DAY 28: Free Range Humans
Day 28 Self Reflection:
On Day 28 of your workbook, identify some activating events and see what your beliefs have to say about them.
Day 28 Micro-Science: Mirror Neurons
In a lab in Italy, mirror neurons we’re accidentally discovered when a scientist was studying primates motor functioning. With electrodes protruding from the poor monkey’s head the researchers was marking what areas of the brain lite up when the monkey’s ate a grape. Then serendipitously the researcher got hungry himself and ate a grape. Surprisingly the same areas of the brain that lite up when the monkey ate a grape lite up when the researcher ate a grape. Turns out that just watching an action in others causes your brain to respond as if you were doing that same action. This is one of the reasons thats humans love watching sports as our brains feel like we’re actually completing the three pointer or scoring a goal. This is due to the brains mirror neurons activating and helping us to learn movements from others or to feel the emotions that they are feeling in order to create quick responses to threats. This evolutionary advantage helped others move away from danger quickly if they say when of their fellow cave people freaking out. This process makes sure that the human doesn’t get curious and go check out what is happening but instead feels the fear in themselves and high tails it out of there, ten feet in front of the others, thereby increasing their survival chances. This evolutionary trait can he helpful in todays world or also harmful. For instance, it helps us to feel empathy towards others and encourages group cooperation. However, mirror neurons also work to our disadvantage by making emotions contagious and when one person is struggling we tend to struggle right along with them.
FACT: Human brains have something called spindle cells that are unique to only a few animal species, such as dolphins and elephants. These spindle cells are unique in that they allow emotions to be transmitted across the brain at lightning speed
TAKEAWAY: Emotions are super helpful in making quick decisions but can also overtake a person’s decision making process and cloud effective action. The spindle cells make sure we respond quickly to a threat but also set us up to have past experiences “shade” future experiences incorrectly.
Day 28 Meditation: Predictability/Counting
The world as we know it is a pretty unpredictable place. This is one of the main reasons we get so much anxiety just going about our daily lives. The brain loves consistency and is always making guesses about what is going to happen next in order to help you survive. However, in today’s ever changing atmosphere its getting harder and harder to do. So the brain responds the way it always does to the unpredictable, it freaks out and tries to make order out of chaos. Take for instance, the brain’s prediction that when you get home from work the door will be closed and all windows will be unbroken. If you return home with that prediction and the door is ajar and a window is smashed. The brain will undoubtedly throw a hissy fit and make you anxious. This is a dramatically example but happens everyday in very minor ways. Imagine your driving to work and someone cuts you off or you get an unexpected phone message from your boss. All of these little instances of “unpredictability” add up and cause us to overload our brains. Therefore, in order to counteract this tendency we need to implement “predictability” into our day to convince the brain to calm down and get on with other tasks. One way to do that would be to practiced measured breathing, rub our hands together, or count the world around us in order to bring order to our brain.
FACT: The human brain takes in about 24gb of information per day. If a computer took in that much information on a daily basis it would crash in under two weeks.
TAKEAWAY: The human brain has a tremendous capacity for taking in information but even the human brain can only take so much in at once. It therefore becomes very important to cool your “internal computer” down from time to time in order to get the best results.
Day 28 Meditation: For today’s meditation, the main goal is to try and practice a coping skill that can be used in any situation. Its similar to when someone recommends counting sheep to help you fall asleep, but in this case your using it as a resource to help you calm down when anxiety his. Where practicing it now when your not anxious so when you are anxious you brain just does it automatically. The meditation is to count objects in the room your currently in. Set the timer for five minutes and devise a way to count what is around you. You could just simply count furniture or pick a picture in the room and count the different color combinations or edges of whats around you. The point is to create predictability in your brain so the “unpredictability” of the world gets pushed to the background.
Day 28 Movement Task: Helping Others
One of the main issues in today’s world is that our culture promotes individualism and the “what about me” mentality. For the majority of human’s time on earth, however, we were based in a tribal culture what focused on “we.” Humans do have a selfish tendency built in to look out for themselves, but that is always balanced with helping others in order to help ourselves. That has somehow been lost in the past few decades or centuries even. Researchers and doctors, however, are starting to pick up on this fact and noticing that depression and substance abuse are really “diseases of disconnection.” Therefore it stands to reason that the cure may lie in “connecting” with others. That is hard in the synthetic environment of today’s world, however, with everyone hiding behind their smartphones and laptops. So a little extra effort may be needed to step out of your comfort zone and help the person next to you. I think the chances of you regretting that action, however, are very slim. It feels good to help others and it feels good to be helped in return, its the human way.
FACT: Doctors in England are now “social prescribing” volunteering as one of the best ways to help fight depression. No longer are they looking to medication first, but instead looking to connection with others as a main ingredient to getting back on track.
TAKEAWAY: Depression is an internal signal from your brain that something isn’t going right. For 99% of human’s evolution we never figured out anything on our own, we always looked to the “tribe” to get us back on own feet. So it stands to reason that what worked then will work now. Its unreasonable to expect a person to “do the work” themselves as that just puts more guilt and pressure to accomplish a task that seems so daunting.
Day 28 Movement Task: The task for today is to help someone else. This could mean formally volunteering or it could mean helping a neighbor with a yard project, donating money to a non-profit organization, or simply calling up a friend who might need a listening ear.
Day 28 Bonus Material:
#1) Ted Talk: Tribal Leadership
Check out this Ted Talk by David Logan looking at the roots of leadership and how it can be used in the modern day world. His insights into what it takes to be at the head of the pack will be enlightening.
#2) Ted Talk: Tribes we Lead
Check out this Ted Talk by Seth Godin examining how our outdated brains can be used to our benefit. This short video is a great intro into the evolutionary psychology of human groups.