Know your Brain, Master your Mind
Updated: Nov 3, 2020
I will throw some words here and I would like you to think about them. Really. Even better, take a piece of paper and write down your thoughts. Put down a definition, a synonym, an antonym, whatever you want. Here we go:
Did you find a connection with the brain every time? Me too. That is partly because it’s true, and partly because that idea is in your mind now, since you are reading a post about the brain. It’s only natural. That’s how the brain works. Connects, associates and makes predictions. Whatever you put there is fine, it was just to get you thinking. Three more questions:
Who are you? Who is the one thinking? Who is the one observing “the thinker” then?
That’s right. It’s all you. You are both the thinker and the observer. The one that screams when excited, and the one that says “calm down, it’ll pass”. You are your body, your feelings and your thoughts. All this connects in your brain. Your brain is what makes you – you. Who you are and how you are it’s all your brain. One part of your brain not working properly, one little “dark spot” can have a huge impact on the quality of your life, the way you think, how you feel. Every perception, everything you can think of, everything that you know, everything you believe, it’s all produced in your brain. (Yes, produced is the right word.) Cherish it.
Your frontal cortex fully develops around the age of 25. That’s where the human is. This is where you decide what to do with all that information that your senses pick up. This is where you are aware of yourself (and everything else). This is where you never stop changing. Your brain grows, improves, strengthens, or it does all the opposite. This is what depends on you. Choosing which way you go. Deciding who you are.
In order to have the positive changes in your brain, though, you have to know it first. Knowing what you have so you can make it better. Knowing yourself will help you change in a better way. It’s the most beautiful thing you can do for yourself.
I know it sounds like a very complicated organ (it is!), but remember, its only an organ. Yes it is the most magnificent and somewhat superior to the rest of the body, but again, it is only an organ. Think of it in a simple way. You don’t have to know all the reasons (that is the doctor’s job) just look for patterns (so you know if you should see your doctor). It’s the same as with your knee – if it hurts every time you go down the stairs – see your doctor. Or your heart – if it pounds every time you drink coffee – stop drinking coffee, you don’t need a doctor for that.
How to learn?
First, you can read science (or watch videos or talks, or any other way you choose to learn more. I even took a course on psychology last semester. Luckily I had the time to focus more on myself at that time.) Psychology and neuroscience have advanced so much in the last 20 years that you can really find a fine read on anything that interests you. This is where it all made sense for me. This is where everything I learned so far from different angles and perspectives came to a huge “ahaaaaaa” moment. A “wow” one*. This was when I repeated out loud “Now I know that I know nothing.”
You will see that your thoughts, fears or troubles are not weird nor even unique. Even your dreams are not. You’ll learn that you are not alone. You’ll see that what seemed like the worst crisis ever, is as common as almost every other person on the planet.
Introspect** You can improve the quality of your life, make yourself a better person by just observing yourself. learning how your brain works. Knowing how and why you make decisions. The sole realization will motivate you make changes for the better. Knowing what is your deeper motivation. What triggers anxiety, what triggers joy. What wakes you up in the morning and what keeps you up at night. Learning why. Being aware of yourself.
What do you need to know?
Your nature. Your body and everything in it, including your brain, you inherit from your parents (and many ancestors before them). Observe them. See how they manifest their own nature. (Talk to them if you have a chance.) Find what you can learn from them.
Your nurture. Your brain started forming in your mother’s womb and hasn’t stopped since. Every experience you had since you were born has left a mark in your brain. Every teacher, every friend and every bully had their influence in how your brain developed. Your brain is a unique map of your life. A belief system, based on past experiences and influences defines the way you think. Even what you think about. Your default state of Mind, default reactions to different stimuli. Shortcuts. It’s all there, you just might not be aware of it.
The physical state at the moment. It also defines your behavior and how you perceive life. Just to give you the picture*** – your brain is only 2% of your body weight, yet uses 25% of the nutrition that you put in your body (including 20% of the oxygen and 70% of the glucose!) So, I ask, have you eaten? (And what?) Your brain is made of billions (approximately 86) of neurons and a quadrillion connections between them. It is active all the time, even when you rest. It’s what keeps you alive. So, do you sleep well? Have you had any stress lately? Was it worth it?
Nurture yourself better. Change the shortcuts, maybe take the long way. Be mindful.
When I say “cherish you brain”, I really mean it. It’s a part of you after all. It is “You”! Take care of your body and that way you will take care of your brain. And then, happy and relaxed, observe your Mind, become a better person.
Can “I” have more “control” over my Brain? Can my brain be more aware of itself? Can I master my own Mind?
I say Yes. So far I’ve learned that one can indeed do that. Mastering your Mind, for me, means understanding it. Knowing your strengths, your fears, your possibilities. Finding ways to turn them all into opportunities. Making yourself a better person. Living a better life. Knowing that there is only so much you can “control”. The rest you have to just embrace and work with what you have. Learn the steps and dance.
* Instantly, just like in high school, I am in love with psychology again. Both the Freud and the God-please-not-Freud ways of looking at it. I am amazed every day as I learn new things about the human mind (Some animals too really amaze me! <3). It’s the most beautifully organized, the perfectly programmed and truly the most intelligent machine ever built. And we all have it. It’s amazing!
**As I said before, I am so grateful I had the time last six months, for the first time in my life, to do nothing. To have nowhere to be and nothing to do. (I promise a post on Doing Nothing). I focused on myself. I observed. I reached levels of introspection I didn’t know existed. I researched and self analyzed, came to conclusions then corrected or deepened them. I started learning about myself – the one I thought I knew most about. I didn’t.
*** First, let’s get some facts straight – you do not use only 1 or 5 or 10 percent of the brain (depending on when/where you heard it). You use the whole brain. 100% of it, almost all of the time. Every part has its role, everything is synchronized. An amazing hardware, with an almost perfect software. Cherish it.