I recently read about a study from the 90’s where scientists scanned a monkeys brain while the monkey was picking up an object. They noted where the brain was lit up. Then they continued to scan the same monkey brain while that monkey watched another monkey pick up the same object. Guess what happened? The same spot on the brain lit up.
So, what does that imply? Well, for me it could mean we humans observe something and our brain lights up as if we are doing the same thing. So what is the effect of watching the nightly news, nightly? Or spending hours checking Facebook. I suppose it depends what the content is.
What are you absorbing?
What are you focused on?
I happen to be a therapist. That means some people meet with me seeking to overcome feelings of depression or some other ailment. It’s my job to help them identify skills that will help them feel better. Among other things, one skill that most of us find helpful when feeling overwhelmed is the ability to change focus. It’s also helpful to challenge some negative thinking. I’m finding there are so many ways to challenge negative thinking, but one thing that seems helpful for me to remember is that it takes practice.
Now I am learning to play golf. I recently went to a driving range before playing with some friends. I practiced hitting with different clubs. I got pretty good with my driver, I was having a blast hitting that little ball all the way to the fence at the driving range. Well, when it came time to play for real, I nailed my first tee shot, but it was a little off the fairway where it landed and when I attempted to get that ball on the green I totally miffed it. This was a pattern throughout the round I played. I was a little frustrated about my results and then I remembered a pattern from the driving range. As I was practicing with a certain club, I would feel more confident over time with it and move on to a different club and it usually took me a number of shots before I got the hang of hitting with that club. Well, on the real course I only had one opportunity to hit a ball and half the time I miffed it. Too bad I can’t practice shots on the course over and over again!
Thinking more about opportunities than dead ends takes practice. Just like my free throws when I was young or my golf swing now. Now, for the follow-through . . .
With life's challenges we seem to get plenty of opportunities to learn from mistakes or setbacks. If we can get in a mindset that these setbacks don't have to be permanent then we can use them to our advantage. Making a commitment to stay focused on what is healthy or helpful or useful allows us to utilize failures and not feel overwhelmed or discouraged by them. Think about a skill you have learned and maybe even felt really good about. How did you stay focused and talk yourself into overcoming the challenge to learn? Can you take what you learned then and apply it to challenges you face now?