When you struggle with emotional or mental health issues it can feel like you have a personality defect. It can feel like something is permanently off with you. You may feel like you will never change.
Well, my friend, neuropsychology begs to disagree.
The work being done in this field where neuroscience (the study of the brain and nervous system) meets psychology is helping us understand how we can take care of the mind to positively change our brains. And if we can change our brain in a positive direction, we can change our behavior and our character in a positive direction.
You can go from unmotivated and lazy to productive, from traumatized to healed, from insecure to grounded and confident.
Positive actions will change your brain in a positive direction. And if you do that, you can change your entire life!
Think I’m overhyping the ‘change your mind change your brain‘ hypothesis? Not even a little!
But I haven’t told you the most important thing yet. It’s this: whether you’re changing your brain in a positive or negative direction, the fact of the matter is, your brain is constantly changing.
In the front left-hand side of our brain is an area called the prefrontal cortex. One of the prefrontal cortex’s main functions is controlling negative emotions. By taking positive actions we can restructure our prefrontal cortex, reprogram our negative emotions, and change the way we see ourselves and our capabilities.
Although investigations into neuroscientific discoveries like these are relatively new, they have substantially furthered my love of coaching because now I know there is a way to help people set better goals and change their behavior.
In his work, Dr. Rick Hanson shares a method called Positive Neuroplasticity (PN) and teaches you to not only recall positive memories but to sit with those memories longer so that your brain has more time to absorb the positive feelings. In our daily lives, we don’t absorb positive feelings. We tend to focus on and remember the negative.
Knowing that we have this negativity bias (the tendency to obsess about the bad and ignore the good), I came up with a challenge that has shown extraordinary results.
What Is Scheduled Joy?
It is to plan out-of-the-ordinary experiences to do over a certain time frame, put them on the calendar, and do them.
People who did this exercise for 30 days reported feeling happier and more content, but I can only imagine that it wouldn’t be long before many continued to live as they used to–anxious, afraid, and focused on the negative, forgetting the benefits of the Scheduled Joy exercise.
If you do this as a 30-day challenge and felt significantly better at the end of the challenge, please, please, figure out a way to make it a regular part of your life. One option is to do something monthly and annually if that schedule works best for you.
Scheduled Joy Requirements
- Your joys must be scheduled.
- They should be things you can easily accomplish in the allotted time.
- You must not give yourself an out.
- They shouldn’t be too serious but they should be meaningful or therapeutic
- They should feed your spirit more than anything else
Tips and suggestions:
- I highly recommend you cap off your challenge with a blow-out activity.
- It will help you stay motivated and less tempted to skip something if you do this challenge with others or with a coach as they will keep you accountable.
Here are some examples of the out-of-the-ordinary experiences I’m talking about.
- Add cinnamon to your morning coffee.
- Meditate in the shower.
- Losten to your favourite music on your way to work.
- Pay a genuine compliemnt to someone at work or in your persona life.
- Get grounded at 6:00 p.m. by walking barefoot in the soil.
- Schedule phone-free time.
- Treat yourself to a beautiful scent-sational bodycare routine before bed.
- Keep a gratitude journal and complete it just before you turn out the lights.
- Spray your pillows with a beautiful smelling essential oil.
- Block half a day on a weekend to tour your city — make like a tourist and plan out hiking trails, museums to visit, music lounges, the zoo, water parks. To make one of your dates even nicer, consider playing hookey from work and doing this when lines are shorter.
- Take a weekly class (cooking, dance, improv are some great examples)
- Write down every single thing you have to do and update it every week
- Have a set coffee or lunch date with a friend.
- Treat your hair and scalp to a weekly mask.
- With the hiking group you organize, do Sunday morning hikes.
- Volunteer to teach arts and crafts to kids once a week.
- Have a scoop of handmade ice-cream after your Sunday morning hikes.
- Clear out your car and get it washed and valeted on the last day or the last Friday of every month.
- Organize a closet
- Have brunch with a group of friends–designate one person to take photos so that everyone else can put their phones away.
- Have your portrait professionally taken.
- Organize a surprise date for a friend or partner – have them do the same for you next month.
- Dare yourself to throw a party and invite everyone in your building (especially if you’re new to the area)
- Do something outside once a month–go camping, see a free outdoor concert, etc.
- Visit a national park
- See a big-name artist in concert
- Start an annual trip with friends to go skiing, fishing, sports camp, etc.
- Plan to see friends or family that live abroad every Christmas.
- As a birthday gift, book that trip to that vacay spot you’ve always dreamed of.
- Treat yourself to a convertible rental and hit the open road.
- Do a bungee jump (or something adventurous) for a charity you care about.
- Adopt a dog, or participate in an annual charity event you care about.
- Organize themed Halloween parties and become known for that.
- Have yoru teeth professionally whitened.
I hope you’re looking forward to this exercise. I KNOW that by doing it, you will experience more joy, calm, fulfillment, and ultimately change your brain for the better.