Posted on 1 Comment

3 Steps to Rewiring Your Brain

Recently, scientific evidence confirmed the fact that our brains continue to develop beyond childhood. In fact, it has been my experience that we can rewire our brains at ANY time of life…

Sure, it probably seems like it would be more difficult the older you are, but I believe that this is only because we’ve lived with a set of beliefs for so long that we don’t want to open our minds to changing them. As you may have learned (in The Journey Back to Bliss), I spent over 10 years in a highly doctrinal church, filled with seemingly strong beliefs about how life worked, and yet life just wasn’t working for me. Yet, once I had made the decision to open my mind to other possibilities about how life worked, I was able to rewire my brain, the way I looked at life and the beliefs that inspired my future actions and changed the way I felt about almost everything (in a positive way).

Here are the 3 basic steps to take to do the same…

1. Realise that everything is possible

Most people think this is madness… and most of those people NEVER regain their true happiness in life. Think about Thomas Edison or the Wright brothers — inventors of amazing things that we now take for granted — they were considered “mad” I’m sure, because they believed that anything and everything is possible, if you set your mind to it. I’ve written a whole chapter on this in my book if you want to know more.

The reason this is the first step, is that often we can’t imagine that change is even possible. So you’ll never get to step#2 otherwise.

TIP: If you’re having trouble, try asking yourself a series of mind-opening questions each day such as: “Okay, but what if massive change and improvement WAS possible in my life? What would I shoot for if I could have the life of my dreams? What would my life look and feel like then?”. If you can freely engage your imagination (specifically the images and feelings of your new, improved life) like that each day for a while, you’ll make steps #2 and #3 VERY easy (in fact, they’ll almost happen automatically)…

2. Choose to change

Take responsibility for your life and actions, and make the choice to change. It needs to be your definite conscious choice so that your mind is engaged in the process. Part of this step is asking better questions (do this everyday for a while like I did with Gautama’s quote) such as “what areas of my life and thinking are holding me back and creating problems?” and “what easy steps can I take to make my life a little better?”.

If you seem to be having trouble getting any worthwhile answers, then I recommend you take a look through my book for a bunch of ideas that worked wonders for my life.

Make sure you write down any ideas you get, then go to step#3…

3. Make a new habit

More specifically, make a series of small (easy-to-accomplish) new habits. You will obviously use the ideas you came up with in step#2. I recommend doing the EASIEST ones first — so that you build the new habit of building new habits! In doing it this way, it’ll give you the enthusiasm you need to tackle some of the more difficult new habits.

There’s a great free bonus called the “Ideal Average Day List” that comes with my book The Journey Back to Bliss, which is basically a list of the things you’d love to have happen every ‘average’ day of your life, that would make your life better, happier, healthier, more fulfilling etc. I recommend making this sort of list that you check off every day (as many on the list as you can!), and make sure that any of your important new habits are on there.

By putting your focus on these new easy-to-achieve habits, you’ll gradually begin to “rewire” your brain and, in fact, your whole life experience.

Posted on Leave a comment

The Top 5 Feel-Good Foods

Many people can remove recreational drugs and other obvious ‘magic-blockers’ from the picture and still be prone to suffering from depression, mood swings and constant fatigue. If you’re in that category (like I was), it’s important to note that there are treatment options for overcoming depression without swallowing pills…

(Note: This post is a free excerpt from my book The Journey Back to Bliss).

It was my personal experience that doctors seemed to be prescribing anti-depression pills based on guesswork, and often they simply don’t work effectively (they certainly didn’t for me). Not suprisingly, many of the symptoms of depression can be directly linked to vitamin and mineral deficiencies in the standard westerner’s diet, and not some mystical imbalance of serotonin (as I was led to believe).

Depression, mood swings and fatigue often have a common cause: poor nutrition. Getting back to feeling the magnificence and magic of life is sometimes as easy as changing your diet and boosting your consumption of key foods that deliver brain-boosting nutrients and help regulate brain chemistry.

Top 5 Foods for Overcoming Depression & Fatigue

The bottom line is that, to encourage the magic in our minds, we need to put the good stuff in our bodies. That ‘good stuff’ primarily includes omega-3s, B and C vitamins, and folic and amino acids. Whenever possible, I believe it’s best to get them in their natural form rather than using supplements, so here’s a short-list of what to look out for in the supermarket…

1. Walnuts, Flaxseed and Oily Fish like salmon or tuna (Omega-3s):
Participants in a study took just a gram of fish oil each day and noticed a 50% decrease in symptoms such as anxiety, sleep disorders, unexplained feelings of sadness, suicidal thoughts, and decreased sex drive.

2. Brown Rice (B1, B3, Folic Acid):
Besides the vitamins and folic acid, brown rice also releases glucose into the bloodstream gradually, preventing sugar lows and mood swings. Instant varieties of rice do not offer these benefits, so if you see “instant” on the label, avoid it.

3. Brewer’s Yeast (B1, B2, B3, Amino Acids, Minerals):
Brewer’s yeast should be avoided if you do not tolerate yeast well, but if you do, mix a teaspoonfull into a smoothie each day. This superfood includes 16 amino acids, which are vital for the nervous system, so brewer’s yeast is fantastic for feeling the magic!

4. Whole-Grain Oats (Folic Acid, B6, B1):
Oats help lower cholesterol, are soothing to the digestive tract and help avoid the blood sugar crash-and-burn that can lead to mood swings. Other whole grains such as kamut, spelt and quinoa are also excellent choices for delivering brain-boosting nutrients and avoiding the pitfalls of refined grains such as white flour.

5. Cabbage (C, Folic Acid):
Cabbage can help protect against stress, infection and heart disease, as well as many types of cancers. There are lots of ways to get cabbage into your diet; toss it in a salad instead of lettuce, use cabbage in place of lettuce wraps, stir fry it in your favorite Asian dish, make some classic cabbage soup or juice it. (By the way, to avoid gas after eating cabbage, add a few fennel, caraway or cumin seeds before cooking). Cabbage is also a good source of blood-sugar-stabilizing fiber, and the raw juice of cabbage is a known cure for stomach ulcers.

Even better than just plain cabbage, Sauerkraut is fermented cabbage that supports your microbiome due to it’s lactic acid bacteria—so it can have a significant impact on your wellbeing (particularly if you’re not already eating probiotic yoghurt or taking some other sort of microbiome support supplements).

Well, I’m feeling the magic just writing about this stuff. I might jump into the kitchen and go fix myself a big bowl of happiness right now… It’s a shame all of these Top 5 don’t go together terribly well, otherwise we could package it up and call it Super-Mega-Happy-Magic-Food or something!

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE

Four recommendations that didn’t quite make the Top 5 are avocado, chromium, selenium and iron.

  • Avocado is one of those super-foods that’s great for many reasons (including feeling the magic!).
  • Chromium—which isn’t so much a food as a supplement—has been proven to make a significant difference to many suffering depression, and I can highly recommend including it in your diet (you may need to ask for it at your local health food store).
  • Selenium is apparently really important as it helps thryoid function, and if basically your thyroid is stuffed then youíre in big trouble! (Note: I’m not medically trained—as you can probably tell—so please forgive my non-technical terms!)
  • Iron is one for the ladies! I’ve been told that, along with omega-3s, iron depletion is a major factor linked with depression in women (particularly because of the metabolic needs of pregnancy). You can get iron in meat, organic green vegetables and dark fruits, but to make sure you’re getting a decent “fix”, specific iron supplements with B vitamins are best.

So, once you’ve taken a little time to rustle up some new recipes (go you good thing!), perhaps take time to recognise other inputs that may be robbing you of your mental clarity and subsequently your access to the magic of life. Happy eating!

P.S. If you’d like more information about overcoming depression, please check out this article or take a look at my book, The Journey Back to Bliss.

Posted on 1 Comment

Overcoming Depression Triggers

One thing I discovered along the path is that the things that trigger depression, anger and anxiety are often NOT what we think…

Step #1: Find the real triggers

We’re often fixated on the most obvious or the LAST step in the chain of events that lead us to deep depression, anger or anxiety, so it’s important to track back and find the FIRST trigger. Because it’s the first trigger that is the key to unlocking the rest!

It does take time, but it’s well worth the effort and patience to get to the place where you notice what it was that first set you off feeling ‘low’. Because then you can do something about it!

Step #2: Decide on a healthy circuit-breaker

Find the best way to take the edge off your reaction to those triggers. For me, the easiest way is just to get outside, go for a walk, get some fresh air and exercise. Particularly getting into nature — away from the noise and grey colours of the city, or at the beach listening to the waves — something like that.

It’s important to only try and find something that makes you feel a LITTLE bit better. If you’re trying to ‘jump’ from an extremely low feeling to an extreme high feeling, then you’ll often be disappointed (or as was the case for an ex-manic-depressive like me, you’ll feel like a crazy giant yo-yo) and that will send you back down the spiral even faster. It’s much easier (and more important) to try and train your mind to take small steps towards something that feels just a little bit better. Then go from there to something that feels just a little better than that … and so on until you’re back “feeling the magic” of life again.

However, if you’re particularly ‘stuck’, you could try something a little crazy (like a weird kind of dance in your lounge room or something) that really shakes it up for long enough for you to get active again (then go for a walk or do something else that feels good in a healthy way).

Spend as much time as you can finding things that make you feel good. 

I’m not talking about recreational drugs, pharmies or alcohol though. I’m talking about things that are natural, healthy, and don’t leave you feeling like crap afterwards — that’s just counter-productive. Many drugs (especially alcohol) leave you feeling more depressed afterwards, so try to fill your time with something else if you have the urge to get wasted (like I used to do).

Step #3: Rework your values so you can reduce the triggers

The basis of this idea is that our highest values (what we value the most) drive us in a certain direction to create our own future based on those values. And so, part of that includes the triggers that make us unhappy. It’s not that we’re doing it on purpose necessarily, it’s just that the subconscious ‘programs’ (our value systems) are dictating our actions to a certain extent. So, if we’re aware of what sets us off, then we can change our values to reduce the likelihood of those triggers.

It’s relatively easy to discover some of your highest values by simply taking a look at what you like to do most, and what you happily spend your money on (especially when you don’t have much!). For me, one of my highest values is learning things that help me and others — and I can tell that because I’d be happy to buy a book about something of interest even if it was my last $20… even if that meant I might miss out on dinner that night! Prior to that I just spent all my money on getting wasted — one of my highest values was to simply escape reality as often as I could.

So for me, one way of changing my value system was to start to notice all the good things  in my reality (there are always some if you discipline yourself to look with an open mind, trust me!)— my values then began to change because I was acknowledging the good ‘stuff’ and realised it was worth sticking around to see and experience it.

“A single idea from the human mind can build cities. An idea can transform the world and rewrite all the rules.”
—Inception

That idea (that there is good in my reality if I look for it) became like a virus that slowly changed my values and rewrote the rules of my experience — changing my behaviour and driving me away from the triggers and towards a much better state of mind. It took me to this place where —  I follow my bliss.

Remember: the first triggers are the keys to unravel the rest

It wasn’t hard, but it did take time. However, if I’d known back then what I know now (all the stuff I put in my book), then I’m very sure it would have happened MUCH quicker.

So go! Get Started! Use your circuit-breakers to give you some space to create new values which move you away from those first triggers and watch the rest start to unravel!

BTW, for more information on this topic, please see this newer post.

Posted on Leave a comment

You Choose: Expert Misery or Beginner’s Mastery?

Is life working out brilliantly in all areas for you? Yes? Great! You don’t need to read this post in that case. But otherwise, please read on…

It’s a curse to think we know it all (or even that we fully understand anything). If we go through life that way — saying “oh yes, yes, seen it, read it, know all about it, got my masters degree in that, am absolutely sure there’s no other explanation for that” — we miss out on the joy of discovery, the bliss of creativity, the magnificence of ‘expansion’ and the peace of humility.

“In the beginner’s mind, there are many possibilities”
—Shunryu Suzuki

Endless possibilities… or only one option?

In the “beginner’s mind”, as Suzuki puts it, there are indeed many possibilities — endless imagination and possibilities in fact. And with that, comes the possibility of newer and better solutions and experiences. By contrast, in the “expert’s mind” there are often only finite definitions and singular possibilities for the issues at hand.

This is, as I see it, one of the key problems with the traditional medical system (no offence to GPs out there!) — that some of the approaches simple aren’t working (in fact, sometimes they’re killing people — accidentally of course!). However, due to the limitations of over a hundred years following one path of thought (e.g. “how do we treat the symptoms we’re seeing?”), that’s what happens. And it’s not just the medical system that is treating the symptoms rather than opening their mind to other root-cause solutions and a more holistic “beginner’s mind” approach — it happens in almost every industry.

Take marketing for example… Often people are becoming experts at the sales and marketing process, but their businesses are still failing — simply because their product SUCKS (as an example). The symptoms are that they’re not making great sales, so the “logical” (expert) approach is to keep “tweaking” the sales process. However, the beginner’s mind considers everything, including the root-cause (product sucks). The beginner’s mind is open to lateral thinking and new solutions, whereas, the expert mind is fixed on something like: “sales are low because our sales process needs improving — sales will improve when we hit the market with the right sales approach”.

And then…

And then, in 5 or 10 years, after spending an immense amount of money and energy on that “expert” path, you wonder why either your health or your business hasn’t soared into the great heights of wellbeing and prosperity you expected (and were so damn convinced about all along). All you’re left with is misery… The misery of knowing that [a] you may have wasted your time, money and energy, and [b] knowing that you’ll just have to keep trying and hoping for something better (knowing, from experience, that it probably won’t get any better). Misery, misery, misery.

And the “expert mind” isn’t limited to your job either, it’s evident in many parts of our life, such as our religions. Now, before I continue, I just need to give my standard “disclaimer” that if you’re involved in some sort of religious group or organisation and you’re totally happy there, then that’s awesome and you don’t need to consider this…. BUT… the issue I see is that people in many religions shut out guidance in any other form except that which is acceptable to their own religion.

When I was going to a christian church, I would never have considered paying attention to something written/spoken by the Dalai Lama, and yet, in the end, it was his words (in the book “The Art of Happiness”) that made a massive difference to my life and my level of happiness. I don’t know why I couldn’t find happiness in the church, but I just didn’t. So it was the process of allowing the beginner’s mind to form — “I need to consider all avenues to happiness, not just those acceptable to my church” — that eventually opened my mind to something that worked for me. (I go into this in detail in my book, so enough about it for now!).

It’s a hard choice

It’s a hard choice because we WANT to know for sure. It can be very uncomfortable to open yourself to new possibilities when so many of us have “agreed” on a certain construct of the world and how it works. Some of us have said “yes, that’s how it is” and the rest of us have blindly accepted it as being a solid reality.

But nothing is solid reality. Life is in flux. Growth is always in motion.

Do you think technology and science would ever advance if yesterday’s experts were in charge? No, it would just strengthen a certain way of life that may not suit us anymore. We’re evolving. Life is evolving. Our understanding of everything is expanding… so we can’t assume that what worked for us yesterday will work for us tomorrow.

Moving on…

So moving on by taking on the beginner’s mind is the only real way forward as far as I’m concerned. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t become an expert at anything!! No, no, no! But what I AM saying is that, whilst becoming an expert in your chosen field or faith, you should also consider as many other related ideas as you can, and (most importantly) open your mind to completely NEW ideas to flow into your awareness (without judging them, or questioning where they came from, or wondering if your peers will agree or accept them). Then share those new ideas with as many people as you can so we can ALL evolve a little more.

Hmm… sounds a little weird perhaps? I agree, but it works. Try it for yourself (yes, I dare you!).

Posted on Leave a comment

Bitter Brains Bite Back!

Today I was asked: “is bitterness bad for our health?”. So here are a few quick thoughts about it…

Our brains work as a filter which shuts out most of the ‘information’ and just hones in on ‘similar’ information to that which we spend the most time consciously focussing on, so bitterness infects our mind and programs it to look for more bitterness!

That’s a pretty unhappy cycle of experience to be perpetuating! Personally I’d want to take a baseball bat to that bitterness and say “adios!”.

The more we focus on negativity of any form, the more we will see in our own life and the lives of those around us.

There’s a constant spectrum of “good” and “bad” and everything inbetween happening around us, but our brains can only process a little at a time (comparitively), so it’s up to us to direct our focus and improve our “experience” of life.

It’s not only our mental/emotional health that is affected…

Our physical health is inextricably linked to our mental/emotional state, so when we’re not at ease (or in a negative mental/emotional state), we’re creating some form of dis-ease … disease. Basically we’re lowering our immune system’s capability to fight illness. Also, part of the problem is that we tend to form poor nutritional habits (eating or drinking substances that feed a temporary chemical “high”) when we’re feeling bitter. And this further harms our future mental, emotional and physical health.

So chin up! Time to forget about the past and start to look on the bright side of life!

Posted on Leave a comment

Why You Should Stop Reaching For Bliss

Some days it feels like there’s a million things we’re reaching for in life — more money, more love, more acceptance, more bliss

…And along with all of that comes stress and heartache that we’re not getting those things we’re seeking. It’s like they’re somehow just out of reach. It’s frustrating. It’s depressing. Sometimes it’s absolutely infuriating!

Bliss is one of those things that most of us (at some point or other) have felt we would like a lot more of. Actually, most of us think that the only times we can experience bliss is during sex, on drugs, after a few too many beers or maybe after that third or fourth chocolate-cream-donut! But that’s not the bliss I’m talking about here… and it’s not the bliss you’re really yearning for when you do use all those other “temporary” things as substitutes.

What IS real bliss?

Personally, I think Joseph Campbell summed it up perfectly when he made the following two statements…

“Bliss is that deep sense of being present, of doing what you absolutely must do to be yourself” … “If you follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Wherever you are — if you are following your bliss, you are enjoying that refreshment, that life within you, all the time.”

For me, Bliss is beyond happiness. It feels like a very calm sense of happiness… Perhaps like a nice warm bath, rather than a hot shower… It feels absolute, in contrast to the slipping-through-my-fingers feeling of event-based happiness. But the main aspect of Bliss comes usually because you’re doing what you absolutely love doing, with the knowledge that you are supposed to be doing that exact thing — and that everything else will fall into place because you are following your bliss.

So why should we stop trying to find bliss??

Simply because you can’t find it… It was never missing in the first place. It doesn’t exist outside of you and it isn’t separate from you in any way. You can’t attain bliss. It’s always there, within. It’s a state of being that occurs when you’re living according to your purpose/dharma and not trying to fight with life anymore. It’s like a giant green light in your mind that signifies “Yes! That’s it! Just keep doing that!” whenever you’ve allowed yourself to push aside the ego-driven identity (the “projected you”) and slip back into the path of destiny (the “real you”).

By ‘reaching’ for it in some way you’re creating the illusion of separation and distance in your mind, and so you’re actually pushing it further away.

You just have to wake up to it

Firstly, you’ve got to trust that life is on your side (and it is!). And secondly, you have to trust that you’re supposed to be living a life you love. Okay, it’s not necessarily a simple thing to do, and I suggest you just try to move towards it incrementally. There’s a lot of approaches in my book to get you there, so for now I’ll just give you an overview and point you in the right direction.

“Only in quiet waters do things mirror themselves undistorted. Only in a quiet mind [do you find an] adequate perception of the world.” —Hans Margolius

To ‘wake up’ and get an undistorted view on things you have to get really quiet (you could meditate, or maybe just swing your arms and legs and head around in a really weird random way until your mind is so confused it simply shuts the hell up!). Once you’re there in that wonderful place of ‘no-mind’ ask yourself the question (yes, right now!): “What do I really, truly  (perhaps secretly) love to do, and what would my life look like and feel like if I was just doing that?” … I bet you’ll get a glimpse of the bliss even just thinking about it in this way.

For me, I’ve always loved writing. I wrote poetry and short stories as a child. I’ve always edited and re-written other people’s work (when they let me!) and I’ve written hundreds of blog posts for various businesses and purposes. I have always enjoyed those moments, even when writing on a topic I don’t feel particularly passionate about.

I got a real taste of consciously following my bliss when I started writing my first full-length book (a fiction novel that is yet to be finished). It was during one of the darkest times of my life, but I knew that I had to write to stay sane. The book seemed to have no real purpose, except I still felt totally ‘on purpose’ when I was writing. It was a total fantasy and yet, oddly enough, it felt like the only connection to sanity I had in those dangerously dismal days. How do you explain that? I couldn’t at the time. All I knew is that it felt good … actually, it felt BLISSFULLY amazing.

But don’t be like me

Do you know the sad part? …. It took me 10 years after that blissful writing experience to realise that I should figure out a way to just do what I loved doing and nothing else. So don’t be like me. Don’t waste the best years of your life at a dead-end job that you hate. Don’t even spend too long in a job that you like, but one that you don’t really LOVE. Focus your entire being on discovering what you truly love — what takes you into your bliss — and figure out a way to live your life doing just that.

Getting back to wonderful old “Joe”, I’ll leave you with another of his quotes to consider…

“I say, follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.” —Joseph Campbell

So go! Bliss yourself to life… don’t work yourself to death.