
Learn to become the "Boss" of your brain and live your best life!
This trailer sparks the beginning of the Mindcraft podcast series that will take a look at what is going on in the anxious mind, specifically the worry circuit of the limbic system that causes the unwanted, intrusive, and racy thoughts often referred to as the "Monkey Mind." Then, there will be several podcasts that provide some very practical strategies to reduce these intrusive thoughts and the resulting feelings of being fearful and overwhelmed. Becoming a Mindcrafter is about learning to be the "Boss of your Brain" in order to live a more carefree and happy life . . .
As far as we all know, this is not a dress rehearsal . . . life is now is session !!!