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We Worry Because Our Brain Is Impatient, Train It And Have Your Mental Power In Control

We Worry Because Our Brain Is Impatient, Train It And Have Your Mental Power In Control

Do you find yourself worrying over every little thing? Asking yourself if you should enroll in that extra class, move to a bigger place, or look for a new job? And while you’re worrying about those decisions, are you also wondering if you’ll be able to pay your bills next month, if you’ll get the raise you were promised, or if you’ll ever find your future spouse?

This is totally normal. In fact, most people are going through the same thing – constant worry.

There’s a perfectly good explanation for why you tend to worry about so much stuff all at once!

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The environment these days is delaying what you want in return.

Most of the decisions you make occur in a “delayed return environment,” which means that you do not benefit immediately by your choices.[1] This also means that the majority of your worries deal with issues of the future – what will happen tomorrow, or next week, or even next year if I make this one decision now?

Because we are so future-oriented, our stress levels tend to be sky high. Our brains can’t deal with thinking too far into the future. Why is that?

Our brain is wired to immediate reward in return.

The human brain evolved to make decisions in an “immediate return environment.”[2] In other words, our modern brain took shape while we were still cave dwellers living a hunter-gatherer lifestyle. Then, our worries were more immediate in nature: how to get food, find water, and seek shelter from inclement weather.

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For hundreds of thousands of years, humans existed in an immediate return environment. It was only about 500 years ago that modern society began, and with it, the switch to delayed return environment. The changes since then have been too fast for our brains to keep up with! Evolution is a long, slow process.

Enter: anxiety, stress, and worry. In today’s world, you are much more likely to suffer from chronic anxiety or worry all the time. Most of the things you worry about have no immediate solution. Because your brain is designed to prefer immediate results, you feel anxious when that doesn’t happen.

So, how do you fight this lag in evolution? What can you do to stop worrying and feeling anxious about the future?

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Find something that you can control.

Stop worrying about if you’ll get a better job. Instead, control how many jobs you look for in a week. Set a goal of sending in 5 applications a week and track that goal. If you’re worried about not making new friends in your new city, start keeping track of how many new people you meet every day. Worried about saving enough for the downpayment on a house? Instead, focus on how much you save on a monthly basis.

The trick is to focus your energy on the things you can measure. By having something tangible to measure, you start taking control of your life and stop letting the future give you anxiety. Making sure you save $100 a month won’t suddenly make your life problem-free, but it will take away a little bit of the unknown.

Count your immediate returns.

Do yourself a favor. Try to focus on the immediate returns in your life instead of the delayed returns. Start this new habit this week. Don’t put it off.

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Worried about being healthier? Start counting your daily servings of fruits and vegetables instead. Worried about saving money for a new car? Start reducing your daily splurges by preparing lunch at home and cutting out the morning coffee from the coffee shop on your way to work.

Just because your brain didn’t evolve fast enough to deal with modern life doesn’t mean that you can’t outsmart it. As soon as you start living your life with immediate returns in mind, your constant worrying will slowly melt away.

Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io

Reference

[1] James Clear: The Evolution of Anxiety: Why We Worry and What to Do About It
[2] James Clear: The Evolution of Anxiety: Why We Worry and What to Do About It

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Amber Pariona

EFL Teacher, Lifehack Writer, English/Spanish Translator, MPA

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Last Updated on June 6, 2019

Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think

Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think

In 2011, the Finnish Tourist Board ran a campaign that used silence as a marketing ‘product’. They sought to entice people to visit Finland and experience the beauty of this silent land. They released a series of photographs of single figures in the nature and used the slogan “Silence, Please”. A tag line was added by Simon Anholt, an international country branding consultant, “No talking, but action.”

Eva Kiviranta the manager of the social media for VisitFinland.com said: “We decided, instead of saying that it’s really empty and really quiet and nobody is talking about anything here, let’s embrace it and make it a good thing”.

Finland may be on to something very big. You could be seeing the very beginnings of using silence as a selling point as silence may be becoming more and more attractive. As the world around becomes increasingly loud and cluttered you may find yourself seeking out the reprieve that silent places and silence have to offer. This may be a wise move as studies are showing that silence is much more important to your brains than you might think.

Regenerated brain cells may be just a matter of silence.

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     A 2013 study on mice published in the journal Brain, Structure and Function used differed types of noise and silence and monitored the effect the sound and silence had on the brains of the mice.[1] The silence was intended to be the control in the study but what they found was surprising. The scientists discovered that when the mice were exposed to two hours of silence per day they developed new cells in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is a region of the brain associated with memory, emotion and learning.

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    The growth of new cells in the brain does not necessarily translate to tangible health benefits. However, in this instance, researcher Imke Kirste says that the cells appeared to become functioning neurons.

    “We saw that silence is really helping the new generated cells to differentiate into neurons, and integrate into the system.”

    In this sense silence can quite literally grow your brain.

    The brain is actively internalizing and evaluating information during silence

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      A 2001 study defined a “default mode” of brain function that showed that even when the brain was “resting” it was perpetually active internalizing and evaluating information.

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      Follow-up research found that the default mode is also used during the process of self-reflection. In 2013, in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, Joseph Moran et al. wrote, the brain’s default mode network “is observed most closely during the psychological task of reflecting on one’s personalities and characteristics (self-reflection), rather than during self-recognition, thinking of the self-concept, or thinking about self-esteem, for example.

      “When the brain rests it is able to integrate internal and external information into “a conscious workspace,” said Moran and colleagues.

      When you are not distracted by noise or goal-orientated tasks, there appears to be a quiet time that allows your conscious workspace to process things. During these periods of silence, your brain has the freedom it needs to discover its place in your internal and external world.

      The default mode helps you think about profound things in an imaginative way.

      As Herman Melville once wrote,[2]

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      “All profound things and emotions of things are preceded and attended by silence.”

      Silence relieves stress and tension.

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        It has been found that noise can have a pronounced physical effect on our brains resulting in elevated levels of stress hormones. The sound waves reach the brain as electrical signals via the ear. The body reacts to these signals even if it is sleeping. It is thought that the amygdalae (located in the temporal lobes of the brain) which is associated with memory formation and emotion is activated and this causes a release of stress hormones. If you live in a consistently noisy environment that you are likely to experience chronically elevated levels of stress hormones.

        A study that was published in 2002 in Psychological Science (Vol. 13, No. 9) examined the effects that the relocation of Munich’s airport had on children’s health and cognition. Gary W. Evans, a professor of human ecology at Cornell University notes that children who are exposed to noise develop a stress response that causes them to ignore the noise. What is of interest is that these children not only ignored harmful stimuli they also ignored stimuli that they should be paying attention to such as speech. 

        “This study is among the strongest, probably the most definitive proof that noise – even at levels that do not produce any hearing damage – causes stress and is harmful to humans,” Evans says.[3]

        Silence seems to have the opposite effect of the brain to noise. While noise may cause stress and tension silence releases tension in the brain and body. A study published in the journal Heart discovered that two minutes of silence can prove to be even more relaxing than listening to “relaxing” music. They based these findings of changes they noticed in blood pressure and blood circulation in the brain.[4]

        Silence replenishes our cognitive resources.

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          The effect that noise pollution can have on cognitive task performance has been extensively studied. It has been found that noise harms task performance at work and school. It can also be the cause of decreased motivation and an increase in error making.  The cognitive functions most strongly affected by noise are reading attention, memory and problem solving.

          Studies have also concluded that children exposed to households or classrooms near airplane flight paths, railways or highways have lower reading scores and are slower in their development of cognitive and language skills.

          But it is not all bad news. It is possible for the brain to restore its finite cognitive resources. According to the attention restoration theory when you are in an environment with lower levels of sensory input the brain can ‘recover’ some of its cognitive abilities. In silence the brain is able to let down its sensory guard and restore some of what has been ‘lost’ through excess noise.[5]

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          Summation

          Traveling to Finland may just well be on your list of things to do. There you may find the silence you need to help your brain. Or, if Finland is a bit out of reach for now, you could simply take a quiet walk in a peaceful place in your neighborhood. This might prove to do you and your brain a world of good.

          Featured photo credit: Angelina Litvin via unsplash.com

          Reference

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