How to change your brain and become happier
The human brain now holds the key to our future. We must recall the image of the planet from outer space: a single entity in which air, water, and continents are interconnected. That is our home.
- David Suzuki
Have you ever felt like your brain just stopped working? You'd then fall into a vicious cycle of depression, negativity, and tunnel visions. Perhaps feeling completely out of control and helpless. No matter what you do, nothing seems to nudge you to the path of positivity and creativity.
You’re not alone.
We’ve all had a period of setbacks where nothing seemed to go right and couldn't pull our heads from the ground. If you wish to change this negative loop, you must influence the brain to produce more positive neurochemicals.
Stanford neuroscience professor, Andrew Huberman, explained 3 simple ways to do so.
Activate neuroplasticity like a child
Reset biological clock with sunlight
Overcome fear and anxiety for change
Let’s dive in.
1. Activate neuroplasticity like a child
Breathe deeply, until sweet air extinguishes the burn of fear in your lungs and every breath is a beautiful refusal to become anything less than infinite.
- D. Antoinette Foy
How can we make our brains more like a child that learns and adapts to anything super-fast? The optimal brain state for learning and change is called neuroplasticity. According to professor Huberman’s research explained on a podcast, even adults can activate a child-like neuroplasticity to rewire the brain.
Here’s a manual:
Quick double inhale and one long exhale
Wim hof breathing technique
Short double inhales and one long exhales are proven to be a catalyst for deep relaxation. Since trying something new or productive work triggers agitation and procrastination, you must first relax your body.
Afterwards, we need to increase alertness and focus. Try longer inhales and shorter but faster exhale to mimic hyperventilation. The Wim Hof breathing method is the most well-known example.
Huberman says that the above breathing techniques can relax our body to get over agitation and stress, and raise our alertness and focus to trigger plasticity. Try applying this prior to getting any work done or learning something new.
Also, after spending your mental capital, remember to take your mind off stress. Rest is key.
2. Reset biological clock with sunlight
“I am alive, and drunk on sunlight.”
- George R.R. Martin, A Storm of Swords
Feeling sluggish in the morning?
Can’t fall asleep quickly at night?
Before delving into fancy frequency music and sleep techniques, Huberman empathically argues for simple sunlight exposures to reset your biological clock.
His lab studied on the effects of photons from sunlight to our circadian rhythm. The retinal circuit receives photons from the sun, and the “output is conveyed to the brain’s master circadian clock. Subconscious processing of sky color changes may therefore be the key stimulus for conveying morning and evening information to the circadian timing system in the brain.”
In layman’s terms:
Wake up, go outside, carefully look at the sky (not the sun!)
Repeat in the evening
Your eyes act as a separate pair of brains that measure photons as a key indicator and set the clock. The more you’re synced to the sunlight or lack thereof, the better your physiology becomes.
3. Overcome fear and anxiety
"Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering." -Yoda
Anxiety and fear impede our performance and stop us from driving meaningful effort to change our brain. In result, we fight against chronic procrastination and negativity that feel repetitive and morally crushing.
However, Andrew Huberman’s study suggests that fear and anxiety are simple triggers for action. Your survival mechanism is telling you to move and find "solutions". Huberman says treating PTSD patients illuminated great insights for tackling our deepest worries.
Lateral eye movements
Quick double inhale and long exhale
Lateral eye movement is about moving your eyes left and right, like a pendulum. This horizontal movement gives you a sense of progress and forward in spacetime. It tricks your brain to think that you’ve made a progress. PTSD patients have greatly benefited from this technique.
A quick double inhale and long sigh exhale is a universal relaxation technique. By mimicking what your brain does when stressed, you're lowering the arousal level. Try combining both techniques to overcome your fears!
Activate neuroplasticity - Reset biological clock with sunlight - Overcome fear and anxiety
Here is the recap:
Reset biological clock with sunlight
Overcome fear and anxiety
We hope you get to try out these three tips!
If it is too challenging to start with all three, stick to one for now and add more later. All that matters is that you move forward, regardless of how big the step.
P.S. if you are looking for an effective way to alter your brain and break bad habits, try out our neuroscience habit app, braintingle! Experience our cognitive behaviour therapy in action to discover your triggers and solutions, while connecting with others for a sense of community and accountability.