Your brain is an idiot! (Use this to your advantage!)
… I’m talking nonsense, of course. Your brain is a phenomenal piece of kit. It is, however, a bit dim in one key aspect, and this can either help or hinder your wellbeing.
… it can’t tell the difference between real and imagined experiences. So that awkward conversation you had to have? The one you ran over and over in your mind beforehand, thinking of all the ways it might go wrong? The one that actually turned out better than you expected? As far as your brain was concerned, every time you thought about it was the same as the actual discussion itself … so one conversation turned out just fine, but 99 were absolute car crashes, and you’ve experienced every one as vividly as the real event. Or as Mark Twain more eloquently put it, ‘I've lived through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.’
Negatively forecasting the future (or ruminating on the past) can sap our energy and unnecessarily kick start our survival reactions of depression, anxiety and anger, because our brains will interpret our imagined threats as real … and try to protect us. What have you been negatively forecasting recently? There’s a lot to choose from at the moment.
The happy flipside of this is that remembering positive experiences or imagining better times to come can evoke good reactions and genuine positive emotions. When I used to facilitate self-management groups for carers, our attendees would often turn up feeling stressed and anxious. I’d encourage them to talk about the music they loved and their mood would usually lift pretty quickly as they’d get animated about the performers and styles they enjoyed, even though a note hadn’t been played.
So in that spirit, here’s a photo of me from a couple of years ago hula-hooping in a cheap wig at an evening with some very dear friends. Before you ask I’d had a couple of cocktails but was mainly high on life! It’s not the best photo but when I look at it I immediately remember the happy mood of the evening, and my poor dim brain, bless it, thinks it’s right back there again.
Gotta dash, there’s a hoop in the back room and it’s not going to hula itself now, is it?!