Optimizing Your Health Post 4
I’m going to briefly discuss the basic organization of the mind so that you can understand why we so often choose against our own health and our deepest desires. I have presented this information in my book and other blogs, which are both available if you’d like to dive deeper.
There is a part of your brain that we call the mammalian brain. We share this with dogs, monkeys, rabbits, and many other animals. This area of the brain has a processing center called the reward system. This reward system is designed to help us survive and thrive. It’s designed to create strong feelings of motivation, energy, and pleasure when we engage behaviors that could facilitate our survival and the reproduction of our species. This is a very powerful processing center. It’s deeper in our brain and not under our conscious control. It’s also hardwired into our memory so we can remember what gave us pleasure and repeat it.
There are many exposures that can trigger this system. Addictive drugs and substances, food elements such as sugar and sex can all trigger this system. In addition, gambling, pornography, video games, social media, television, and many other stimuli can also influence this system.
We don’t all have the same triggers for this system—it varies from individual to individual—but ultimately, we all have a reward system and are all vulnerable to how powerful it is when strongly stimulated.
Our ancestral minds were infrequently exposed to concentrated triggers of this system. Unnaturally concentrated reward system stimuli just didn’t exist in nature. Therefore, this system worked in balance with our higher mind, also called the neocortex, which allowed us to begin to socialize, communicate, study, remember, plan, and regulate our emotions. This higher mind is a different processing center than our reward system. There is some interplay, but ultimately, they are distinct. Therefore, we can sometimes have conflict between the two of them.
Because most of what we do is based on strong emotions and not our actual thoughts, anything that creates a strong feeling or craving resulting in pleasure will have a powerful influence on what we do. This will override our ability to regulate our own behavior.
As we grow and develop, we have an opportunity to train our brain in such a way that we can begin to take control of our feelings and emotions and also use our thoughts to redirect them. We can, to some extent, become self-determining creatures. However, this takes time and effort. I describe this in one of my other blogs about the owner’s manual of the mind. Essentially, when I talk about the marketplace of goods and services conditioning us into patterns of behavior based on our reward system, this is what I mean.
Our modern lifestyles are unnatural. They are very different than our ancestral lifestyles. The foods we are exposed to are very different: they’ve been engineered to be addictive and to override normal satiation function, triggering us to binge eat. Technology has also been designed to be addictive so it’s challenging to stop using it in our daily lives. The news cycle is designed to be addictive. Alcohol, nicotine, and many other substances are known to be addictive, and are sold for the ways in which they augment our neurochemistry and create a sense of pleasure.
Once we are exposed to these in an unnatural manner, we can’t control our behavior. We will keep chasing after these vices because we are designed to do so. The only way forward is to understand this truth and begin to slowly unwind these habits and conditioning patterns, and then establish new ones that will support our best health. We must be willing to do this, and it can be done, but only if we’re aware of this specific issue.
The marketplace will continue to sell us whatever products are the easiest to manufacture and make the most money, regardless of the effect it has on a human being. We, ultimately, are the marketplace. We buy what we think we want. We’re going to have to focus on the development of our higher mind, and the development of a lifestyle that honors our ancestral design, to change this pattern.
This is hard work, as our mammalian brain is powerful. The lower brain’s cravings, impulses, feelings, and pleasure responses are very powerful. We cannot override these with willpower. We must change the construction of our lives to better support our good health. We can take our time doing this, but the work must be done. Only you can stop and ask, “What do I really want?”
If experiencing your highest level of potential and optimizing your health is not a fundamental desire for you, then there is no chance for you to ever know the enormous power that optimized health can provide you to live your best life.