Why Retrain Your Brain

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Since 2008, many of us have had to change our attitudes towards work. In some cases, are now working solely as a means to paying the bills, as opposed to also finding fulfillment. This makes finding inspiration outside of work even more important.

Only recently, I realised there are some very interesting talks and events happening in the evenings in London that can really open one's mind (in a, well, non-druggy kind of way).

With this in mind, at the end of June I went to a talk at the School of Life in Bloomsbury with the title: Retraining the Brain. I have no background in neuroscience or psychology, and as the talk was clearly aimed at an audience of interested amateurs, I was intrigued. It was held by Elaine Fox, Head of Department of Psychology and Centre for Brain Science at the University of Essex, who is doing a lot of research in the field of the effects of positive thinking, and how training oneself to think differently one can actually 're-wire' one's brain. I listened to a very engaging talk about:

  • the sunny brain and the rainy brain (i.e. people that have a more positive or more pessimistic outlooks)
  • how important realistic judgement is, as pure optimism will lead to extreme risk taking
  • how different people can have different genes that transmit serotonin differently
  • how many factors (nurture and nature) influence how a person will deal with stress
  • the effect of a person's outlook on their life expectancy
  • the connection of the degree of optimism and perceived luck a person has
  • the fact that that part of the brain that processes orientation and spatial awareness is larger in the brains of London cab drivers

The field of psychology and neuroscience is obviously very complicated and could not possibly be covered in any detail in 90 minutes. However, the talk was focussed on covering results of scientific research that were pretty much applicable to all of us and that are very tangible.

I remember leaving the talk, thinking that it was interesting but maybe not 'great'. Only over the following days and weeks, I realised I kept finding myself in situations where I remembered something Elaine had mentioned about choices people make, and how that can impact their outlook one way or another. And now I must say: I am truly inspired!