Read this entire article because it’s really important.
And that is this: Working with what is already wired in your neurology is easier and more effective than working against your wiring.
Read this article to learn 4 specifics ways to work with your neurobiology and get more of what you want:
- One easy way to be happier when you want to be;
- Two easy ways to get others to comply more often with your requests;
- and how to work with your neurology to sleep better.
All as a result of this one basic principle.
This is a principle that I discuss a lot with clients and when I speak. It’s usually in context of a larger discussion and I usually express it as, “it’s easier to work with your neurology/biology than to try to fix what goes wrong when you don’t.”
Our minds and bodies have inter-connected systems that tend to work very well when they are used the way they evolved to be used, and we tend to experience problems, some of them quite severe, when we engage in chronic behaviors that go against those systems.
It’s also worth saying that these systems are inter-related and inter-dependent, and when you mess over one, you will often pay the price across multiple areas — emotional, mental/cognitive, and physical. So many of those problems have emotional ramifications such as the creation of fears, phobias, anxieties, and soothing behaviors that are maladaptive can create health problems such as addiction, weight gain, and so on.
Unfortunately, we aren’t handed an owner’s manual that explains how these systems are designed to work, and “advances” in society and especially technology have and continue to take us further and further away from behaving in ways that work with our neurobiology.
I often see people who have problems sleeping. By and large, if they’re coming to see me, their sleep issues fall into one of two categories: the inner (subconscious) mind has determined that it’s not safe to sleep (an inner cognition issue and an issue for a whole other article), or they are chronically engaging in behaviors that go against the biological systems involved in sleep (and this is related to what we’re talking about in this article). (BTW–I see the latter a lot with teens!)
What behaviors go against the biological systems of sleep?
Keeping electric lights on and watching TV/working on computers/tablets, etc. into the nighttime hours, and generally not using good “sleep hygiene.” And this is getting more and more prevalent. This includes having that gosh-darned smart phone right next to you at night, chirping and buzzing as you get texts and emails all night long. That cell phone is ruining your sleep.
Anyhow, all this artificial light at night causes the brain to think it’s still daytime, and a series of events fail to happen in the brain/body that keeps us awake. Blue wavelength light is detected by the SCN (suprachiasmatic nucleus) and when that happens the brain thinks, “ah, it’s day” — because our sky is blue, so daylight has a lot of blue wavelength light reaching our SCN.
If the SCN senses blue light (“it’s still daytime”) then it doesn’t communicate to the pineal gland to produce melatonin (the hormone that makes you sleepy) and there isn’t a concomitant decrease in cortisol and we feel like being “up.” The normal drowsy/sleepy triggers don’t happen. This often triggers an early rise in cortisol (often somewhere around 1 AM) which gives you the “oh, I’ve got my second wind” feeling. With that rise in cortisol, you’re up for another 3-4 hours, so now it’s 4 or 5 am before your system is so fatigued that you crash and finally sleep. But, cortisol is set up to be triggered for ONE natural rise in production in your daily cycle, so when you wake up at 9 or 10 or noon, you don’t really feel rested. And then, because we are creatures of habit, chances are you do it all again the next day.
Release of melatonin also triggers a release of serotonin which creates good feelings of well being and causes us to drift off with pleasant dreams. When this all happens properly, cortisol production gets triggered after the right amount of sleep, and with the approaching morning we feel more and more ready to wake up, so we wake up feeling naturally energetic and ready for our day. And there are so many processes that go on in the brain and body while you’re sleeping that we can’t even get into it all. Suffice it to say that when this cycle gets screwed up lots of bad things happen, including weight gain, depression, increase in anxiety, even heart disease.
How to fix it? Work with how you’re body and mind are wired to work. Turn down/turn off the lights or wear blue-blocking glasses if you MUST work on the computer into the evening. Practice good sleep hygiene. Here is a really good article from the NY Times on blue blocking glasses and other strategies to reduce blue wavelength light in the evening.
OK, this isn’t REALLY an article on sleep.
The discussion above was primarily to illustrate the underlying principle that working with our neurobiology is the best way to consistently get the best results. This principle applies not only to physiological things like sleep, but also to your emotional state, and even to gaining the compliance of others.
Here is a little bit of an extension on this principle.
Our neurobiology not only consists of what we are born with, but what we are anchored to through operant conditioning. Powerful anchors were established when we were very young–infants and toddlers. Those anchors can still be used today–to take control of your own state, and to influence others.
Read on for specific ways to apply the underlying principle to get more of what you want in life.