Hello friends,

How are you? I hope you’re doing well and that you’ve taken the chance to think about your brain. This month has touched on a lot of interesting topics to do with the brain. And there’s no doubt that this is an important subject – after all, brain health influences everything else.

And the best thing about the brain is that it can heal. Not every injury is reversible, not every obstacle can be surmounted… but our neurological capabilities are far greater than we ever realised. I don’t find it surprising. Of course your brain is amazing because you are amazing. The stories of people recovering from strokes hint at the brain’s potential, but so does everyday life.

I wouldn’t underestimate the human race. Why short-change their brains?

New Courses

I’m working on something new and special. It’s taking a bit of jigging, but it will be worth it.

New Blog Posts

Wait… it’s already March? outlines a simple habit. This habit will slow the relentless march of time, while also helping you to feel more relaxed.

On Brain Health gives actionable advice on how to make your brain stronger. It also busts a myth or two along the way.

Book Recommendations

I’m going to try something different with my book recommendations. Stay tuned! In the meantime, here are some awesome books on the brain:

Soft-wired
Dr Michael Merzenich

Core idea:

The brain is incredibly plastic. What you do – and don’t do – rewires the brain, the same way your muscles grow or shrink with usage. Many conditions, from Alzheimers to chronic pain (and much more) result from the wrong activities wiring your brain in bad ways.

Action points:

  • Challenge your mind with exercises and activities that stretch yourself. These should be achievable with effort.
  • The sorts of skills to focus on include focus, memory, brain speed, navigating time and space, ignoring distractions and a few other skills.
  • Joy is good for the brain. Relax, enjoy and explore the things in your life. Focus on the details and find happiness in them where you can. The brain likes surprises, so search for them.
  • Physical exercise is important. Movement and balance are key. Add variety and focus on each action.
  • Socialise deeply and meaningfully. Let your social life add joy to yourself and others.

 

Thinking, Fast and Slow
Daniel Kahneman

Core idea:

The brain contains two systems. System One is fast, intuitive, automatic and irrational. System Two is slow, deliberate, conscious and rational. System One directs our attention, which shapes what System Two thinks about. System Two can train System One to respond differently to given stimuli.

Action Points:

  • Biases and heuristics are predictable flaws in human thinking. Start to recognise them in other people. Then (and this is the hard part) admit that you are just as susceptible to them. And then (even harder) consider ways to overcome them.
  • Your default thinking likes to assume that What You See Is All There Is (WYSIATI). Cultivate the habit of looking beyond what you see. Ask yourself what you don’t see. Ask yourself what other explanations fit the data, apart from your first reaction.
  • Quantified values – such as risk, probability or an amount of money – carry an emotional component that colours your decision-making. For example, going from a 95% chance to a 100% chance feels more valuable than going from 40% to 45%. If you have numbers, trust them.
  • Related to the above: if you estimate a probability (“I am 80% sure this will work”), remember that you are describing an emotion using numbers. Where possible, find the base rate for your probability – it will eb far more accurate.
  • Your brain emphasises losses, threats and failures over gains, opportunities and successes. This quirk of our evolutionary heritage biases us towards negativity. Be mindful, so the fear of a small loss doesn’t outweigh the anticipation of a big win.

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Having a brain is great; using it well involves MINDSET, which is the theme for April. This month is going to be full-on, but I aim to be far more active on the site. Check out mindwalker.co because learning is virtuous.

William Batten
March, 2017