Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Our Perception Makes Our Reality

Our sense of time passing is an illusion, determined largely by how quickly our brain processes what's happening around us. Color is another thing determined by our brain, each specific shade determined by the way our brain interprets information received from the cones in our eyes. Our taste buds actually do relatively little to tell us about the food we eat – instead, our brain takes the information received by our nose, adds in backup data from our tongue, and cooks up an entirely new sense known as taste.

Most of what we perceive as reality, in fact, happens inside our head. Even when other parts of our bodies are what's actually receiving the data, it's useless to us until our brain translates it into something we understand. And, unlike computers,  each set of neurons and stem cells is even more unique than our fingerprints. It's more than a cliché that no two people see the world in exactly the same way – it's scientific fact. And, when you're human, how you see the world determines how your world actually is.

That's even more true when it comes to less tangible things. If brain waves determine color, taste and even time itself, then they're definitely in the driver's seat when it comes to things like beauty, goodness and wonder. That's why everyone's taste is different – what one set of neurons sees a beautiful may not be what another set of neurons sees as beautiful. So if someone doesn't find you attractive, that's says nothing about how you look. It just means that their way of perceiving the world simply wasn't compatible.

It can't change the data of your life – horrible events will happen, no matter what our attitude is – but it can change how you translate that data. It's the inside of your head that tells you whether to focus on the good things or the bad things in your life, or if a particular challenge is something you're capable of overcoming.  You don't get to decide what happens to you, but you do get to decide what it all actually means.

It also determines how we see ourselves. Your perception of your own attractiveness has an effect on how attractive you actually are to people, because it changes how you carry yourself and the confidence you project when you interact with others. If you see yourself as brave, you won't get intimidated by challenges that come your way. You will, in fact, will yourself into bravery.

If you see yourself as stupid, you'll get easily frustrated by tasks and give up on things you decide are "too hard." If you see yourself as smart, on the other hand, you'll set yourself to the challenge of problem solving because you know you're intelligent enough to succeed. You'll be more likely to solve the problem simply because you were willing to use all of your energy and intelligence to tackle it. Your IQ and skill sets don't change, but the results do.

We can help program our brains, shifting our perceptions inch by careful inch. It's not easy, and sometimes you need help in order to make it happen, but you can literally change your life by adjusting your mind.

There's an entire world being built inside your head. Make sure it's the one you want to be living in.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

More important than being “tough”

As far as I can tell, it’s not easy being a guy.

Yeah, I know they have it better in a lot of ways, but they’re really not very good at taking care of themselves. Society tells men that they’re supposed to be tough to the point of being invulnerable, and any hit of weakness or needing help should be avoided at all costs. They’re told never to acknowledge that they’re slower than they used to be, or they have a worrying cough, and heaven help the man who dares to wonder if they might be depressed.

Men, I’m here to tell you that society is straight-up lying to you.

Trust me – society lies to women all the time, so we know what we’re talking about. Living your life in order to satisfy the expectations of the media, complete strangers, or even casual acquaintances, leads to nothing but frustration, disappointment, and potentially a heart attack. None of these people have enough investment in you personally to be worth listening to, and won’t even notice if you are listening to them.

Besides, have any of them given you proof that they know what they’re talking about? The media, for example, thinks that the Kardashians are worth obsessing over, which isn’t the best sign of either their intelligence or their good judgment.

On the other side of the equation, there’s this little thing called science. Science’s opinion on the matter is that men are human beings just like women are, subject to every infirmity, illness and medical condition. Having something wrong with you doesn’t mean you’ve failed; it means that biology is holding all the trump cards. There was nothing you could do to stop yourself from getting sick.

What you can do, however, is focus on getting better again. If your car breaks, do you drive around on it until it collapses or lights on fire somehow? No, you figure out what’s wrong and fix it (or you take it to someone who does). Your body is a lot more valuable than your car, and there are a whole bunch of experts who can help you get it running smoothly again.

Mental health issues are a trickier situation, but in some ways that just makes them more important. Having depression is just the same as having any other illness, including cancer, and if left untreated it can mess up your life just as much. Being depressed doesn’t mean you’re weak – it means the chemicals in your head went out of whack. Talking to a professional, and maybe getting medication if you need it, can absolutely change your life for the better.

I know it can be tough to admit you need help, no matter what the problem is. But the people who love you don’t need you to be Superman, no matter how much you wish you could be that for them. What they need is for you to be there, for birthdays and weddings and graduations and everything else that will happen for the rest of their lives. They need you to be healthy a lot more than they need you to be “tough.”

So go to the doctor for regular checkups. Get some help if you need it. Because it might be scary to admit you can’t do it all on your own, but doing something scary for the people you love is pretty much the definition of being a superhero.

Ask them. They’ll back me up on this.