I've recently started a new publication on Medium called "Neuroscience of Aliveness." I'll be posting most of my writing on there for now. Check it out!
The brain changes quickly.
In milliseconds, neurons are all talking to each other, arguing, trying to decide who knows what's real.
Some networks agree with each other, or work out their differences, and then sing as choirs in networks.
The networks, in turn, then argue with each other on a higher level. The argument is the same.
"We know what's real."
"No, we know what's real."
Some networks agree with each other, and dominate the conversation.
"You're holding a red balloon." The visual center has some networks saying ,"RED!!!" and some saying, "ROUND" and others saying "SHINY," while the tactile (touch) areas say, "RUBBERY" and "BOUNCY."
They yell to the higher level areas, which compare these combinations of ideas to memory. "Yes, we've seen this pattern before. You can squeeze it, but not too hard."
Every day, these giant events happen millions of times inside our skulls.
Our brains are always trying to figure out what is real and more importantly, trying to predict what will be real in the future.
Over time, the neurons that win their arguments become dominant. The brain networks that win their arguments become dominant.
The patterns that get stronger move from the more "casual" brain networks, that can update quickly, to more "serious" networks that are stable and stubborn.
We decide what's real.
These decisions are basically our habitual emotions, behaviors, and thoughts. These are what our brain knows is real (as much as it can know anything).
These are what we are as adults, for the most part.
When we decide that we want to become healthier, what we're trying to do is change our well-worn patterns.
We're trying to change what our brain knows is real.
This is not easy. You might have a thought one day, "Hey I'd like to be happier."
This thought comes from neurons and brain networks all whispering to each other. Part of the thought is casual, part of it serious.
The casual parts are saying, "Hey, isn't this interesting?!"
The serious parts are saying, "Hey, this has been painful for a while now."
Health, in its simplest sense, is freedom. Freedom to feel fully alive. Freedom to go in any direction our Aliveness takes us in.
Illness is an ability to follow our Aliveness due to the restrictions of habitual patterns that, over time, injure us.
Just like a bad knee makes us less able to appreciate the beauty of a walk in the park, a habit of blaming others for our anxiety makes us less able to appreciate the beauty of our relationships.
Getting healthier means changing what our brain knows is real.
Getting healthier means supporting the "quieter" neurons that have been telling us losing for a long time, while our patterns have been winning.
Getting healthier is not easy. But it also is easy.
If you want to change a habit, it'll take as much energy as the energy that went into creating it.
But getting healthier is a vague idea. What we really want is to feel healthier now.
And tomorrow. And the next day.
And this is actually easy.
Feeling healthier comes from taking tiny actions. Anything new makes the brain go nuts. It becomes a dopamine fest.
Aliveness is the feeling of noticing that we're alive and feeling that it's a good thing.
Aliveness comes from pleasant surprises. They wake us up and remind us, "Oh, that's what I'm here for."
When we take a tiny action, and it makes us feel alive, that's making us healthier tomorrow, but more importantly, it making us feel healthier today.
When we look at life through this lens, we can ask, "Where will my Aliveness come from next?"
Then we can take a small step in that direction, and we get healthier.
p.s. I know I haven't described the method for always achieving Aliveness. I didn't want this post to go on for days. But if you're interested, you can find more in my free email course.
Health is balancing.
We have a thousand forces pulling our minds and bodies in all directions.
Our energy can go in one of those directions at one time.
Either we can take care of our business, our relationships, or our self care, but usually not all at once.
We get sick (physically or mentally) when we put too much energy into one area of life and neglect other areas.
If we work all the time, our relationships with others suffer, and so do our minds and bodies from lack of self care.
If we spend all our time with friends and family, we will lose connection with ourselves and our goals.
If we spend all of our time meditating, exercising, or at the spa, we won't be maintaining relationships with others, and we won't have time or energy to work on constructing our goals.
When we work a little bit at a time on each one, and then move to the next, we practice balancing.
We are never actually balanced because, again, a thousand forces constantly pulling us in every direction.
But health is a process. It's the process of balancing the energetic flows in our lives, so that they all get tied smoothly together, rather than pulling us apart.
A healthy life is not a finished product. It's what you get when you look around and realize that you feel connected to all things.
After all, your life is not about any one part of it. Your Aliveness is all of you.