PJ's Fitness Blog

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Worrying is Bad For Your Brain!

Worry2Let’s start this topic with a couple questions I have for you:

Would you rather:

  1.) Create a scenario where there is a possibly of being disappointed later or, 

  2.) Create a scenario where you have a 100% guarantee of being disappointed now?

When you make up a Worst Case Scenario (WCS) in your mind, your subconscious brain immediately experiences that scenario as if it has already happened, along with all the disappointment and upsetting emotions that accompany that experience. Those emotions then release chemicals and hormones in your body that are detrimental to your health and are actually even fattening.

When you make up a Best Case Scenario (BCS) on the other hand, opposite chemicals are released in your body that prepare you for open-minded, outside-the-box thinking, so if the bad things do happen, you can quickly find a creative way out or will find it much easier to come up with a great solution or remedy.

WCS thinking puts you in a crummy state that shuts you down, traps you in fight or flight mode, closes the mind down and paints you into a corner. Now if the bad things happen that you were fearing in your WCS state, you have effectively trapped yourself and will find it extremely difficult to come up with any creative ways out.

WCS thinking is also bad for your brain. Blood vessels restrict when you are in that state, so the blood flow to your brain is reduced. Your breathing becomes shallow, so the oxygen to your brain is also reduced. Cortisol and other flight or flight chemicals and hormones are released and if sustained, will cause inflammation, which is also bad for your brain. You won’t sleep very well at night either and this has been shown in numerous studies to also be extremely bad for your brain. I could go on and on, but I’m sure you get the picture.

Here’s the bottom line: When you find yourself creating a WCS in your brain, catch yourself doing it. That’s the first step. Then think of the opposite scenario, which would be your BCS. Then dwell on that.

Your brain is designed for stories. It has to have them. If you don’t feed it stories you make up, it will make up some of its own. You don’t want it to do that though because it will make up WCS over BCS about 95% of the time. Why? Because it’s programmed for survival and preservation first and foremost and that programming makes it notice danger and things to avoid and move away from, over of cool, awesome things to move toward. It’s “away from” motivated instead of “toward” motivated. You can consciously create “toward” motivation though, with BCS stories, so why not?

That vast majority of your WCS stories never come true anyway, do they? But simply creating that WCS puts you through the experience as if it did happen, along with all the fattening and unhealthy chemicals that go with that state.

If you take all those WCS stories and turn them into BCS stories, they might not come true either, but at least you put yourself through that positive experience instead.

People tell me, “I would do that, but if it doesn’t come true, I’ll be disappointed, so I’d rather not get my hopes up.” Yes, that is true and there is a chance that you might be disappointed later, but there’s also a chance that you won’t. With WCS thinking, it’s a 100% chance of disappointment, immediately, and then for as long as you are mulling that WCS over.

Since your mind is going to make up stories on it own anyway, why not take over the process and create BCS stories? Of course this is easier said than done because it goes against our wiring, but with time and practice, that wiring begins to change and with enough diligence, it can become your new automatic response and then you are getting healthier, happier and thinner!

A wise Jewish carpenter had this whole thing figured out more than 2000 years ago and gave us some amazing advice. He said, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?  Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Young people jumping on Mission Beach, San Diego, California, USA

WCS or BCS? It’s your brain. It’s your body. It’s your health. It’s your choice.