Posted on 5 September 2016 by Michael Dahl

Why did I listen to the bullies … and other questions worth contemplating?

A few days ago a colleague of mine gave me a book from his library by Dr. Amit Sood, Immerse: A 52-week course in Resilient Living. I started reading it — slowly — almost immediately. And I mean slowly; I’m not even to Week 1 yet (there are a handful of introductory entries).

Three gems stood out immediately.

  1. He asks himself, “Why did I listen to bullies and the teacher who didn’t care about my wellbeing and not the many others who loved me?”
  2. He notes (partially as an answer to the question above) that our brains are hardwired for survival, not peace and comfort.
  3. He includes a link to a YouTube video on a few things you can do to help make your brain happier. It includes practices of:
    • immediately upon waking up thinking about five people you are grateful for and why,
    • in the first three minutes of seeing a loved one again — like at the end of the day — treating them as if you haven’t seen them for over a month (more than likely you’ll pay happy and engaged attention to them then); and
    • for the first two seconds of talking with someone, silently wish them well.

The intent of each of these simple practices (the 5-3-2 Plan) is to combat our brains’ natural tendencies toward worry, distraction, and suspicion; and reorient from a better vantage point.

Tomorrow I visit with my therapist again. I’m going to ask her if she knows about Dr. Sood and his advice. No matter the answer, her advice sounds a lot like his.

My problem has been how to remember when and how to reorient the brain. I’m often put in a situation where I get reactive, when what I should do is be silent and exercise one of the practices Dr. Sood or my therapist would advise.

Easier said than done. I’ve tried wearing a bracelet so that when I look at it while in a tense situation (for me), I remember to reset. Well, that was worthless. I never thought about my bracelet when my mind went into “fight or flight” mode.

More practically (I think) Dr. Sood advises people to put a Post-It Note on their bathroom mirror. If they hadn’t yet thought of five people they are grateful for, he says (paraphrasing) “Go back to bed and start your day off right.”

I need things like Post-It Notes … everywhere.

One thing I’ve thought of doing is creating a screensaver that lists all the mantras and practices I should consider to be both proactive and less reactive. The screensaver would say things like:

  • Be silent, especially if you feel inappropriately compelled to react.
  • If you can feel your muscles tensing up, take several deep breaths.
  • Start the day out right with exercise.
  • Think of something (or five people) you are grateful for.
  • Listen to your favorite music.
  • Do a headstand … anytime … because headstands are fun.
  • Want to feel peace? Weed your garden.
  • Etc., etc., etc.

I once asked my therapist if she knew of a Sparks Notes or cheat sheet similar to what I may put on a screensaver. Unfortunately her answer was “no.” But she did say I could probably make millions by creating one.

I have a feeling Dr. Sood would not be happy with me using his advice — and other people’s advice — to become a millionaire.  So maybe I’ll just make a screensaver for me and my friends.