No, I didn’t forget a key word in the title: I’m asking you to help me complete it by answering the question, “What is the human brain designed to do?”
To think…to remember…to make decisions? Yes, the human brain is designed to do all these things. However, you may be surprised to learn that its most important job is to help you to…survive!
Regardless of whatever else your brain is doing, it wants to keep you safe and to help you to survive. Your brain will do whatever is possible to help you to survive even if it’s called upon to do some very strange things: for example, shutting down your digestive system, your immune system, or some of your cognitive functions just to save energy during very stressful situations. Your brain is always thinking of one thing: how to protect and ensure the safety of…you.
Your brain is exceptional, and it knows what it’s doing. For example, in the case of high chronic stress, the brain is reasoning, “The most important thing I have to do is to not let this person die.” And you won’t die! But you may experience poor digestion, sickness, or mental confusion. You’ll likely start to complain and to ask yourself why you’re experiencing these symptoms.
But here’s the thing…your brain didn’t make you sick—you did! You allowed yourself to become stressed in the first place, and you blamed bad lack, circumstances, or even your genes.
If I tell you to do whatever works for you to change your bad habits, I can predict what your response will be.
How do I know?
I happen to know a little bit about how improvement in cognitive function and mood works. We human beings don’t like change, and this is perfectly understandable and normal.
You are here today, at this stage in your life, because your brain hasn’t been willing to alter its underlying beliefs. Your sophisticated brain is helping you to survive— even if you’re a little bit “dysfunctional” (and who isn’t?). What’s most important is that you’re still alive—dysfunctional, perhaps…but most definitely alive!
We need to understand and to accept how the human brain functions: After many years of constructing your beliefs and habits, it’s not so easy for the brain to turn them off instantly. Depression, anxiety, obsessive–compulsive disorder, phobias—these characteristics, or others like them, have been within us for a long time, so how can we expect to get rid of them overnight? Your old “dysfunctional” synaptic connections have been in your brain for decades (depending upon how old are you), and it will take a lot of energy, time, and persistence to establish a new, and hopefully better, neural circuit.
Does that sound impossible?
Well, it’s not impossible…not at all. Change is both desirable and possible.
What can you do to effect the changes you want to make?
First, determine what you want to change. Then make a strong commitment to make those changes: Motivate yourself and plan exactly how you’re going to execute them. Ask your friends for help (you might even inspire them to make a few positive changes of their own!) and see a professional counselor and following his or her instructions of professionals.
Most importantly, keep your faith and optimism high and take small, steady steps every day toward your goal. You’ll find that your brain will support your desire to change it.