You are currently viewing Episode 71 – Brain Hygiene

Episode 71 – Brain Hygiene

Have you ever thought about keeping your brain clean?

No, I’m not talking about having good thoughts, I’m talking about learning to have a regular practice of maintaining your mind, which is the engine of your life. 

Today we are learning why this is so important and lots of simple tips to help you lose the drama by spending a little time each day  clearing our the things that keep you bogged down.

Keywords: miscarriage, stillbirth, grief

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Photo by Laårk Boshoff on Unsplash

Music by ZingDog on Pond5


Now I have been recently introduced to some lovely yoga classes on YouTube.

I’ve never actually lived anywhere with an exercise studio or a yoga studio that had great options. So besides some old prenatal yoga DVDs, I haven’t done much yoga before. Actually, I may have even had a VHS tape that, so that shows how old I am now, and I’ve never felt able to easily fit something like this into my life just because I have had a lot of little kids over the years who need me or wanna jump on me if I lay on the floor.

Or I just haven’t prioritized it or made the time for it. But what I love about my teacher is that she always talks about my practice as in my yoga practice. That is an ongoing thing. When she talks about it, it inspires me to create a habit in my life of continuing to move my body and to breathe and to learn more about the physical, emotional, and spiritual benefits of this practice.

Now I could also get on my computer, find a yoga retreat somewhere and go spend a week immersed in it and then come home and never do yoga again. It would be a great memory. I would probably feel great for a few weeks, but overall, the benefit of an intense retreat and then nothing will never be as amazing as the effects of integrating blessing my body at least a few times a week, even if it’s just 10 minutes of beginner’s level stuff with my.

Little rainbow buddy next to me being distractingly adorable or kind of annoying depending on the day. Little bits of yoga done as best as I can. Little by little over time will create a practice and it will create lasting change, and that’s what I want. This is kind of like brushing your teeth. We go to the dentist every six months.

And get a thorough cleaning and take care of all that yucky plaque and we add some extra fluoride and everything is all bright and shiny. And even if you don’t love the dentist, it does feel good after you are out of there. But if you didn’t brush your teeth every day, those cleanings aren’t going to be enough, and you will be dealing with some smelly breath and gritty teeth and cavities and maybe pain and other problems.

And brushing our teeth is a great analogy because we all get it. We understand that even though it’s not the most exciting thing to do, brushing every day is a habit. We want to continue because the benefits are so great, it prevents so much hurt. And needles. I even use this, um, way of thinking on my older kids who hate getting fillings.

I have to remind them that brushing their teeth isn’t much better than doing all of that, right? So get ready for the segue. Friends, just like our teeth need good hygiene every day to stay healthy, so does our brain. And for so many of us, it’s just not a habit. We are used to. So first I wanna tell you why brain hygiene is so important, and then I’ll give you a few ways you can incorporate this easily into your life.

And then as you commit to practicing it, it will become as easy to remember as brushing your teeth, the part of a brain that operates on default. Is very good at its job. It is there to keep us alive. It does this by conserving energy, avoiding pain, and seeking pleasure. This has worked wonderfully for the human race as far as survival goes, and as time has gone on, we’ve gotten even better at making our lives easier and more pleasurable as a society.

Which seems like a win for humanity, except we look around and there are so many people struggling with mental health. So why is that? It’s because our brain on default doesn’t always offer us the best way of thinking, and it can get confused because things like chocolate cake are very pleasurable and the brain likes it and wants more.

And getting up early to do yoga is good, but our brain would rather stay in bed. And as our brain looks around for possible dangers, it can get overly excited. And then we are stuck with a whole lot of anxieties that don’t serve us in this modern world that is arguably safer than ever. And there are rarely Tigers trying to eat us.

And unfortunately we don’t get a lot of training on how to manage our brains as we grow up and even as adults. There’s still a lot of messaging out there that is detrimental to us. Like how to improve our relationship is to make a big list of how your partner should act and give it to them so they can make you feel better.

Or how we try to control all the things so our kids have a perfect life and then they have no idea how to handle failure, rejection, or anxiety. Neither do we for that matter, which is why we are so set on making sure our kids never feel those things. And if we’re talking grief, well the world tells us that’s a problem to be fixed and quickly.

So even as grievers, we can’t even start on our path of healing until we break down all the beliefs and the confusion that has come from the society around us. It is a lot to wade through, but it can be done and it’s such good work to do. That’s why I am so passionate about teaching you how to manage your mind, because each person who learns a skill will create a ripple effect.

Having strong women in the world who know where their feelings actually come from is so, so powerful. Having people who can show up as their most favorite self in their communities will do wonders. Having grievers who practice mindfulness, self-compassion and allowing their emotions is an example for others who come after them.

And individually for you listening right now, your life will be much more fulfilling as you manage your mind and learn how to use your higher brain. So here are the things that will help you build a regular practice of managing your mind. Some of these you may have heard before and some are gonna be new.

That’s okay. We always need reminders. So the first one is really simple. It’s thought downloads. Take a piece of paper and a pen. It doesn’t have to be fancy. You are welcome to burn this after. If you don’t have a pen, use your notes app or even voice record yourself. Whatever works best for you to get all your thoughts out into a place where you can look at them.

Again, write for at least a full page without stopping. You can just write anything or pick a specific situation that is bringing up negative emotions for you right now. That’s usually the best way to get started. Or if you have a goal, write down all the reasons your brain thinks it won’t happen. Just let it all out.

Once you have it written out, you can take some individual thoughts and put them into models. Depending on time, this could be one or two, or it could be more. It’s totally up to you. The self-coaching model that I teach was created by Brooke Castillo. It consists of five sections, circumstance, thought, feeling, action, and result.

Pretty much everything we are going through can be put into this model as a way to see what is going on in our brain. If you want the details on how to use this model, go to episode seven or come talk to me. I make sure all my clients are model experts and it can be really helpful to start out with me there to guide you so you don’t make some of the more common mistakes.

Something else that will help you with brain hygiene is simply awareness. This is another skill you can learn and it’s something we work on every week in coaching. Awareness is the opposite of just letting your brain run on default and blaming everything you feel on the things outside of you. When you are aware, you start to notice emotions.

Then you notice how you are thinking. You can see how you are showing up and you can evaluate it. This needs to be done without judgment to be most effective. Often the first thing people do when they learn about managing their minds is start blaming themselves for not having better thoughts, but that isn’t the goal.

Awareness is like you’re taking a step back and studying yourself like you’re watching a movie of your own life, like a scientist who is only making observations and no conclusions. Yet sometimes you’ll only get this clarity after something has gone down. That’s okay. Keep practicing and soon you’ll be able to see it in the moment, and then you’ll be able to come prepared to situations with your brain already managed and your mind made up.

But how do you incorporate this into your life? We’re all busy. I totally get it. So I want you to make it super simple for yourself. At first in the book, atomic Habits James, James Clear suggests to start really small and even attach your new habit to something you’re already doing. So maybe you pray morning and night.

Could you take a few minutes before just to download your day? Maybe you have a commute or a carpool where you get a few minutes in the car. Can you turn off the radio and just think maybe you open your phone to check emails in the morning. Could you go to your notes app instead? I am all for making things simple and doable because for me, if it isn’t, I’m not gonna do it long term.

I know there are people in the world who can set aside an hour at 6:00 AM for journaling and meditation. I’m just not one of them in this season in my life. But if you are, go ahead and do it. But really this doesn’t need to take a lot of time. It’s something you can just keep in mind as you go. What you don’t want is to spend so much time self-coaching or going over the past that you stop taking action in your life.

You stop moving forward. So make your self-coaching time efficient. It doesn’t have to be the same every day. You can’t get behind and you can’t do it wrong. Just do it. Another way to keep your brain nice and shiny is to focus on what you want. This is where you create your reality. On purpose. You make goals, and then you make micro goals that will help you get through each step until you reach your end goal.

If you want a better relationship with your mother-in-law, you can stop being reactive or only dealing with her when you talk to her and start picking a few thoughts to practice. Pick thoughts that are believable, that bring up the feeling you want and keep telling them to yourself. You can even write them on Post-Its and put them on your mirror.

Our brain on default has thoughts that have gotten you into a less than ideal relationship. To let go of those thoughts, we have to be intentional and then try it and start building evidence that maybe you were wrong about her. Or if you’re pregnant after loss, this can be a time that is full of high anxiety.

So thought downloads will show you what you’re afraid of, and the act of getting it out will be powerful in and of itself. But if you wanna feel excited if you wanna buy that crib you’ve had on your Pinterest board for months, You have to practice believing in you and in this baby you have to practice allowing those warm, fuzzy emotions.

You have to practice putting anxiety in the backseat and bringing it along because anxiety is not a problem when you are managing your emotions. We were talking about chocolate cake earlier, and another simple way to do brain hygiene is to look at what is giving you dopamine hits each day and see if you like it.

When you feel an urge, do you follow it? When you feel a feeling, do you immediately want to fix it with things outside of you? Our brain on default will take the chocolate every time. I want you to have other tools in your toolbox, so if you feel an urge, notice it and give yourself a minute to decide if you want to follow it.

It could be picking up your phone or online shopping, or pouring a glass of wine. What do you often get urges for that might not be aligned with your goals and who you want to be? What can you do to replace. These behaviors with things that are more aligned and even better, what can you do to just allow these urges to be there without responding to them?

My challenge for you is to start with one urge per day that you want to answer in a different way. Make a plan ahead of time and follow through. Just like we don’t eat caramel after we’ve brushed our teeth for the night. You don’t have to answer every urge when you keep your mind maintenance up. And luckily for us, there is a lot of opportunity to practice this.

And the last way I want to share that you can do brain hygiene is to observe others. This is kind of my secret weapon, and it’s something I really enjoy doing. Again, this isn’t in any way judgmental. But it’s sharpening your brain to notice patterns in how people’s thoughts create their feelings. Their feelings drive their actions, and their actions create their results.

And how these results always come back to the way they are thinking. It’s often so much easier to see what’s happening for other people, but I have to warn you, it will be tempting to tell people what you observe or what you’ve learned. I. We’re not gonna do that though, especially to the people closest to you.

Nobody wants to hear, you know, that’s just a thought That, and that you are making yourself upset right now. The self-coaching model is for self. So observe the beautiful humans around you with love practicing how we are all just doing our best with the brains we’ve been given. It’s such good work to do.

And soon you’ll find that the amount of drama you have in your life goes way, way down. When you see, when you can see this playing out all around you. You’ll be able to see it much more clearly in yourself. That’s why watching other people be coached is so powerful. And if that’s something you’re interested in, I’m planning to have a small group coaching starting in the new year.

Go to spoo stones and scroll to the bottom of the page to jump on my email list. I always tell the people there about everything that I’m doing first, but until then, I want you to find ways to build a self-coaching practice in your life. Maybe you can even use the time you’re brushing your teeth to just think about how you want your day to go on purpose.

I promise you that having a somewhat regular, imperfect but trying practice of mental hygiene will keep you in a much better place, A place where you feel much more in control, where you are not afraid of your emotions. You are not afraid of what you’ll see online today or what someone will say. You’ll just be confident that you can handle it.

Grief waves will be much softer overall, and the big ones won’t drown you. One of my sweet clients said coaching was like a life preserver, and I love that visual. So keep on practicing, keep it simple, and I hope you have a great week. We’ll see you next time.

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