Saturday, May 18, 2019

Some Guided Mindfulness Practices

     Last week I was recommending Ronald Siegel's book The Mindfulness Solution: Everyday Practices for Everyday Problems.  What a terrific resource for all situations and stages of life, and how to use mindfulness practices to help guide you through them with minimal bruising.

     Dr. Siegel also has a website that ties in to this book and has a page that offers different mindfulness practices that he talks you through.  Although there is no background music, his voice is gentle and reassuring as he guides you to relax, to deal with your reactions to issues, or to feel more compassion toward yourself or others.  You can visit the guided meditations page on his website here.  You'll be glad you did.

(photo courtesy of pixabay.com)

Saturday, May 11, 2019

A Terrific Book to Re-Read

     I was looking through a book catalog to see if there were any new books to purchase (something I do all too frequently) and found a book on mindfulness.  I read the description and did a little research about it, and realized that I already had a better book at home.  So, I re-read that one.  It's The Mindfulness Solution: Everyday Practices for Everyday Problems by Ron Siegel.

     Upon re-reading this book, I realized what a treasure it really is.  Not only does it address real-life problems, but does so in a practical, accepting way.  There is nothing airy-fairy about this book.  It gets down and dirty where you are, accepts the human condition, and offers fairly simple solutions to get you back on track.  I rediscovered ways to address some situations in my life and was glad I took the time to revisit this book.  You may, too.  Highly recommended.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Thought for Today

Here's a thought that goes with last month's theme.  It's from the renowned (and much missed) astronomer Carl Sagan:
One of the saddest lessons of history is this:  If we've been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle.  We're no longer interested in finding out the truth.  The bamboozle has captured us.  It's simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we've been taken.  Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.

(photo courtesy of pixabay.com)

Saturday, April 27, 2019

How Not to Be an (April) Fool, Part 4


     Last week we learned how neuromarketers purposely craft their message to get you to do something – buy their product, believe their message, keep them in power.  Since they are experts at crafting their message with this goal in mind, and since we are constantly bombarded by these messages, what can we do?
     First, realize that it’s happening.  Then, breathe.  Yes, breathe.
     Why?  Because when you purposely take a deep breath, you are getting out of the autonomic nervous system and getting into the rational brain.  In other words, you are taking back control of your reactions.
     Next, mentally take a step back and observe both the message and your emotional reactions.  Yes, sometimes it’s almost impossible not to react emotionally.  What we’re trying to do instead is to keep from allowing those emotions to run our behavior.
    I think of this in many ways as how our brain works when we meditate (you are meditating, aren’t you?  Please do.  It will help).  We first cue our brain by taking a few deep breaths.  We’re saying to our brain, “It’s time to focus and stop reacting all the time.”  Then we concentrate on our breath.  This calms us and helps us get into observer mode.  Then, we sit back and observe our thoughts as they pass by.  We watch them come and go, like leaves floating on a stream, or clouds drifting in the sky.  We watch our reactions to these thoughts come and go.  We pull ourselves back when we start following the narrative and emotional content of these thoughts.  We continue breathing and observing.  
     I think that meditation is one of the best ways to combat neuromarketing.  For your sake, for the sake of our society and our world, I encourage you to keep at it.  
(photo courtesy of pixabay.com)

Saturday, April 20, 2019

How Not to Be an (April) Fool, Part 3


  Did you know that there are certain groups who purposely use our brain structure to influence our thinking and behavior?  Pretty scary, right?  Let me explore with you the world of neuromarketing.
     As you know, marketers – whether they are trying to sell you products via commercial advertisements or people promoting certain ideas (on social media or on public platforms) – want you to act in a certain way.  If they show you a bottle of ketchup, they want you to buy their brand.  If they post a biased article, they want you to support their cause.  If they repeatedly say certain untruths in a public forum, they want you to believe them and work to keep them in power.
     Here’s how it works:  the reptilian brain is the most primitive part of the brain.  If you remember last week’s lecture, this is the part that is involved in survival and instinct.  It wants to avoid pain.  Interestingly, it also is responsible for making many of our decisions.  Neuromarketers purposely aim their message at this part of the brain.
     And how do they do this?  First, they realize that the reptilian brain is reached best through strong emotions.  The limbic system, processor of emotions, acts as the doorway to the reptilian brain.  Then, neuromarketers target the reptilian brain in seven ways:
  • They tap into your pain points – those areas which cause you pain, whether through comparison with others or such survival instincts as hunger or desire for sex (yes, that’s why the voluptuous woman is draped over the hood in the sports car commercial)
  • They appeal to your innate selfishness – they will talk directly to “you” in the message
  • They will use contrast – such as showing the situation which causes pain and their solution which eases the pain (think of teeth-whitening commercials)
  • They emphasize the value of their message – they demonstrate how their message has worked in the past for others, and will work for you
  • They focus on the beginning and end of their messaging – since the reptilian brain tends not to focus on details, they make sure the beginnings and ends pack the most punch
  • They use a visual metaphor – they know that the optic nerve goes directly to the reptilian brain, making it more visual than verbal 
  • They strike an emotional chord – they know that keeping the emotions involved will tend to circumvent any involvement by the neocortex, or rational, brain; interestingly, the reptilian brain tends to be more activated by negative than positive emotions

   So what can we do to keep from becoming manipulated by these forces?  More on that next week.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

How Not to Be an (April) Fool, Part 2


     Welcome to Biology and the Brain 101, class.  Sit yourself down and learn about how emotions affect behavior.
     In the 1960s, neuroscientist Paul MacLean put out the theory that the human brain is comprised of three parts, encompassing one another like Russian nesting dolls.  The innermost part is the reptilian brain, which is enclosed by the limbic system, which is then surrounded by the neomammalian brain, or neocortex.
     Each part of the brain has its own function.  For example, the neocortex is the section involved in higher-order thinking processes, such as language, planning, perception, and abstraction.  The limbic system houses such structures as the amygdala, the hippocampus, and hypothalamus, which are involved in memory, emotion, and motivation.  And finally, the reptilian brain is involved in instinctual behavior such as survival, territoriality, aggression, and dominance.
     And what does this have to do with the encounter with my friend which I wrote about last week?
     Here’s my theory:  News media and other groups (whether in print, on TV, or in social media) sometimes purposely use our brain structure to affect our emotional response and then our behavior. 
     Next week, class, we’re going to delve into the wild world of neuromarketing.

(image courtesy of pixabay.com)

Saturday, April 6, 2019

How Not to Be an (April) Fool

     I was talking with a friendly acquaintance the other day when, in the midst of our pleasantries, she erupted into a diatribe about a new law in a distant state that alarmed her and how certain groups are trying to reduce morality in our country and so on.  I had not heard about this new law, or about how these groups were trying to take over our country, and repeatedly said so.  I knew that my friend watched a very conservative cable news channel and wondered if this was the source of her information, and whether this information was even true.  

     Being an empath, I was bombarded by her anger and outrage.  I was also struck by the deep feeling of fear in her as well.  It took me a long time to get over the emotional punch of our encounter.

     Which brought me to a thought – do news media and other public voices – whether in print, on TV, or on social networks – purposely appeal to one’s emotions first?  And if so, to what purpose?
     And the search for answers brought me to explore what brains and reptiles have in common.  More on this next week.
(photo courtesy of pixabay.com)