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A Day in the Life of Our Brain
WHAT WOULD ONE WORK DAY LOOK LIKE FROM INSIDE OUR BRAIN?
Have you ever considered what today looks like from inside our brain? Take a look and we’ll also improve our communication and sharpen several mental skills.
We can capitalize on what we see inside to improve our overall well-being.
OK, so it’s 6 AM and we awaken ready to play ball or slay a buddy. Our brain decides.
We’ll feel groggy if we awaken our brain in the middle of one of its sleep cycles and rhythmic patterns, which last for 90 minutes. Patterns of sleep for the normal brain generally progress through three 30-minute sessions. Complete cycles tend to last 1 hour and 30 minutes, and don’t do well when they are broken or interrupted.
In the first 30, we sleep rather lightly.
In the second 30 minutes during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, our brain restores levels of oxygen to the cornea, while we dream.
In the third 30 minute phase we move back into a lighter sleep. We will shorten the REM stage through stuffing ourself, drinking just before bedtime, or taking some medications, but we can enhance our wake up time
If we plan our sleep in 90 minute chunks we’ll feel better when we wake up. Set our alarm for 20 minutes earlier, rather than start into a new cycle and then have our alarm go off like a fire engine at a slumber party. Sleep in a darkened room and we’ll have a better chance of our brain releasing enough melatonin to get the rest we need, so we awaken refreshed, rather than feeling like a truck hit us.
We’ve probably noticed that when we sleep for the same amount of time each night, that we will no longer need the alarm since our brain has its own built into alarms or circadian rhythms, once it learns our patterns.
Forget where we put our keys again? Our rote memory is at its sharpest here, so we can take advantage of this alertness by reviewing those three facts we need to know about the car engine we plan to repair or the tricky recipe we expect to create for dinner. Run over three key talking points in bullet form to prepare for a Rotary meeting today, and we’ll be surprised how poignant details stick to our brain to help us make our points when we arrive at the meeting later today.
Our pulse rate and blood pressure rise sharply at this point in the day also. If we rested well, our brain rewired itself overnight and it is completely ready to go! We are now poised to have some real fun, while we learn about and express our world in at least 8 distinctive intelligences or perspectives. Ask ourselves how we plan to use a few of these intelligences to throw something fun or silly at a serious job we plan to do today, and watch creativity kick in! Look ahead, and tell our partner to look forward to a swim together at the park after work, or throw an aerobics tape on and get the blood hopping for a few minutes.
Interestingly, blood clotting problems can occur more frequently in this period of a day, so we may want to exercise and drink lots of water to give our health a heads up before we start our routines.
Stuck in a rut, or leading the pack? Our best mental tools are our multiple intelligences and they will flex and flourish more and more as we use and play with them. Expect new answers to old questions, and start with an issue or event that piques our curiosity and stirs some wonder. Remember, overnight our brain completely rewired itself, and we grew new dendrite connector cells, which allow us to move forward faster now with the inspiration we stockpiled yesterday. So imagine ourselves going after that special project or plan we’d like to achieve today, with the same determination Tolkien’s hobbits went after their precious ring in, Lord of the Rings.
Travel the same road to work or try a new route?
We’ve likely enjoyed moments here and there when we think and act different from others. Moments when our approaches to knowing and expressing our world show how our brain is fearfully and wonderfully made. Look daily into new rooms in our brain for a new way of solving an old problem, and we’ll also spot resources and spaces that successful people enter into and make use of daily.
It is clear that when we use multiple intelligences during any day, that we add a degree of flexibility to our brain, so that it works harder for the results we desire. We’ve learned to value these differences in ourselves and others, so that our brain becomes much more effective as an integrator of ideas on the one hand, and of communicating more effectively with many people on the other. See ourselves in win/win situations today and then use multiple approaches to make that happen whenever new opportunities arise.
Do others see confidence and caring in us? While we will have emotional reactions to people and to events, we can work these in our favor if we lead with our strengths, and if we take a few steps to reduce cortisol (That limits our confidence) and raises serotonin (that increases our chances for success). These chemicals, called neurotransmitters, seep through clefts in our brain. They convert to electrical impulses and effect emotions. They also impact learning for good or bad, and they help us to create a safe learning environment for ourselves others at home or work. Remember the last time we created satisfaction and reduced panic for ourselves and others. While stressors will differ daily for all of us, nevertheless, the pathways to living a life of confidence, without stress look remarkably similar.
Leading with our strengths or losing ground?
Building on how to lead with strengths, boldly step forward to try a new skill today to help us achieve a complex task that comes our way. If cortisol seems to pop up and we feel panicked or anxious, play slower Baroque music in our background. Laugh at ourselves, or at something we remember, and tell the joke to somebody we know. Choose one new intelligence to sprinkle spice into our day and then throw in three or four small activities that let us play with the experience. If we play music, also practice humming a silly tune, and listen to the sounds all around us without speaking for 5 minutes. Share this intelligence with somebody else and find out what they enjoy most about using different domains of their brain.
Take two folks from other cultures to lunch and ask how conflicts among different people could become solutions when we add multiple ways to knowing and solving problems together. Discuss how we could set a higher target for a project we could do together, then brainstorm ways to achieve that target through partnering with others and using multiple intelligences.
Our brain wave speeds have much to do with how successful we feel and what we accomplish. Try shifting our brain wave speeds to solve a problem that faces us. Slow down our Beta waves by daydreaming about a boating trip we plan. Take two or three minutes to picture the boat and hear the engines, as we feel the waves rocking us. Then speed up our Delta waves by imagining ourselves standing in front of an opponent to defend our beliefs that differ dramatically from his. What is our opening punch line?
Create a great tone for this defense and we probably have moved our wave speed again to empower our mind for successful results. So we are ready to stand on our soapbox, but we also have a new desire to listen and relate to our opponents. We’ve simply rewired our capability so it’s no surprise we’ll get compelling results that turn our day into a series of new adventures.
Watch others around us with a new interest to know and be known by them. Ask questions about how they differ from us, and how we can both benefit from these differences? What can we learn from the other gender about a problem we face? Can we think of one way that women’s and men’s brains different brain patterns can enhance our day today?
Since each brain is wired differently, we can challenge ours at the moment with a question about how to optimize those differences for an interest we have. How does our observation lead to more unique contributions welcomed across cultures, genders and individuals? What will we do differently today because of this deliberate observation of others around you.
Grab a 20 to 30 minute nap and we’ll be surprised what we can do for our brain at this point in the day. It’s best not to nap in the evening, and we’ll want to avoid snoozing beyond that 30 minute-stage of our sleep cycle. Once we pass the 30 minutes though, it’s best to sleep for 90 minutes and then we’ll wake up refreshed and ready to take on the world with new gusto!
We have both chemical and electrical impulses which can help us move into the latter part of our day with new creativity and expectation for better experiences. We increase our curiosity about a topic we enjoy through asking a question about its merit, to a fellow worker or a friend. Rather than sit around passively take a brief walk and think about one talent that we could use to enjoy our evening more.
Plan an hour alone and get to know our self at a new level. Become friends with ourselves and our brain will build many neuron pathways to success just like the greatest thinkers of our time do when they spend time alone. Imagine places we’d like to travel. Play music we enjoy. Build a table in the garage, just for fun. Pour a glass of our favorite wine and watch the scenes beyond our back deck for fifteen minutes to see what they can teach us about ourselves!
Our brain will benefit from dinner more if we take our time, stretch out the experience and eat lightly. Enjoy others at the table and get to know what they did for fun today. Avoid unpleasant topics because our brain helps us to digest food better in a relaxed mode.
If dining alone, plan to make dinner an extra special occasion. Read a favorite book or take in a light article from a trade magazine that describes our interests. We might even enjoy listening to an upbeat CD and planning how we will spend an evening alone. Will we play computer scrabble, enjoy a video we’ve wanted to see, or call a good friend and go dancing? Whatever we decide, expect to enjoy the evening and our brain will multiply personal benefits from all the fun and adventure we plan.
We might reflect on our day by listing the three most significant events to the left of a paper and jot down our response to the right. Return to our thought this morning, and reflect on how the three bullets we created added an exciting angle to our day. Use either words or simple sketches if preferred. How might we do things differently, if we were to add a new intelligence into the mix? For instance, if we welcomed a lesson from a past mistake made, what might have happened as a result? If we met a conflict from a fellow worker, and we told a joke that laughs at ourselves, what would have been the consequence? Celebrate where we used music to find inspiration, or where we walked briskly for a few minutes rather than sat for too long in a chair. Look at our day through a new lens and we will try new approaches for better success the next time we are faced with challenges at home or work. Play a game with a young child, and start by asking the child what they like to play most. Then encourage the child to take the lead and follow along.
We can increase our hormones for fun and well-being and we can decrease hormones that lead us to panic or make us feel afraid or anxious. Play with some of the activities suggested here and we’ll begin to control both states of our mind so that we feel satisfied and content in almost any situation. Then try another path to something we do well, so that we sit in a different chair to relax, read a paper from another city or write a letter to encourage a community leader.
In this part of our day our brain does best to laugh at the Jay Leno show, relax with a good book, enjoy friends, or prepare for the coming day. Listen to inspirational music or romantic music from Schubert, Chopin, Tchaikovsky or Schumann. I like to play Debussy, Faure and Ravel’s impressionistic music in the evening, as we find this music puts us in touch with our inner beliefs and desires, and then we might discuss a book read recently with our partner.
Music in the evening adds peace and grounds us in the moment, and so it evokes quiet and affirming images in our mind. Laughter increases our ability to enjoy life and makes us feel better because the simple act of laughing at a silly thing we did, or at a joke we heard releases health-inducing enzymes into our brain.
We often sleep better and dream about positive images if we imagine actual physical movements before sleep. Visualize a pro skiing down the highest peak ever seen, or skaters on their final run at the Olympics, and we will sleep with fewer nightmares. The reason we dream is that we allow our brain to drop into zero management control as we sleep. Brain scans show no activity in the frontal areas of the brain, where we plan our day and enjoy deeper thoughts about life. Dreams are simply uncontrolled images, which bounce off each other and perceptions which activate without our help, during REM sleep. Researchers sometimes liken the dream state to be similar in ways to the mentally ill state, where we have poor control of memories and images. The difference of course is that dreams occupy only a brief and restorative mental state, and our mind will hand us back controls when we awaken, while mental illness prevents that control from happening at any time.
Want some exciting new insights to help the coming week? Ask a specific question about something a plan for tomorrow. Expect your brain to search and find some new insight overnight, from it’s capacity to rewire and to teach us new approaches to success while we are in Delta, the slowest brain waves, where enlightenment often happens.
With over 200 sleep clinics in the US it’s clear than many have problems when they try to sleep. To maximize the chances of restful sleep tonight, eat moderately, and avoid additives or fats before bedtime. Warm milk works wonders with the brain, and a little honey added gives it an even better taste. Make sure that glass of wine you had after dinner, metabolizes for at least one hour before sleep and drink lots of water. Avoid caffeine in the evening, and exercise much earlier in the day, to engaged in much less stimulating evening activities.
If we set the conditions correctly, our brain will decrease cortisol overnight and will release melatonin and increase growth hormones. Sleep deprivation is not a good idea, since the brain needs sleep to function well the next day. To ensure a good night’s sleep try to get at least 7 and 1/2 hrs, and if we want to wake up with our brain ready to go, it’s a good idea to set our alarm to go off at the end of a 90 minute sleep cycle, rather than interrupt a complete cycle. We have a far better day when our brain is poised to make it happen.