Friday, February 3, 2017

Outsmart Yourself

I am listening to "Outsmart Yourself", a Great Course I bought from  It is the work and presentation of Prof. Peter Vishton, PhD, of the psychology department of the College of William and Mary.  It is so good and so full of interesting ideas that I may have to listen to it twice.  I normally wouldn't do that but this is different.


Want to feel better?  Move!  Smile!  Any sort of moving will help.  You don't have to be in a sweat suit or a leotard.  The smile will affect your thinking and brain processes and point you toward optimism.


As I read "The 10,000 Year Explosion", "The Invisible History of the Human Race" and "A Troublesome Inheritance", I realized that the business of speaking and writing is a bigger advantage that I thought.  With language tools, we bridge time and we share brains.  It is like a giant network of computers crowdsourcing problems and concerns.  Vishton mentioned the subject near and dear to my heart: vocabulary.  The more words we know, the more we can communicate and consider and think about.  He said that a 2 yr old knows about 2000 words but a 10 year old knows 10,000 words.  A high school grad knows about 25,000 words and a college grad knows 35,000.  


Word choice, including the words we use with ourselves only in thinking, matters.  If you want to be firmer with a change in yourself, say "I don't" as in "I don't eat desserts."  The change from "I can't eat dessert" emphasizes personal, internal controls being used and they are more effective than external controls such as a doctor's orders.  When talking about yourself, you can be more objective and less nervous or anxious if you consciously refer to yourself in the third person: "Bill hopes you like this post."


When you are feeling anxious, you can enjoy the emotional and physical arousal more if you re-label your feelings "excitement".  

When looking for your keys, say "Keys" aloud repeatedly as you search.  You will engage parts of your brain and attention more completely and effectively. 

Vishton emphasizes that the notion of the brain being in charge and the body carrying out its orders is being replaced by the growing realization that the brain is also affected by the body.  There is two way communication and both directions matter.


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