Tag Archives: brain

Turn Your Complaints Inside Out

By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

Complaining is one of the deadly habits that can help destroy relationships, according to William Glasser. Most of us can quickly name the expert complainer in our own lives. Sadly, this is the person we try to avoid. And sometimes the complaining person is yourself whom it is impossible to avoid.

Quite simply stated, complaining is unattractive and detrimental to our mental health and happiness.

However, complaining is part of human nature. Why? Because our brain is set up that way. Here’s the bad news: our brain is hardwired to notice what is not right, or off, or a mismatch between what we want and what we perceive we’re getting in our world. This brain attribute is necessary for our survival. But this also means our brain notices almost everything that is wrong in the world, according to us. When we notice out loud it sounds like complaining.

Most of us occasionally comment about these mismatches, or differences. Some people comment and point this out a lot—ugh! (If you want to read a plethora of celebrations of complaints about these mismatches spend time reading Facebook posts.This is our present public forum where we complain and like the world as it should or should not be according to us — just as our brain is designed to do.)

If you spend any time on social media you may have noticed advice from some recent blogs regarding happiness. We are encouraged to stop complaining for twenty-four hours. Great idea! Great advice! However this is easier said than done. Our brain keeps getting in the way, noticing and pointing out all that’s wrong: the weather, the traffic, the temperature of our morning brew, our co-workers, our relatives, our neighbors, our politicians, and on and on and on it goes. And when we comment on all of these things, it comes out as complaining.

If today is the day you want to give up complaining for twenty-four hours to improve your Mental Health & Happiness, here are some tips to honor your brain and still succeed. When you notice what is wrong start asking yourself what you want instead of complaining about what is wrong.

It will sound like this “There are no more seats in this waiting room. I would like to sit down. I’ll sit on the floor.” or “There are no more seats in this waiting room. I would like to sit down but I’ll take this opportunity to stretch.”

Today, every time you notice something worth complaining about, start declaring what you want instead. Are you able to get what you want? Good for you. Are you able to change what you want instead? Does that help? Are you able to see the advantage or alternate payoff for getting something different from what you want? Does that help?

An additional strategy is giving thanks and being grateful for what you’ve noticed in the world, yourself and other people, even if your first impression is a complaint: (aim for a neutral tone and avoid a sarcasm)

I’m grateful for the traffic that will make me late for work.

I’m grateful for the package that has still not arrived in the mail.

I’m grateful that my co-worker is refusing to help me complete this project.

I’m grateful that my brother is not answering my calls, texts or messages. 

canstockphoto15119958Once you’ve declared your gratitude, let it go and move on. You may discover the gift, lesson or opportunity that was wrapped into the complaint as you perceived it. Or not. However declaring gratitude is much more attractive than complaining; attractive to other people as well as yourself.

When you start making these kinds of changes you may begin to get more of what you want instead of simply complaining. Amazingly, when you start interacting differently with your world of complaints you may actually begin to better understand and appreciate what you really want. Now that you have greater clarity you can act more effectively to get what you want. The result? Greater Mental Health & Happiness.

Here’s a word of caution. If you spend time complaining about other people, you still need to keep your focus on what you want, not simply focusing on how you want the other person to change. Instead of complaining, “I wish my child would stop whining. I want a child who doesn’t whine,” may sound like you’re following the advice offered here. See if you can go deeper though. If your child stopped whining and you got what you want, what would that be? Would you be engaged in a more pleasant interaction with your child? Do you want a happier atmosphere when completing a chore? Once you know what you want you can act accordingly. Start singing, smiling, offering compliments about the world, your child, yourself. Your child may still be whining. And still you can create a more pleasant atmosphere while you interact with your child lovingly, no matter how he or she is acting.

People won’t have time for you if you are always angry or complaining — Stephan Hawking

Between stimulus and response there is a space…

By Dr. Ken Larsen

Remember that quote from Viktor Frankl?  ““Between stimulus and responsethere is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”  I’ve been working on acting on this insight.  I’ve recognized that sometimes my response is more “reactive”, more of a knee jerk, reflexive reaction, such as the unkind words that tumble out of my mouth in a moment of minor road rage.  Or the quick judgmental opinion that comes to mind when I hear someone speak from values that I don’t share.  These unchosen reactions are a detriment to my mental health and happiness, not to mention the negative impact on others.

What I want for myself is to pause in that space that Frankl describes and choose my response based on a perceptive interpretation of what I want.    Do I want to dump a load of reflexive anger, or do I want to respect myself and the other enough to make a better choice?

stimulus

This is easier for me to think about and talk about than to actually do it.  What helps me is the growing understanding we have of how our brain has developed reactions to experiences that might be seen as threatening.  One of the most basic of these reactions is the “stranger danger” reaction.  When we encounter someone or something that is unfamiliar and unknown our first response is often self-protective.  This is not a bad thing.  This is part of our inherited survival instincts.  This first response is a “fight/flight/freeze” response which bypasses the pre-frontal cortex, the area of the brain where we make choices, and sets us up for a defensive or offensive reaction.  I think some of what we have labeled “prejudice” is this sort of autonomic reaction to an unfamiliar situation.  With this understanding, I believe we need to cut ourselves and others a bit of slack when encountering the unfamiliar.

I can learn to recognize a reflexive reaction and I’m finding that if I can find that “pause” place until my pre-frontal cortex comes on line, I can make a kindlier considered response which is more reflective of my chosen values to be respectful and to “live and let live.”

In our growing understanding of the development of our brain we can find a new freedom to choose a better way to relate to ourselves and others.  Rather than condemning what we now know as survival adaptations, like the reactive response to a perceived threat, we can learn to become more aware of what is reflexive and what is chosen behavior.  With that awareness we can focus our conscious attention on choosing behaviors that move us toward what we want.  The more we can fulfill those inner Quality World pictures that are our sense of what we want that will meet our needs, the more we will enjoy a higher quality of mental health and happiness.

Reading or riding, which is going to get you where you want to go?

by Dr. Ken Larsen

You can’t learn to ride a bike by reading about it.  You have to get on the bike and ride it.  Reading and riding work in different parts of our brain.  Studying the aerodynamics of flight will not enable you to fly.  Knowing about something is far removed from actually doing it.

Self-help books and programs have proliferated over the past few decades.  Seems like you can improve your sex life, get along better with your children and get rich in the market, all by reading a book or listening to someone talk about it.

I would have to murmur, “Au contraire, mon ami!”  Knowing about something is not the same as doing it.

Books can give us information about some things we want to do in our life.  They can give us a theoretical base to guide our efforts, but at some point we need to actually step out and do it.

ridingabikeWe need to get on the bike.  We need to get close to our partner and learn to love and be loved, we need to actually get face to face with our children and use some of the theoretical insights we have gained.  I don’t know what to tell you about the market.  Perhaps just realizing “how much is enough?” and living with that will make you rich in many ways.

Life is about living, about finding our mental health and happiness in the experience of getting out of ourselves and into connected relationships where we can give and receive the real stuff of life.

When we start to ride, there are the skinned knees and elbows.  Just as in life there is trauma when we start to ride.  But we ride on anyway!

 

 

Turn your complaint inside out

By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

nagging

Complaining is one of the deadly habits that contributes to destroying relationships according to William Glasser. A recent study reported in a Psychology Today blog stated that the most common complaint men have about marriage is the amount of complaining that their wives do. (Anyone else besides me notice the irony of men complaining about women complaining?)

Most of us can quickly name the expert complainer in our own lives. Sadly this is the person we try to avoid. Quite simply stated, complaining is unattractive and detrimental to our Mental Health & Happiness.

So why do so many people, including each of us, engage in this habit?

Our brain is hardwired to notice what is not right in our world. This attribute is necessary for our very survival. When we were evolving as a species it was important to notice when our environment changed enough to put our very survival at risk. When a pride of lions decided to move into the next door cave where we were living it was important that we noticed this change.  Had our brain not alerted us to this danger and we not then taken appropriate action, that would have been the end of us!

This means our brain notices almost everything that is wrong in our world. Luckily most of us do not need to comment or complain about everything that is wrong. But most of us will comment or complain about some things sometimes.

Several of the recent blogs and social media posters writing about increased happiness advocate that people go twenty-four hours without complaining. Great idea. But what are you going to do instead? If complaining is a natural and brain based urge, if you don’t have some other strategy to follow instead you are most likely to fall right back into complaining all over again.

Why not use this natural brain-based ability to your advantage. Every time you notice something worth complaining about you can take this opportunity to start declaring what you want instead. The more you do this the more you will begin to better understand and appreciate what you really want in your life.

So instead of complaining about the lions who moved in next door you could say I look forward to finding a new home where friendly and safe neighbors surround us.

Instead of complaining about the weather you could say I look forward to the next sunny day or Im sorry for me its raining. Im happy for the gardens and flowers that it is raining.

Instead of complaining about some physical ailment that is causing you pain you could say This stomach ache is reminding me to make better food choices in the future or This headache reminds me to spend more time in gentle light to be kinder to myself.

Instead of complaining about all the complainers that surround you, you could say I wonder what these people want that they are not getting?

Go ahead and eliminate complaining for twenty-four hours. And for better Mental Health & Happiness replace your complaining with a declaration of what you want instead.

 

Pathways to Mental Health & Happiness: Curiosity, Learning and Discovering

by Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

These days there is much talk and attention being given to brain science, health and growth. It wasn’t all that long ago that the world believed your brain never repaired or regenerated itself. We now know this is not true. Once our brain is damaged, it is possible for new and altered pathways to develop. Now the concepts of a changing and growing brain are better understood. We are living during a time of considered research and understanding of what is actually happening in our brains.

Words like Human Brain Plasticity and Brain Activity and Connectivity  are not only being talked about and studied, there are now products to be purchase to help keep your brain in good working order and at optimal shape and conditioning.

Not only can you purchase a program or game to support brain health and Mental Health & Happiness, you can also rely on your own inherent genetic instruction and achieve the same thing. There is growing research to support Dr. Glasser’ idea that curiosity, learning and discovering are examples of our basic need for fun! Glasser stated that when we are having fun we are learning and when we are learning we are having fun. Now there is research supporting a positive brain state associated with learning.

In order to verify this thought for yourself, think back to something that your have learned, or are  learning now. I wouldn’t use the example of learning algebra in school unless algebra is something you wanted to learn. But it might be learning a musical instrument, a sport, a different language, photography, painting, astronomy, riding a unicycle or juggling. Were you enjoying yourself, playing and having fun while you were learning? Even though it may have taken time, concentration and perseverance, you also experienced joy, satisfaction and happiness. If this was not the case for you, then it’s time you started learning something that provokes your curiosity.

Here is one more example from my own life. In a recent conversation I had with my 4-year old grandson, I was once again talking with him about who my son is and how he’s related to Malakai? Who is another of my sons who is Malakai’s uncle? Figuring out who is who in a family via the son, daughter, mother, father and second cousin twice removed is a sophisticated concept. Who is my son? How is he related to you? I asked. Suddenly there was a bright smile and a knowing gleam in his eye. That’s my Dad he said to me with great satisfaction and pleasure. That was learning and discovery. And that contributed to his Mental Health & Happiness.

If you want to create a new pathway for your own Mental Health & Happiness, pursue your curiosity by learning and discovering something new today!