What is your top self help? We sure do like our self help, do we not? There are books, poultices, potions, videos, supplements, talismans, amulets, shamans, counselors, nlp practitioners, nutritionists, weight loss specialists, coaches, fire walkers, and who knows how many gurus out there, and each of them probably has as many skeptics as true believers, but the whole thing is rather amazing I think.
Top self help for me is Alcoholics Anonymous, and I lean very strongly to the educational variety of self help, which means that not only do I read the books, or watch the videos, or read the research, I try them out, and evaluate how they worked.
So you may ask what I have tried out. Besides AA, and ACOA, and NA, and graduate school, which really did wonders for my self esteem, and my income, I have tried speed reading courses, study guides, sound and light machines, binaural beat tapes, Transcendental Meditation, sensory deprivation, holotropic breathwork, therapy, group therapy, psychodrama, Open Focus, EEG biofeedback, HeartMath, or heart rate biofeedback, cranial sacral therapy, massage, and currently I am using a number of brain fitness programs which are very helpful.
Top self help for me, based on enduring positive change, has come from the tools which I have had to think about frequently, which is not surprising given recent discoveries about neuroplasticity and neurogenesis.
Neuroplasticity is what neurons do when challenged by a novel learning experience. They form new connections, and the more connections I have the more brain power I can bring to bear on a problem for more of those "AHA" moments and insights.
So top self help would encourage my brain to increase its connections.
Sharon Begley has written and incredibly interesting book called Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain which describes how the brain can be changed in a very positive way by a disciplined practice of meditation.
There is an article in the Wall Street Journal by Begley which quotes Michael Merzenich,Ph.D. one of the worlds leading researchers on neuroplasticity as saying, "Through attention, UCSF's Michael Merzenich and a colleague wrote, "We choose and sculpt how our ever-changing minds will work, we choose who we will be the next moment in a very real sense, and these choices are left embossed in physical form on our material selves."
"The discovery that neuroplasticity cannot occur without attention has important implications. If a skill becomes so routine you can do it on autopilot, practicing it will no longer change the brain. And if you take up mental exercises to keep your brain young, they will not be as effective if you become able to do them without paying much attention."
Michael Merzenich and his Posit Science company have played an important role in the Brain Fitness revolution, and I own and use his program, and I consider it one of my top self help programs ever.
It provides novel challenge, and increasing levels of challenge, which is the attentional challenge mentioned by Sharon Begley.
The Posit Science folks have put together a couple of very interesting programs which have been tested mostly on Senior Citizens, and the IMPACT study is very powerful if you are my age and working to sustain your cognitive capabilities.
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