When I think of self help tools, there is a part of me that is looking for that quick fix, the fix that is like hitting the cognitive lottery or the emotional lottery, and when I find that, I will have the recognition and acclaim that I deserve.
There are a lot of quick fix programs, machines, e-books, self help books, and do this for the next two hours for fame and fortune kind of self help tools out there.
However the best self help tools are the self help tools that guide me in changing any of the three things I can change, my thinking, my feelings, or my behavior.
Those self help tools require regular practice and as I practice, I will notice changes in thinking, feeling, and behavior which are positive for me. The changes are cumulative, in other words hundreds of small changes add to a new direction in life.
The kinds of self help tools I am talking about here are Alcoholics Anonymous, meditation, or cranial sacral work, or Chi Gong, or taking up a martial art, or learning to play a new instrument, or flower gardening, or starting an exercise routine, or taking up computerized brain fitness programs.
It may seem trite to say this, but all of my reality exists inside my head, in my brain.
That is where I create the experience of vision, the experience of cognition, of hearing, feeling, smelling, tasting, and feeling out of which my experience of life grows.
The thoughts (roughly 60,000 per day) I create to describe my sensory experience will lead to my feelings so at their most basic self help tools need provide helpful experiencing and interpreting in my brain and body.
According to Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi, in his book FLOW, my brain can process seven bits of visual, auditory, olfactory, gustatory, and tactile data at the same time and the shortest amount of time between sets of seven bits is 1/18th second.
In other words, I will create my internal experience twice as fast as I can blink my eye.
Please read that again. Self help tools have to be effective in 1/18th second. That is how fast I can call up an automatic positive thought, or an automatic negative thought to describe some sensory experience I am having.
So it seems that our lives our lived in shorter increments than we usually pay attention to, and our self help tools need to be effective in a short amount of time, if we are using them as an antidote for a painful experience.
Regular practice makes the new pattern effective in terms of recall at the moments I need it.
We now have the ability, using tools like fMRI, to peer inside the human brain and watch it operate almost in real time, and what that process has taught us is that there are some capacities of the brain that can be enhanced.
Neurogenesis is one of those capacities. Neurogenesis is the growth of new brain cells on a daily basis, which your brain will do for you if you keep it free of toxins like ethyl alcohol or too frequent doses of adrenalin and cortisol. (Until a few years ago, no one knew that our brains grew new brain cells. This is a very important discovery).
Neuroplasticity is the other very important capacity which can be enhanced. Neuroplasticity describes the way our neurons seek to connect with one another when challenged with new learning, and the stronger and richer my neural networks are, the more of those 'AHA' moments I have as I puzzle over a dilemma in my life.
Those new connections can be formed in minutes, and they can influence your life forever.
Tools which impact those two capacities of our brains make all other self help more effective.
Want an overview of all this new fangeled brain fitness stuff?
I suggest this book, Brainfit for Life for an excellent overview of brain fitness self help.
The authors are neuroscientists at the University of Michigan, which gives them some credibility in my mind.
And they talk about the research which underlies one particular brain fitness program, the Mind Sparke Brain Fitness Pro which was published in late 2008.
The Mind Sparke program utilizes the dual n back task, takes about 1/2 hour per day for 20 days and has been shown to increase IQ.
Increased IQ is a factor in problem solving, but do not forget your emotional intelligence, which is perhaps more important to life success.
I have interviewed one of the authors of Brainfit for Life, Simon Evans,Ph.D. and he reported to me that he thought the Lumosity program was good, and we discussed briefly the IMPACT study evaluating the Posit Science Brain Fitness Program.
Now for the personal testimony. I own and use Mind Sparke, Lumosity, and the Posit Science suite of tools, and I have noticed changes from all three, particularly in the areas of word recall, important for that 61 year old brain, and in the area of attention, very important for an ADD kind of brain, prone to being scattered.
You will notice that no fame and fortune is a result of using computerized brain fitness self help tools, but I am more confident of my ability to solve problems, like the problems that come with being a late life parent, or a business owner, or a webmaster.
If you do take a look at Brainfit for Life, you will note that the authors talk about the pillars brain fitness, physical exercise, nutrition, stress management, sleep, and novel learning experiences.
The best stress management self help tool I know of is the HeartMath tool, unless you are going to learn to breath as deeply as you did as a baby, before your parents trained you to do something differently.
If you are like most adults, you will nod knowlingly that deep breathing is an excellent stress management tool, and go back to your shallow breathing which actually makes you more stressed.
HeartMath is a biofeedback tool which teaches you to manage the time between heart beats, and your heart will do that for you.
Without going into a lot of the science, go here for a look at an excellent self help tool.
Check out what Alvaro Fernandez says about the emWave in The Sharpbrains Guide to Brain Fitness.
Very early in my personal growth experience, a wise person taught me to use the phrase "gratitude is the attitude" when I was resentful or afraid and that phrase has helped me feel better tens of thousands of times.
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