Self Help Programs
Do a search on the internet for self help programs and prepare to be amazed. I am a self help guy from way back too, and I am amazed at all that is available for purchase.
You can find a self help site for anything, I think, which is a tribute to both American ingenuity and marketing.
We seem to be adept at finding a problem and creating a program to solve it.
The problem with some of our self help programs is that sometimes they are very light weight, implying that a solution is very easily achieved in the very short term.
When I think of self help, I think of Alcoholics Anonymous, or Narcotics Anonymous, or Cocaine Anonymous, or I think of the market for weight loss, or divorce or marriage or relationship aids, anger management, or an emerging market in regards to brain fitness.
All of those programs involve regular practice of certain behaviors, and there are three behaviors we humans can hope to manage or control, our thinking, our feelings, and our behaviors, or how our body moves.
If you have read Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi's book FLOW, which is treatise on the psychology of optimal performance, then you know that we process sound, visual, touch, smell, and taste information at the rate of seven bits of data every 1/18th second, so self help programs need to be learned and implemented in a very short period of time. (1/18th second is twice as fast as I can blink my eyes).
Self help then must be a process of awareness and management of sensory processing done very quickly and very frequently.
I liken the process for my anger management clients to steering a car, you make thousands of small adjustments to the position of the vehicle on the road, and are paying attention to hundreds of variables at a given moment, traffic in front, behind, traffic lights, children, the policeman six blocks ahead, ect. As you do this, you keep the vehicle going in the direction you want, at the speed you want, in a safe way for yourself and other drivers. You avoid potholes.
So the process of self help must be similar, and involves first your awareness and attention and perception which can only happen in your incredibly fast brain.
Can you imagine paying attention to your attention?
Put it another way, awareness gives me choice.
So self help programs at their most basic are going to give me the ability to choose a new thought, which will lead to a new feeling, which may motivate a different behavior, and this is all going to happen thousands of times per minute in my very fast brain, just like I make many small adjustments to the steering wheel of my vehicle.
Remember that neurons can only do a couple of things, move electrical energy and neurotransmitters, which leads to all my choices, including a very basic cognitive behavioral tool/rule.
Change the thought to change the feeling.
Any self help program is going to give me new thoughts to think about this certain issue.
I need to practice this thought to make them a habit, so the new habit is stonger than the neural habit previously established (think codependent behaviors, for example) and then the new thought can be recalled in an 1/18th second in an emergency, and by that I mean that I recall my new thought to replace my problem thought very fast.
So self help as I am describing it begins with an awareness of how your brain sustains memory, and calls it up. It is very similar to the process you use to steer your car. Certain thoughts are a habit.
Change the thought to change the feeling, and the problem behavior does not re-emerge.
So How Do I Increase my Awareness of My Thoughts
Let me recommend some self help tools which have been very useful to me.
What makes self help the most effective is not effortful striving, but relaxation, believe it or not.
Stress hormones like adrenaline or cortisol were designed to help me prepare my flight of fight physiology for that 1/18th second when I perceived danger (happens in the brain!) and needed to run for my life, fight for life, or freeze to keep my life. When that physiology comes on line, I have only those three behavioral options. And every time my problem thought emerges, since it is now part of a pattern I am trying to change, I will create stress, which makes it harder for self-help to manifest.
Very hard to brainstorm solutions from the stress physiology, so calming down is the way to create self help program mastery.
Deep breathing for a period of time is the best and cheapest self help tool available for us humans, and if you are like most adults, you will nod your head in agreement and continue to breathe very shallow in your chest, which generates that pesky stress physiology.
So try the HeartMath heart rate variability program to learn how to contact the self help brain in your heart. What you will do is the first right thing for any self help program to be effective, which is relax, and not just in the moment, but on demand. HeartMath is learned because it is a biofeedback process, and after a bit of practice your body will learn to stay much closer to this new baseline. A coherent heart rate will open higher perceptual centers in your brain where you will continue to think the thoughts associated with your new self help program, whether it be AA or
More Love, Less Fat
which is an excellent program for couples to get to lose weight together.
The Best Brain for Self Help
I am not aware of any self help creators out there that are taking a close look at how brain fitness impacts self help success.
We can now do a great deal to make our brains fit and healthier, which is where self help happens.
Not too long ago, no one knew how plastic our brains were and are, how my neurons are connecting and establishing those new habits.
(Neuroplasticity happens in minutes, not hours, days, weeks, or months).
If you want an excellent resource for brain fitness, then read Brainfit for Life by Simon Evans,Ph.D. and Paul Burghardt,Ph.D. who are neuroscientists at the University of Michigan.
They provide a huge amount of easy to digest information about how to get your brain fit for self help.
They discuss the 'pillars of brain fitness', physical exercise, nutrition, (incluiding omega 3 fatty acids) sleep, stress management, and challenging learning experiences including using computerized brain fitness programs.
The other aspect of brain fitness for selp help is neurogenesis, or the daily growth of new neurons if I do not have toxins like stress hormones or ethyl alcohol in my brain too frequently.
Novel learning experiences enhance neurogenesis and neuroplasticity.
Very useful brain fitness programs which I have used? Programs involving research about the dual n back task, or Michael Merzenich's neuroplasticity research are excellent.