just-smell-the-goddamn-roses

Just Smell the Goddamn Roses

This title sounds like big bullshit, doesn’t it? Well you’re wrong. And the flowers aren’t even roses. Well for that you’re right. But smelling the goddamn roses, enjoying the moment and hanging in there is gonna change your life. Well actually your brain. So yeah, it will change your life.

Now let me tell you why, with science.

THE NEGATIVITY BIAS

We’re fucked. Doomed. Well, almost. On one condition.

You see, at the base, we’re just animals. Our brain got a nice little update—the prefrontal cortex—which gives us the ability to think, reflect, and have a conscience. But without this update, we’re monkeys.

Why does it matter?

Because animals are constantly scanning their environments for danger. They’re not aware of it because they can’t reflect, but they also don’t have a choice. It’s hardwired in their brains. If they don’t do it, they end up being eaten at every corner.

Now here’s one thing we all take for granted: we are out of the food chain. This is a massive upgrade compared to other animals. We don’t end up being eaten anymore, we end up dying in a nice comfortable bed that smells lavanda.

But 10 000 years ago our ancestors were living like animals. Ladies and Gentlemen on the left strawberries, on the right a lion. What ya wanna do, bro?

Genes don’t change in such a short time. We are our ancestors. Our brains are still hardwired to scan for the negativity around. (And by the way this is overly abused by TV news, newspapers, insurance companies and more to keep you coming back, and to control you.)

So yeah, we’re doomed, but only if—again—we let ourselves slide unconsciously. I keep repeating myself, true. But it is so important. If we don’t learn to override some of our natural emotions, instincts and moods, we will have a hard time building a fulfilling life. Maybe even just leaving the bathtub.

As we keep instinctively scanning for the bad, we will let anxiety and fear take over.

And because we’re not just animals but we can think and have deeper needs, we will be unhappy and feel powerless if we don’t do anything about it.

And this is not ok.

But because we’re not just animals but we can think and have deeper needs, we have the possibility to do something about it.

OMG life is so well done.

NEUROPLASTICITY

When I started climbing rocks I lost 3 fingers. Ok not really, but still my skin just fell off. It was painful and disgusting. But a week after I had not only a new layer of skin, but a thicker one.

I also didn’t have much muscles. I looked like a skeleton with fat. Now with the correct lighting and a sexy pose, I can see some drawings under the fat.

For your whole body the more you train, the stronger you become. You don’t have to think about it, it’s automatic. You put pressure on your muscles, they grow to adapt to the pressure. You destroy your skin, a newer thicker layer pops out.

And it works exactly the same for your brain.

This is something absolutely amazing. For a long time it was thought that our brain would grow until we were 18 or 20, and then it would start decaying. But this is not true. Until the day you die you can build new connections.

So you can always learn, always change, always get better at something. You can reverse mindsets, get rid of useless ones, incorporate new useful ones, and you can change behaviors.

All you need is a bit of training.

REWIRE YOUR BRAIN

You can physically change your brain to become more relaxed and more happy. You can create a lasting habit of fucking Nature and not being a slave of the negativity bias anymore.

One famous method for building relaxed states is meditation. You can read about it everywhere so I’m not going to spend time on that.

But there’s a lesser known method that works very well for happiness and contentment. Here’s how it works:

1. Have a positive experience

Fake or real. I doesn’t matter. Your brain and body respond to whatever you give it, whether it’s a real or just imagined. Don’t trust me? Close your eyes and see yourself biting into a lemon. Or think about that last time you got humiliated. Even if none of this is happening right now, if you’ve played the game you’re still experiencing the effets. So go wild and find something that positively moves you instead.

I personally enjoy a deep talk with close friends, I like to hug and be hugged too, and I listen to beautiful music imagining I’m playing on a stage. I recall some of the most beautiful places I’ve seen while travelling, or some good time with family. I fantasize about driving a motorbike through the mountains.

2. Enrich the experience

Give it as many details as you can, make it as real as possible. Hear all the sounds, get all the smells, grab all the colors. The more real it appears and the more you can grab from the experience, the stronger will be the memory. Really feel it. Get the emotion flowing.

When you hug someone feel the pressure of your arms around that person, feel their pressure, the smell of their hair, the great feeling that comes out of it, the fact that you have someone who made the conscious choice to love you. When you listen to music pay attention to every sound, how your body answers to it, the goose bump, see yourself shining on stage.

3. Make it stay

Studies say that 20 seconds is enough, but the longer the better. Stay in that experience for as long as you can, let the feeling warm you and keep it. If it’s so good, why not staying there? It’s easier said than done though because of the negativity bias. We want to quickly switch to the next problem to solve. So train yourself to hang in there.

Do that enough and your brain will start building the new connections. This relaxed and content state will become more natural to you, and you’ll go back to it more easily in case of crisis. Studies say that 3 to 4 weeks is needed to start building new connections.

BONUS: RECORD LESS BULLSHIT

There’s something else.

Do you remember your graduation day? Or when you got your driver license? The first time you kissed someone? What about what you got for lunch last thursday?

We experience things all the time. So how come we get to remember some so easily—even the ones we don’t want—while some others just go into oblivion?

The answer is emotions. The stronger the emotion you feel—positive or negative—at the time of the experience, the stickier it will get.

Now let’s say you’re at work and a colleague is getting nasty towards you in front of your boss. You feel humiliated, you feel hurt, you get angry. If you keep yourself in that state for the next hour, it’s gonna use some recording space in your brain and it’s gonna haunt you back. You don’t want that.

What can you do about it then? You scratch the record.

This is how I personally do it. If I keep ruminating over something I change the scene by imagining everyone dressed as clowns, wearing make up and weird colorful clothes. I also change their voices to high pitch weird tones like in kids’ cartoons. I force myself to make people appear as ridiculous and funny as possible.

What happens then?

The experience gets mildly stored, if any. And if it gets stored, it’s under some kind of mildly funny thing. No negative tone. Quickly forgotten.

You can heal past memories too. When an old thing pops back play with the scene, make it funny, even change what really happened. Rewrite reality. Put positive or funny emotions to it. You can also deliberately retrieve something that has been weighting you down and apply the above. The painful memory will lose its power and you’ll not be bother as much with it anymore.

WILL YOU TAKE THE MEDICINE?

I’ve read many, many books about getting better and I can tell you something: they all converge to the same solutions. And what I’m telling you in this article works, it’s scientifically proven. And of course there’s a but. This is what’s going to happen:

The moment you’re gonna need these solutions the most, the less likely you’re gonna want to use them. Always.

When you’ll be nervous you’ll not want to meditate. When you’ll be angry, frustrated and unhappy you’ll be the least willing to consciously get some positive emotion flowing.

The solutions, like the issues, are always available, and are always inside. The question is are you going to use them when you need them?

It is not easy. And that’s why you have to start small.

Train when things are easy. Meditate when things are calm. Make love stay within yourself when you already feel love. You’ll learn to generate it at will later.

Make it a habit. Build the momentum.

So that when things go awry, you’ll already know how to respond.

On your next way to work, feel the sun on your face and the wind in your hair. Look at the trees. See how beautiful things are around you. Enjoy the moment. Feel the love.

And make a detour by the park to smell these goddamn roses.

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