Don’t Believe Everything You Say, Your Midlife Brain Will Thank You

“Don’t’ believe everything you read and only half of what you hear” is something our mothers or teachers used to say. Now more than ever, with the proliferation of citizen journalists, it’s critical to check the source when the information you need is to be implemented in your life. Due diligence is key before believing anything you read.

By now we know that the “half of what you hear” part falls into a similar space. Trusted friends, professionals like doctors and teachers, even trusted family members bring their version of what’s true to our tables. Likewise, we bring our biases and beliefs to those who ask our opinions every day. Hence, that old bit of mother’s philosophy, like so much of what she said, is worth keeping.

So what to make of what we tell ourselves? A colleague and I were discussing the launch of her new brand and focus in her business. She’s dropped an non-supportive business partner, has narrowed her services and product offerings, and has an all new look, name, and tagline. All of this comes after much deliberation and consulting with experts.

Part of a recent conversation went like this, “I swear this is stupid, it’s crazy, I have no idea what I’m doing, and I’m sure this is going to be a mess.” In her case this was synapse xt just another panicked moment in the start-up phase of a midlife reinvention. If she hadn’t caught herself and changed that way of thinking then it’s self-sabotage, an emotional stab wound at the heart of the one person who she needs to be able to trust-herself.

There is another aspect to this kind of self-talk, which we all engage in, it can damage the brain.

Dr. Daniel Amen of PBS fame, is a psychiatrist and brain improvement expert. If you don’t know his work, and you’ve got an aging brain-everyone raise your hand and say “That’s me”–I encourage you to grab a book or DVD if you want to keep said aging brain healthy and prevent age related memory loss, anxiety, depression, even Alzheimer’s. Listen to what Dr. Amen says about beating ourselves up with negative thoughts.

“The thoughts that go through your mind, moment by moment, have a significant impact on how your brain works. Research by Mark George, MD and colleagues at the National Institutes of Health demonstrated that happy, hopeful thoughts had an overall calming effect on the brain, while negative thoughts inflamed brain areas often involved with depression and anxiety.” Your thoughts matter.

Dr. Amen has more to say, “Once you learn about your thoughts, you can chose to think good thoughts and feel good or you can choose to think bad thoughts and feel lousy. You can train your thoughts to be positive and hopeful or you can just allow them to be negative and upset you. That’s right, it’s up to you! When you think a negative thought without challenging it, your mind believes it and your brain reacts to it.”

When your mind gets caught in a loop of ANTs ( automatic negative thoughts), get up and move around. Changing your energy state is one way to break the cycle. Another, as Dr. Amen points out, is to challenge the thought. I talk to my inner critic like it is a two year old in need of some serious time out. Remember when you were a sassy teen who talked back with gusto? Do it now but direct it to your “I’m never going to lose this weight” voice.

Ruining our day by feeding our minds junk thoughts is bad enough. Contributing to ruining the one body part we can all agree on we’d do pretty much anything to preserve-our brian– is just, well, dumb.

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