Why Bother To Train Our Brain?

Why Bother To Train Our Brain?

Swimming has not always been a natural pleasure for me.  As a youngster, my parents signed me up for swimming lessons and it was not pleasant. The water was too cold, the noise level too loud and the instructor was as friendly as a sergeant shouting out orders to recruits in boot camp. Eventually though, I earned my junior lifesaving certificate, final proof to my parents that I would not drown while swimming at the local pool. 

My skills were good enough, but in the last ten years or so, I found, to my surprise, my zone, that place where every distraction falls away while swimming.

Finding my zone was not my initial purpose when I retrained myself to swim freestyle for long distances. But signing up for my first triathlon, I knew that I’d have to retrain myself to swim better. It was not impossible, but it did require focused effort and commitment. I learned to breathe differently, stroke strongly and engage muscles I didn’t know I had.  Not only did I succeed with triathlons, but somehow swimming became less of an effort and more of a pleasure.

As important as it was for me to retrain my body to compete, so too is it even more important to retrain our brains to think better.  

What Consumes our Minds?

What we consume our minds with is telling. Though our thoughts might be private, our words and actions tell others what we think. We cannot hide our anxiety, worry, fear or disdain, any more than we can conceal our gratitude, joy, peace or patience. 

We all know that some thoughts are much better than others, yet we don’t always know how to switch our thinking. But, all of our body parts, including our brains, belong to us. We don’t have to allow our thoughts to hijack our minds, taking us places we really don’t want to go. Instead, we can take control. 

Since most of us can become by worry or fear, noting what we worry about or are afraid of is a good place to begin. When we politely ask ourselves questions we begin to discern if the things we are afraid of or worry about are valid or imagined. And since our imagination can run  wild, we are the ones who have to tame it. 

Feeling as though we are helpless and powerless victims is the worst feeling. It leaves us hopeless. And without hope, nothing changes. Though we cannot alter anyone else’s mindset, we can modify ours. As we pay attention to our thinking patterns, we gain insight. These insights give us knowledge and knowledge can show us what we can do differently. Taking an action, as opposed to simmering in our thoughts, gives us hope for change.

At first, retraining our brains to think better thoughts will take great effort, but with repetition, having better thoughts becomes more of a spontaneous possibility. 

Why bother to train our brains? It is better for us to train our thoughts so that they do not consume us, taking us places where we don’t really want to go. 

Why Bother To Sow Good Thoughts?

 

Why Bother To Sow Good Thoughts?

Recently, I strapped on my snowshoes and walked along the frozen lake. I enjoy this particular route—the expansive view of sky and water as well as the solitude and silence. Tromping down the deep snow to make my own trail, my body warmed with the exertion. To make my own path, I told myself, would be hard work, but following it back would be easy. 

Happy to be outside in the cold, clear air, I suddenly caught a whiff of cigarette smoke. I wondered who would be smoking and then I saw them—three teenage girls in a little huddle. They looked up, a little startled by my sudden appearance and stared. I didn’t stop to chat with them but instead, chuckled and asked, “Why are you girls smoking?” I didn’t expect them to answer, but one of the girls stepped away from the others and said, 

“Because everyone has a bad habit.” 

“Yeah,” I said. “But you don’t have to,” 

      Promote Good Thinking

Ralph Waldo Emerson is credited with the idea that when we sow a thought, we reap an action. When we sow an action, we reap a habit. When we sow a habit we reap a character and sowing a character reaps a destiny. Our futures, it appears, are launched by our thoughts. 

The young lady who believes that everyone has a bad habit, is only defending her bad habit by those words. But, here is the real clencher of her belief: the longer she adheres to her idea, the longer she will continue her habit. And over the long haul, smoking only erodes a person’s physical and mental well being. It does nothing to add goodness to our health, and quitting is a grueling chore. 

Our thoughts come and go, but how we think about ourselves, others, and our circumstances form familiar patterns. Then these patterns become our norm. It is only when we become conscious of our thinking or someone throws a cog in our pattern, that we actually make any changes. Becoming conscious makes us aware of our choices. If we want to, we can alter our way of thinking about something. 

So, I hope my words to that young lady were a cog in her thinking pattern. I hope someday, she will know that just because people have bad habits does not mean she has to join the club of people with bad habits. She has a choice to make different choices. I hope, for her sake, she sows better thoughts than the one she is presently sowing. 

Why bother to sow good thoughts? It is worth it to sow good thoughts since those thoughts have the power to shape our futures.

Why Bother to Think for Yourself?

Why Bother to Think for Yourself?

     I am ashamed to say that I only know three phone numbers by heart; my husbands, my middle sons and one of my sisters. That is all. The rest of my contacts are stored in my smartphone’s memory and not mine.  When I leave things up to another device, I tend to forget what I used to remember. 

     I grocery shop once a week and write a check each time.  But when I shop with my husband he likes to remind me that all I have to do is sign the check and hand it over to the cashier. Then she feeds it into the machine and the machine fills out the rest. Easy! Except that I don’t listen to my husband nor do I pay attention to the line of people sighing impatiently behind me. Instead, I take out my pen, my checkbook and carefully write in cursive, the amount needed to pay for the goods. 

     I do this because I do not want to forget how to write a check. Also, I like how my brain, pen and hand all work together. Besides, writing out the numbers reminds me how to spell them correctly and I enjoy making the hyphen; two hundred and twenty-six dollars. It is a little thrill since I don’t often write words that need a hyphen.  

     But, I stay away from public restrooms since they make me look stupid. Do I flush the toilet or does it flush automatically? Do I press something to get soap out of the dispenser or do I wave my hand under it? Do I actually turn a knob to run the water or do I wiggle my fingers under the faucet?  And what about the towel dispenser? Do I press down on a lever or just hold my hands under it and wait for it to dispense the paper? I don’t want to look dumb, but sometimes I just don’t know the proper protocol called for in certain situations.  

     Robotic lawn mowers are an interesting phenomenon. One of our neighbors mows their lawn in this fashion. Every time I see the machine, I miss the tradition of waving to my neighbor who used to trek behind their mower on a warm summer’s eve. Where did the human being go?

     When backing out of my driveway, I do not use the screen on my dashboard that shows what is behind me. Rather than looking forward at the screen, I prefer to crane my neck and see what is actually behind me. Is there an animal, person or a robotic lawn mower in my pathway?

     Recently, I’ve had to adjust the settings in my email. Somehow it defaulted to automatically showing me words it thinks I might want to type next. Frankly, I find that upsetting. How does it know what I want to type when I’m still formulating the words in my brain? That’s like putting words into my mouth. I hate it when people do that. Now a non-human contraption is trying to tell me what to think. The nerve!

     Reading a book is one of my favorite pastimes. I like how words look on paper. I like the smell of books. I like turning pages. But I am concerned for those who do not know how to turn a page. They only know how to swipe a screen. They will go through life not knowing what is meant when someone says, “That book is a page turner.” 

     I want to always remember how to write in cursive, flush a toilet, mow my lawn, see what’s behind me, formulate my own thoughts and turn the page of a book. 

      Why bother thinking for yourself? If we don’t, then we won’t remember how to.