Posts

The human brain is fascinating in so many ways!  It has lots of different parts. In this article, I focus on the ones that are most important from a psychological perspective.

You may have heard of terms such as prefrontal cortex, amygdala, hypothalamus or hippocampus before, but do you understand what these parts of the brain do?

In this article, I will cover 5 different parts of the brain in detail and explain how these different parts of your brain work together to keep you safe.

Knowing this information will help you understand why you sometimes act emotionally or instinctively. You’ll also discover why you forget things when you’re stressed or anxious.

Watch the video below:

Click to watch on Youtube

Listen to the Podcast

It’s so important to understand how your brain works so that when you have an emotional experience or fear response, you know which area of the brain it stems from. When you forget something important, like your lines during a speech or presentation, you will begin to understand what is happening within your brain that causes this to happen. Knowing this gives you more choices and helps you find better ways to control your brain.

So, I’ll now cover the different parts of the brain that affect your mindset, emotions, and psychology.

The Prefrontal Cortex

The Prefrontal Cortex is the very front part of the brain, located just behind your eyes and forehead. When we think or become aware of our thoughts, it feels like they come from this area. It’s the part of the brain that is often described as the “conscious mind”

The Prefrontal Cortex is part of the Frontal Lobe, which is the larger front part of your brain. Together, they are part of the Neocortex, which is the whole of the top part of your brain.

Prefrontal Cortex functions

The Prefrontal Cortex is responsible for thinking, goal-setting, and prediction of outcomes. It helps us work out what we want to achieve. It’s used to plan our time, our life and how we organize things. It also determines what is good and bad or right and wrong, based on our beliefs. It helps us to evaluate options and make decisions and predicts the future consequences of our actions and how they affect other people and our life. The ability to make decisions is a key function of the Prefrontal Cortex.

The Prefrontal Cortex also controls personality expression and how we act in public by moderating social behavior. It allows us to suppress emotional urges and unhelpful thoughts to better fit in during social situations. This is why your behavior often changes when you are interacting with others.

Limbic System

The Limbic System is the center for emotional responsiveness. It is where motivation and memory formation happen. It also houses the mechanisms that keep us safe. These include things like sensory perception, time perception, attention span, and consciousness.

The main parts of the Limbic System are the Amygdala, Hippocampus, and Hypothalamus. These areas are all very closely connected to the Prefrontal Cortex and carry out functions simultaneously.

Practicing meditation and mindfulness helps to strengthen the connections (or neuropathways) between the Prefrontal Cortex and the Limbic System. So there is real scientific evidence as to why meditation and mindfulness are so good for you!

The Amygdala

The Amygdala is the emotional processing part of your brain. It receives incoming sensory inputs and provides an emotional response. It’s the early warning system for either perceived or actual threats and is a much more unconscious part of your brain.

The left side of the Amygdala deals with both positive and negative emotional responses. The right side deals mainly with negative emotional responses.

Amygdala functions

One of its most fundamental roles is directing your attention and focus to the most important sensory-stimuli, whether it is good or bad. Other unnecessary surrounding stimuli is blocked out and ignored.

This explains why you can be extremely focused on one specific person or thing, such as when in love or extremely engaged in a conversation.

When experiencing fear, your Amygdala will focus your attention on either dealing with or getting away from the threat. It activates the stress response so that you respond effectively to dangerous stimuli.

The Amygdala also evaluates facial expressions and sends this information to the Prefrontal Cortex. When you notice someone smiling at you, the Amygdala picks that up first and then triggers thoughts about that person.

Another useful function of the Amygdala is the release of hormones that can alter the cognitive processing of the Prefrontal Cortex. When under stress, blood flows away from the Prefrontal Cortex into the more emotional parts of your brain and body. Less blood in the Prefrontal Cortex is the main reason why you forget an important phrase in a speech when you’re feeling stressed. These hormones also activate the body via the Hypothalamus, which we will discuss further later in this article.

Fight, flight or freeze

The Amygdala is especially activated by surprising, ambiguous or uncertain situations. When these situations occur, it accesses memories from past experiences (and your beliefs behind these) to determine whether the incoming sensory input is a stressor or not. If it is, it will then activate an emotional response. This is typically known as the “fight, flight or freeze” response. You either attack the threat head-on (fight), run away (flight) or stand still in shock (freeze).

In a fight, flight or freeze response, the Amygdala hijacks the Prefrontal Cortex, by taking blood away from the Prefrontal Cortex and redistributing it to the Limbic System. It also activates your instinctive survival responses without you having to think about them.

The Amygdala processes information milliseconds earlier than the Prefrontal Cortex. So if a memory matches an incoming stimulus, it will act automatically and instinctively without involving the Prefrontal Cortex. If it is a new experience, the Amygdala will look to the Prefrontal Cortex for direction.

Depression and the Amygdala

Depression is linked to an enlarged Amygdala. The more frequently the Amygdala is activated, the larger it becomes. As the Amygdala gets larger over time, it increases the symptoms of depression. By examining the Amygdala and other areas of the brain, depression can now be measured scientifically.

The Hippocampus

The Hippocampus is responsible for the formation of memories. It creates structured interactions between the Hippocampus and the Prefrontal Cortex, which happens during slow brain wave sleep. This is part of the process of consolidating long-term memories while we sleep. This is one of the reasons that we have dreams.

You can think of the Hippocampus as like your brain’s Google search engine. It allows fast and efficient memory searching from the Prefrontal Cortex and other parts of the Neocortex to help assess and plan. This is important for learning, especially for physical tasks. The Hippocampus tracks your conscious steps so over time they become unconscious or second-nature.

Chronic stress negatively affects the Hippocampus. Depression can reduce the volume of the Hippocampus by between 8% and 19% as well as enlarging the Amygdala as mentioned earlier.

So the consistent thoughts and feelings that you have can cause real physical changes in your brain.

The Thalamus

The Thalamus is the central hub of your brain. It receives outside information from your senses and forwards that to other areas of your brain like the Amygdala and Prefrontal Cortex. It also helps to manage motor and cognitive functions.

The Hypothalamus

The Hypothalamus takes input from your senses via the Thalamus. It is closely connected to both the Amygdala and Hippocampus and helps control and monitor numerous vital processes.

These include your metabolism (how quickly you digest food), your circadian rhythms (what makes you feel sleepy or wide-awake) and the quality of sleep, especially the amount of deep sleep.

Your Hypothalamus also controls your body temperature and lets you know when you’re thirsty or hungry. These are a bit more unconscious and influence your body more than your mind. However, the Hypothalamus also takes psychological input from what you perceive through your senses.

Final Thoughts

The parts of the brain that control our psychology, mindset, and emotions are fascinating to learn and very useful in understanding how and why you think, feel and behave in certain ways. With this greater understanding, you will be able to tackle issues in your daily life with more clarity and focus.

If you enjoyed reading this article and found it useful, please leave a comment or question below.  I would love to hear what you think!   Please also click on the stars below to rate this post. Also, feel free to share this article with other people or on social media.

Please subscribe below to get automatic updates of all my latest video blogs.

Join my Email List.

Subscribe via YouTube

Subscribe via iTunes

Thank you for reading this article.  Hope you are having a wonderful day!

Paul

Everything that you do is consciously or unconsciously driven by one of 6 human needs. These needs motivate and inspire us to take action in positive ways. However, when some of these needs are not met consistently, your mind will unconsciously find ways to satisfy these needs. How your mind does this is not always good for you and can lead to addictions.

Tony Robbins identified these 6 human needs and how they are behind everything that we do. If you have a behavior that you can’t seem to stop, then it is likely that one of these 6 human needs is behind it.

Let’s get into these 6 human needs right now, so that you understand why you do what you do.

Watch the video below:

Click here to watch video on Youtube

Listen to the Podcast

The Top 6 Human Needs Explained

I’ll start by covering the first 4 needs as these are essential to life. You will always take action in ways that fulfill these needs.

1. The Need for Certainty

Everyone craves a need for certainty, safety, security, stability, comfort, control, predictability, and consistency. We like to know what is coming next so we can prepare ourselves accordingly.

We like to seek comfort and avoid the pain of not knowing what is coming next. This need also affects your tolerance for risk. The higher your need for certainty, the fewer risks you’re willing to take. You’ll take fewer risks regarding your career, relationships, investment opportunities or health.

To meet the need for certainty, you might prioritize financial security over other things in life. You may choose to watch the same movie multiple times because you know the plot and this gives you a sense of certainty. You might choose the same holiday destination and stay at the same hotel or apartment.

Other ways to meet the need for certainty include working for the same company for many years or staying with the same partner for life.

The need for certainty can also be met in negative ways. These include eating or drinking excessively, smoking, taking recreational drugs or trying to control other people to achieve an emotional need.

You might enjoy the predictability of a dysfunctional relationship or toxic work environment, even though you know its not good for you in the long term.

2. The Need for Uncertainty

This is the need for surprise, variety, challenge, excitement, adventure, change, and even chaos. It’s the complete opposite of the first need.

Do you like surprises? – I’m guessing the answer is “yes”

We love surprises, but only if they are positive and make us feel good. However, what if the surprise is a problem or unexpected challenge? What if it’s an upset, something you didn’t expect or want in your life? That changes things a little, right?

Unexpected challenges are useful and important too. They stretch you, grow your character and develop mental toughness.

Positive or neutral ways to meet the need for uncertainty include watching or playing competitive sports. Why? because we don’t know what the outcome will be.

The need for uncertainty could also be achieved by taking calculated risks towards your goals in life or by taking part in adrenaline sports.

Ultimately, you could meet this need by going on exciting trips or holidays. You may enjoy visiting various regions of the world, staying in different places and connecting with a wide variety of people.

The need for certainty and uncertainty are related. They work as a continuum. If you have too much certainty in your life, you feel bored and begin to desire variety. If you have too much variety or change in your life, this creates additional stress and worry. You then crave security and certainty.

Find the balance between certainty and uncertainty that works best for you. Know that this will change as you go through life as well.

3. The Need for Significance

This is the need for significance, meaning & pride. It is about feeling important and valued for who you are, and for what you’re bringing to society. We all want to feel loved, needed and significant.

Positive and neutral ways to achieve this need include academic achievements such as masters’ degrees and PhDs. It might involve climbing the corporate ladder to get to an executive position in a big corporation or becoming a highly successful musician, painter or athlete.

Some people meet the need for significance by volunteering or helping others, while others get it by making more money or through their spiritual life.

Negative ways to achieve significance include having more problems than anyone else!. If you have a lot of problems in your life and you always talk about them, this could be an unconscious way to meet your need for significance.

You can feel significant by putting other people down, gaining an unfair advantage or hurting other people. People can become bullies or rebellious to achieve their need for significance.

Of all the human needs, I feel that the need for significance is a fundamental reason behind many negative and harmful behaviors. It’s a powerful need for many people.

4. The Need for Love and Connection

This fourth human need is for communication, approval, and attachment. It’s about feeling connected with other people on an intimate level and loved by other human beings. Achieving this need can have some downsides. It might involve overcoming a fear of rejection or learning how to handle criticism from others.

Also, when you achieve this need, you might settle down, which makes life very predictable and certain. You then start to crave a little uncertainty and excitement!

Positive ways to meet this need include dating, intimacy, finding the perfect partner or getting married. However, you can also meet this need by joining clubs, social media groups, going to parties, hanging out with friends and interacting with new people on a social level. Walking in nature, even by yourself is also a great way to fulfill this need for love and connection.

If all else fails, get a pet! I know of several people that haven’t yet found their perfect partners, so they have a dog, cat or other pet instead. This helps them fulfill their need for love and connection.

Negative ways of meeting this need include joining a gang or a cult, settling for an average or even a codependent relationship. Perhaps, you’ve been heartbroken in the past, so you settle for an average relationship (or even stay single), so you don’t get hurt again in the future.

The need for significance and the need for love & connection are also a continuum. If you have too much significance in your life, you’ll often notice a lack of connection. This is a reason why certain celebrities become depressed, anxious and lonely. They over-emphasized significance and are now lonely and in need of love and connection.

Too much love and connection, especially in an intimate relationship can reduce your sense of identity as an individual. You’ll no longer feel important as an person. That’s when begin to value significance more than love & connection. So it’s important to strike a balance, so that you feel both significant and loved.

The Last 2 Needs

The 4 human needs that I have covered above are essential for life. We will always do things to meet our need for certainty, uncertainty, significance, and connection. As you can see, you can achieve these in a positive or negative way.

The last two human needs are less important. You can have a relatively good life without striving to achieve these two. They are called “spirit needs” and are essential for achieving happiness and fulfillment. Not everyone will achieve these, but those that do will feel truly fulfilled in life.

5. The Need for Growth

This is the need for the constant development of your intellect, body, spirit, and emotions. As the saying goes, “if you’re not growing, you’re dying“. This is about growing in all areas of life, including your health, relationships, career, finance, wisdom and spirituality.

6. The Need for Contribution

This is a need to get beyond ourselves, to care, protect, and serve other people. The idea around this need is that “it’s not about me, it’s about we“.

Have you ever received some good & exciting news? What’s the first thing you do? You probably share it with someone else. We like to share good and exciting things with other people.

This human need is not about what you get, but about who you become. Contributing makes you happy in the long term. Giving and helping other people is the key to unlocking the feelings of happiness and fulfillment.

Final Words

These are the 6 most basic human needs as identified by Tony Robbins. Let’s do a quick recap.

The first one is the need for certainty. The second one is the need for uncertainty. The third one is the need for significance, the fourth is love & connection. The final two needs are growth and contribution.

I encourage you to look at your life and discover how you can meet these needs in positive or neutral ways. You are the master of your life. You can dramatically improve your life by leveraging the true power of these needs and by meeting them using positive means.

If you enjoyed reading this article and found it useful, please leave a comment or question below.  I would love to hear what you think!   Please also click on the stars below to rate this post. Also, feel free to share this article with other people or on social media.

Please subscribe below to get automatic updates of all my latest video blogs.

Join my Email List.

Subscribe via YouTube

Subscribe via iTunes

Thank you for reading this article.  Hope you are having a wonderful day!

Paul

In this article, you are going to discover the powerful connection between the reticular activating system and goals. You will then learn 8 fantastic ways to use your reticular activating system to achieve your goals.

We continually get bombarded with information that stimulates our brain. This is why your reticular activating system and goals must be aligned so that you notice the abundance of opportunities that will help you get ahead.

Once you understand the key connections between your reticular activating system and goals, you will be using both your conscious and unconscious mind in harmony. This makes achieving any goal much easier and requires less conscious effort.

Watch the video below:

Click here to watch video on Youtube

Listen to the Podcast

What is the Reticular Activating System?

According to Tech 21century.com, we receive the equivalent of 34 gigabytes of information every day. That’s a huge amount of information and is increasing year by year. The influence of technology, social media, and our very interconnected world constantly bombards us with information to respond to.

If you put 34 gigabytes of information onto your laptop every day for a week, it would become overloaded! Same with us humans!

So to prevent us from being overloaded, we have the reticular activating system (RAS), and this acts as the gatekeeper. It takes in the 34 gigabytes of information that come from our 5 senses. It then filters out the unnecessary from the important. The reticular activating system decides which information to pay attention to and what can be ignored. A staggering 99% of all sensory input is ignored by the conscious mind.

Your subconscious mind will pick up everything. It’s the reticular activating system that alerts the conscious mind to information that is important. The reticular activating system learns over time and alerts you to the same information on multiple occasions. That’s one of the ways that a habit is formed.

However, our conscious mind is smarter. So if you pay attention to something consciously, your reticular activating system will put it on the more important list. The reticular activating system will then start to unconsciously notice things that are relevant to what you are paying attention to.

It’s for this reason that the reticular activating system is super important for goal setting. It plays a key role when you focus on what you want. It’s also important for sustaining life, and I’ll cover this in a moment.

Examples of the Reticular Activating System in Action

Here are some examples of the reticular activating system in action.

  • You buy a new car and then notice other people driving the same car. Why? Because the model of your new car is now unconsciously on your important list. Your reticular activating system notices other people that also have the same car.
  • You are a pregnant woman, and you notice other women who are pregnant because this is now on your important list.
  • As you learn a new word, perhaps some technical jargon or abbreviation, you start to hear other people saying that word a lot.
  • You are at a party with lots of noise. Whilst in a conversation, someone shouts your name. You hear your name through all the background noise. Why? Because your unconscious mind knows that your name is important and it picks that up.
  • When your baby coughs or cries at night, your reticular activating system will wake you up from deep sleep to attend to the baby. That’s because one of the functions of your reticular activating system is sustaining life.

Your reticular activating system will also help you focus on one thing as well if that’s seen as important. Let’s say that you’re completely engrossed in a soccer match or a movie. Your reticular activating system will not bring other things into your conscious awareness unless they are more important than the soccer match or movie.

Reticular Activating System and Goals

Your reticular activating system is the mechanism in your brain that helps make goals happen. With conscious direction (such as writing down goals and focusing on what you want) you begin to attract people, things, places, situations and opportunities into your life.

Here are some examples of this happening.

  • You have decided to eat clean and healthily so that you can increase your energy and lose weight. You start flipping through the pages of a magazine and your reticular activating system unconsciously spots a relevant article or recipe that will help you. If you had tried to do that consciously, would you have found it? Probably not.
  • You’re trying to solve a technical problem on your computer. You take a break and start mindlessly surfing the internet. Suddenly an article appears in the search results with the solution.
  • You are a bystander at a party and you overhear a conversation that is highly relevant to the new career goal or job that you have been focussing on and aspiring to attain.
  • Someone says something directly to you and you have an “a-ha” moment because it’s just what you need to hear at the time. You might have heard the same advice many times before, but at this moment, it was important, so you picked it up.

So with all the above examples, the answer was always there. You just didn’t notice it until now.

Have you ever wondered why comedians find jokes in the most bizarre and mundane of situations? Well, a comedian’s reticular activating system is always looking for something that will be great material for a joke and for the funny side of any situation.

To summarize, your reticular activating system is super important because it helps bring people, things, places, situations and opportunities into your life based on what you focus on consistently.

When you lack goal clarity and focus, you miss out on opportunities as your reticular activating system has nothing to go on. If the reticular activating system doesn’t see something as important, you will miss out and it will instead focus on the mundane or negative.

This is why it is so important to focus on what you want. When you focus on bills, lack debt and sickness consistently, then a life of abundance, good health, prosperity, and peace will be out of reach for you.

If you desire a life of abundance, good health, prosperity, and peace, then take time to focus on these in detail. This will get your reticular activating system working for you rather than against you. Keep reading to learn the specific steps to unleash the power of your reticular activating system.

How to Use the Reticular Activating System to Your Advantage

So I’m now going to cover some ways to help you use the reticular activating system to your advantage.

1. Use SMART Goals That are Written Down

A smart goal is one that is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound. I recommend that you follow my step by step process for setting goals. Then write them down in your own handwriting. The reticular activating system will act more effectively with handwritten goals, as opposed to goals that have been typed on the computer.

2. Ask Questions to Make the Goal More Vivid

A great question to ask is “how will I know when I have achieved it?” Taking the time to answer this question will help you get your goal extremely clear in your imagination.

Then ask, “what will I see, hear, or feel?” and “where, when, and with whom do I want it?” These questions will help you bring in places and other people and this also helps to make the goal more vivid.

Now ask “what will achieving this goal do for me?” or “what’s the benefit?“. These questions will help you focus on the benefit and the feeling or emotion of that. Really intensifying the feeling of achieving your desired goal will help impress this more deeply on your reticular activating system.

Now ask, “what am I already doing to move towards this goal?” This will focus your mind on the progress that you are already making. Your reticular activating system will pick up on this as well.

Finally ask “what qualities, skills and emotional states do I need to reach my goal?“. This is a great question! It will encourage your reticular activating system to go looking for the qualities, skills, and emotional states that you need and bring these into your life as well.

3. Keep the Goal or Problem to Solve at the Top of Your Mind

Think about your goal many times a day! Talk about your goals to your family, friends, and colleagues that you trust and that believe in you. Write down your goals and dream about them. The more you do this, the more it will impress on your reticular activating system.

Another great way is to post pictures, charts, or graphs of your goal around your house. Find places where you will often notice them unconsciously. Bathroom mirror, fridge, desk and wardrobe doors are great places. Alternatively, create a vision board and post pictures of your goal on there.

4. Take Consistent Action

Consistent action is important in achieving any goal. However, it helps the reticular activating system as well. When you are taking consistent action, you are also thinking about it consistently. Your reticular activating system will act on this and alert you to new opportunities.

5. Train your Reticular Activating System

I had a client recently that had lots of anxiety in her life. I realized very quickly that she only focussed on the negative things that were happening to her. When I mentioned anything positive, she dismissed it immediately.

I asked her to tell me 5 things that went well for her today. She really struggled and after 5 minutes, we only had 3 things and that was with a lot of prompting from me. Her reticular activating system had become so trained to focus on negative things only. As a result, she found it almost impossible to think of anything that was positive or useful for her. It was like the neural pathway in her brain that looks for good things had almost completely closed down.

Here is a great exercise to help train your reticular activating system to notice positive and useful opportunities for you.

Grab a piece of paper and then set a timer for 5 minutes. Now write down everything that you have achieved in your life so far. This will be easy to start with. Examples could include getting a university degree, falling in love, getting married or buying a house. You can add career and health achievements into the mix as well. What about travel and great friends you’ve made? After 2 or 3 minutes you will start to run out of achievements. Keep going and look for smaller achievements. Keep going for a full 5 minutes writing down everything you can think of.

Once the 5 minutes is up, give yourself a pat on the back. What you will notice is that your reticular activating system will keep thinking of other things that you have achieved after the time is up. That’s because you have begun to train your brain to focus on the good things that you have done in your life so far.

6. Create Positive Affirmations

Positive affirmations force the reticular activating system to kick in automatically. The reticular activating system then adds these items to its important list. This works best when you do the following 3 things:

  • Speak your affirmations out loud.
  • Create affirmations that are very specific to your goals.
  • Feel the positive emotions that you want to experience as well.

Ensure that your affirmations are stated in the positive. For a goal of losing weight, the positive affirmation could be “I am thin, fit and healthy”.

7. Use Visualization

Your reticular activating system cannot distinguish between real events and synthetic or imagined reality. Anything that you can vividly imagine will seem real to your reticular activating system and it will act on it. Your reticular activating system believes whatever message you give it, whether it comes from external life experiences or something you create inside.

Your imagination and subconscious mind love pictures! It’s even better when you include what you can hear (including your internal self-talk), feel, touch and perhaps taste and smell as well.

It’s also important to make the image very large! Imagine that you’re seeing it on an incredibly large cinema screen. Visualize the goal as having already been achieved.

8. Repetition

This is simply doing as many of the above techniques regularly and consistently. Each time you do one of these techniques, you are building a new mental pathway in your brain. This makes it more important to your reticular activating system. Then your reticular activating system can get on and do its job.

So now you have a much clearer idea on how the reticular activating system actually works. You also have some strategies that you can use to start getting the reticular activating system to focus on the people, things, places, situations, and opportunities that will help you achieve your goals.

If you enjoyed reading this article and found it useful, please leave a comment or question below.  I would love to hear what you think!   Please also click on the stars below to rate this post. Also, feel free to share this article with other people or on social media.

Please subscribe below to get automatic updates of all my latest video blogs.

Join my Email List.

Subscribe via YouTube

Subscribe via iTunes

Thank you for reading this article.  Hope you are having a wonderful day!

Paul