Mind Hacking Your Way To A Better Future

Ground breaking research over the last 15 years has changed everything we know about how the brain works and its implications on our lives. Here I am going to go into a truly revolutionary topic of brain research that can have tremendous impacts on your life. Now this is not going to be another boring, detail heavy, long word spouting article that would put any person to sleep unless you are some kind of super nerd like myself. This article should be a fun read and you might even learn some real science!

Emotional Biochemistry Just Doesn't Sound Intense Enough

All scientists and engineers seem to have this complex. We try to come up with the most "smart" sounding names for things so that people think we are smart. So the word they came up with to describe this field of science is... wait for it... psychoneuroimmunology. For real, that is what they call it. So a person that studies in the field is called a psychoneuroimmunologist. What kind of crap is that! I can barely even say that word and it just screams "you can't understand this" to almost every person that reads it so they just say "well never mind, lets read about the Kardashians". This subject began coming to light in the late 1980's but no one seems to know about it because we have coded it with science double talk. This is where I come in as your personal nerd talk decoder to give you the facts.

I Think, Therefore I Change

 "I have no idea why I am using a microscope, but it sure does make it look like I know what I am doing!"   

"I have no idea why I am using a microscope, but it sure does make it look like I know what I am doing!"

 

Look up positive thinking on google. You will find a million billion (It's a real number, okay) articles on how to "think positively" and be happier and blah blah blah. But I think that all sounds really fake. Like we are just supposed to think positively just because it sounds good. I am a realist. I need to have some facts or justification that is based in reality and not in some "super happy spiritual fun land" in order for me to believe it. So this is what started the quest. Does thinking positively have any real, measurable change on yourself? Whether it be your success in your job, your personal life, or your physical state. It turns out there is so much more that your mind influences than I had ever imagined.

I believe the human brain is the single most powerful and amazing thing on the face of this planet. We have just began to scratch the surface of understanding what it is capable of. It turns out your brain can completely change your physical state and perform miracles that were previously thought impossible. This is where your Neuroendocrine system comes in. We all know that our muscles and tissue are interwoven with our nervous system. Nerves are one highway in which the brain takes in data and distributes commands. So when you want to flex them biceps on the beach with your bros to impress the ladies, the brain sends an electrical signal to the biceps to contract and it also sends signals to many different muscles in your face, mouth, lungs, and throat to utter the phrase "sup ladies, wanna touch these guns?" But one that is even more important and complicated is the role that biochemistry plays in the connection between the mind and the rest of the body.

Neuroendocrine System Explained

So before we dive into the implications that this system has, we need to understand a little bit about what is going on. Aside from electrical signals sent from the brain, almost all other means of communication between different parts of our body is through biochemical signals. These mostly come in the form of proteins (or hormones) through our neuroendocrine system. Proteins are just chains of different molecules that are known as amino acids. These proteins fold in all kinds of different confirmations and the science behind these molecules is intensely complicated. But what is important to you is what and how the proteins affect you. Each one of your cells has these things on the outside of them called receptor sites. The sites are only able to recognize one certain protein. Lets take dopamine for example. Dopamine, as you may have heard, is the protein that is produced when you are experiencing joy. All of your cells have multiple dopamine receptors that only recognize dopamine (and other molecules that have the same active sites). This relationship is similar to a key and lock. The protein is the key and the receptor is the lock. So when the protein and receptor(s) get together, they can actually change the physical state of the cell. This is what causes you to sweat when you are stressed or calls your white blood cells into action when you are sick or causes certain things to happen when your are "in the mood" that we won't go into detail about here...

 "Babe, my mind is sending oxytocin to my cells to change their physiological state for you" "... that is the most romantic thing anyone has ever said to me!"

"Babe, my mind is sending oxytocin to my cells to change their physiological state for you"
"... that is the most romantic thing anyone has ever said to me!"

The Proverbial Mindf$@k

At this point you may be wondering "okay, what is so great about that?" If you are, then you are on the right track! It turns out that every emotion that we experience causes certain proteins to be produced in the brain and carried out through the rest of the body through the bloodstream. Whether it is joy, love, anger, fear, sadness, frustration, or anything else. But the especially bad ones are stress and sadness. All of these emotions cause proteins to be released and intercepted by hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of receptors on cells and changing you physical state across your body as a whole! But you shouldn't just take the word of some random dude on a blog site rambling. Lets take a look at some interesting studies that have been done to prove this point.

Stress And Depression Can Cause And Grow Some Types Of Cancer

Scientists at the State University of Londrina in Brazil published a paper on the effects of stress and depression on the development of certain cancerous tumors. They summarized some of their results in this very straight forward statement "Both stress and depression were associated with the decreased cytotoxic T-cell and natural killer cell activities affecting the processes of the immune surveillance of tumours, and the events that modulate the development and the accumulation of somatic mutations and genomic instability". So translated that means that the hormones that are associated with stress and depression inhibit your body's ability to fight cancer cells. Which pretty much sucks. But no worries, they recommend some treatment "Behavioral strategies, psychological, and psychopharmacotherapeutic interventions that enhance effective coping and reduce affective distress showed beneficial effects in cancer patients."Oh thanks doc, totally get it now. Basically this means do stuff to reduce stress and cope with depression.


Read More: http://informahealthcare.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02646830500382102

Chinese People Know How To Chill Smart

When Americans think of meditation, you probably think of a bunch of Chinese monks sitting around with their legs crossed, hands out, and humming for no particular reason. Well it turns out that the Chinese have taken a liking to using meditation as a medical treatment and have performed some studies on it including this one. "80 Chinese undergraduates were randomly assigned to an experimental group (integrative body–mind training, IBMT) or to a control group (relaxation training) for 5 days of short-term training (20 min per day). Before training, no differences were found for behavioral, endocrine, and immune measures between the 2 groups. After 5 days of training, the IBMT group showed significantly greater improvement of performance in executive attention and positive mood, significantly reduced stress as measured by cortisol secretion following a stressful experience, and increased immunoreactivity compared to participants with the same amount of relaxation training." So meditation training had real measurable effects on the stress levels and immune system activity of the patients. No drugs or anything else. That alone proves the link between our mental and physical states.

Read more at: http://www.pnas.org/content/106/22/8865.full

 "We need to meditate like this more often!"

"We need to meditate like this more often!"

Heal Faster, Fight Infections Better, Fight HIV...Pretty Much Become Wolverine

You heard me! Stress and negative thoughts can lead you to heal slower, become susceptible to infectious diseases, like HIV and herpes, and cause you to age faster. Now there is a million different products that can treat all of these things but why not go to the source? Eliminate the negative thoughts and you can essentially become Wolverine and regrow limbs. Okay, maybe not that but you can dramatically increase your health by doing so. 

Read more at: http://www.psychosomaticmedicine.org/content/57/3/269.full.pdf+html

There are many many more articles about this subject. If you are interested in learning more about this subject then you can do a simple google search of "psychoneuroimmunology", which I will allow you to copy and paste instead of typing.

Positive Thinking Is Not Just A Poster Phrase

So after learning about all of these factors I realized that positive thinking is not just a nice thing for motivational speakers to say. It has real effects on your life as far as health goes. But I still don't like to use the phrase "Positive Thinking". It just sounds cheesy. I like to think of it as "Mind Hacking" because for me it takes a real conscious effort to change your thoughts from negative to positive, but when you can do that and eliminate stress you can accomplish almost anything. Want to start a new business? Mind hack that shizz and eliminate the stress and fear of failure. Want to talk to that super hot chick/dude at the bar? Mind hack that shizz and eliminate the stress and fear of rejection. Remember that stress is all made up. It is not a real thing. You and you alone determine the amount of stress you have directly in your life and it has fundamentally nothing to do with the outside world. But eliminating stress from your life doesn't only help you think positively and be happier. It also has huge impacts on your cognitive and even physical performance!

You Can't Buy Talent, But You Can Mind Hack It

If you think of the world of professional sports there are many legends that seem to defy the boundaries of human abilities. But what separates the best of the best from the rest? Is it money? Fame? Muscles? Family? Turns out that people have done some real scientific research on this subject. The main thing that makes the Michael Jordan's and Shaun White's stand out is mental states of mind during performance.

http://www.dana.org/media/detail.aspx?id=39234

In the above article, brain researchers work with some of the top olympic athletes to determine what separates the Gold's from the rest. They come up with this profound discovery “When you are an elite athlete, one of the best in the world, the physical differences between you and your peers are very, very small.” says Scott Grafton, a researcher at the University of California, Santa Barbara and a Dana Foundation grantee, who studies action representation, or how the brain organizes movement into a goal-oriented action. “So what really determines success? The way athletes are approaching their sport at the cognitive level.” Essentially, the separation comes in the method they use to approach their craft. When athletes are about to enter a stage of peak performance (we refer to this as "The Zone") there are certain sets of brain waves that increase. These are the Alpha and Theta waves. Alpha waves are produced in states and intense focus. Theta waves are produced in states of extreme relaxation. So "the zone" is essentially the athlete being relaxed and completely focused on the task. Conscious thought shuts down and they just let it "flow." Next time you are playing a sport, try it out and see what happens! And if you want to measure your own brain waves, visit this site!

http://www.neurosky.com/Default.aspx

Hope you guys enjoyed this article and now realize how important your thoughts are on your health and wellbeing. Here are some articles to help you on your quest for Mind Hacking.

Stress Management

http://www.helpguide.org/mental/stress_management_relief_coping.htm

http://www.webmd.com/balance/guide/blissing-out-10-relaxation-techniques-reduce-stress-spot

http://www.rd.com/health/wellness/37-stress-management-tips/

Motivation

http://www.ziglar.com

PNI

https://www.pnirs.org/index.cfm

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3R9mD-iJZIg

Learning How To Learn? No Thanks Bro, I'll Just Stay Up All Night

When we think of college, what images come to mind. Undoubtedly there will be the image of half naked drunk girls at a house party... okay, maybe that is just what dudes think of. Maybe its the idea of late night trips to the local campus 24/hour restaurant close by or the sports events that are to ensue. Then after all the festivities, you hit the dorm room floor for the famous all-nighter. Ah yes, energy drinks, coffee, cheap pizza, and maybe even some studying. There is something that seems so noble about the all-nighter that says "oh yeah, I am a real college student". But lets get real, in 99% of cases it really just means I procrastinated too much and didn't study like I should have and now I am going to pound my head with these books until something gets in there. Most likely you won't learn hardly anything, freak out during the exam, fail the exam, and then go onto Facebook and cry about how hard your life is. But what if there was a way to work less and get better results? What if there was a way to ace your exams with less stress and still have some free time on your hands? What if I stopped using these very cliche rhetorical questions? Well it turns out that there is, but before we go into that lets take a second to dissect why all-nighters don't accomplish anything.

**WARNING** science will be employed.

So there you sit, 9 PM on the night before the exam. Maybe you have a friend with you or maybe you are rollin' solo Knight Rider style minus the talking car. As the night begins, you start your cramming session. Slowly you start to digest and deposit the facts into your brain. You can think of your brain as a sort of filing cabinet or maybe a USB drive for the modern day. The problem is that you don't get to consciously organize the information. It turns out our brains know we probably suck at organizing that much stuff so they do it for us. But this only happens when you have over 6 HOURS OF SLEEP! So at night a little technician goes through your mess of a daily information intake and sorts through it. "oh look, here are those new Drake song lyrics. I guess we will put those somewhere.... y=mx+b? naaaaahhhh, fug that."

Started-From-The-Bottom-Meme-3.jpg

Clinical researchers like to call this "memory stabilization". So without sleep, you get no memory stabilization. Which means not only will you not remember those lyrics very well but you wont remember crap from what you are studying! Lets fast forward to the morning. You walk into your exam looking like you just crawled from the grave. The information in your brain looks almost as bad as this dude's hair.

You open up the exam and the battle begins. The night's intake of caffeine has you shaking like Elvis in an electric chair, but the worst has yet to come. Your brain is about to unleash mass destruction on all the information you tried to put in there. 

So you start to freak out because you have no clue what the hell you are doing. Unfortunately, the brain doesn't know the difference between this modern, fabricated fear of failing your test and the fear that would be caused by running from a bear or fighting a giant cobra. So when you start freaking out, your body starts to release cortisol into your system which then causes the release of epinephrine or adrenaline. Now at first glance you would think "oh yeah, this is gonna pump me up to do well in my exam"! Think again. It turns out this is where our brains take a huge crap on our faces. 

When the brain goes into "Fight or Flight" mode, it diverts all brain function to areas which are important for, you guessed it, fight or flight. While adrenaline enhances these areas, the cortisol/adrenaline duo gives the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex the ol' one two. The hippocampus is involved in forming and retrieving memories and the prefrontal cortex is involved in planning complex cognitive behavior, personality expression, decision making, and moderating social behavior. In other words, your brain says "oh hot damn! Something real is about to go down. We need to make sure we can still run like a cheetah and lift cars. Lets see... well I don't think we will need these Drake lyrics or this y=mx+b". Before you know it you have gone completely blank and don't remember anything you have just studied. Now you are in complete breakdown mode as you turn in your failed exam and go home to cry to your Teddy.

Have Your Brain Fight For You

That's not how it has to be though! You can use your brain's chemistry to your advantage! When I first got to the University of Houston to study for chemical engineering, I got exposed to a study program called "The Guaranteed 4.0 Program". Although it was a great program I am always skeptical of these end-all-be-all programs. I figured there had to be more research on this stuff and it turns out there is. By taking this step to learn how my brain works and how I can design a study system based on research that will optimize my brain's ability to obtain and use information, I was able to study less then many of my peers who were as "smart" if not "smarter" than me and still maintain good grades. First I will lay out the steps I took leading up to the exam and then we will go into what brain activity this enhances.

  1. Read lightly over material that is going to be covered in class. Nothing major. I usually don't even write anything down. Think "what the hell are we gonna go over in class".
  2. Actually go to class and attempt to learn something!! I know, I know. You don't learn anything from class and your professor sucks and cant speak english and blah blah blah. At least it will keep you accountable for your class and you will at least think a little about what the hell is going on. I know it is easier said than done. I have skipped classes before too. But at least make the attempt.

 

  1. After class, Take your notes and condense them down to only the important material. Usually I condense the material down to only one page per lecture and I write them in a certain form. Here is an example from one of my Fluid Mechanics class lectures. 
  2. Before doing your homework, take your condensed class notes and go over them until you know everything in there.
  3. Actually do your hw by yourself without a solutions manual. I know, its weird and shit.
  4. Begin studying for the exam at least a week before. Take those condensed notes and go over them over and over again until you know better than you know your mother. After you have that down then begin going through example book problems and homework problems. Lastly, after you have really learned the info, sit down and do an old exam like a real exam. Give yourself a time limit and see how well you do.
  5. This is the most important step!! Stop studying the night before the exam around 5 or 6 PM. Then go and do something FUN!! We will go into more detail later.
  6. DO NOT DO ANY HEAVY STUDYING THE DAY OF THE EXAM!! The only thing you can do is go over your condensed notes over and over to make sure you know them. Nothing else.
  7. Walk up into that test like you are gonna make it your bitch. Then make that test your bitch.

The Science Behind It

This section is for all you nerds out there like me. Lets get down to the nitty gritty. The system is pretty simple, but it is backed by some good science. The main thing that this emphasizes is repetition. Lets go back to our little technician in our head. Every day when we go to sleep he is looking at all the information that has been absorbed for that day and is sorting out the important things. If over time you start storing the same information, he is gonna go "oh, well this crap must be important, I'll make sure to put it in a safe place". This means when you want to access the info, it will be readily available for use. Where as when you stay up all night and don't sleep your information could be lost in limbo and you will never get to use it. The next thing that is REALLY important is step 7, stopping your study regimen the day before the test and doing something fun! This will produce endorphins from your brain which are your natural stress fighters. When stress starts to peak its head around the corner, the endorphins open up a can of "whoop ass" on it and hulk smash it into nothing. So producing these as close to test time as possible is a fantastic way to fight test anxiety and stress. This will mean that you will not experience the temporary memory lapse that you would feel from an all-nighter. Combine this with the effect with the repetition that has been going on over the past weeks then you have a major force in the fight for better grades. The information will just flow from your brain like smoke out the chimney (R.I.P. MCA). If you put this together with a good nights sleep and a well balanced breakfast then you are ready to kick some serious ass come test time.

Thanks for reading my first post!! If you want any more information on what was in this post, please don't hesitate to contact me at josh.bird.429@gmail.com. Study hard!!


Relevant Links:
http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2008/08/03/while-you-sleep-your-brain-keeps-working/
http://www.fitday.com/fitness-articles/fitness/body-building/the-relationship-between-adrenaline-and-stress.html#b
http://entertainment.howstuffworks.com/arts/circus-arts/adrenaline-strength1.htm
http://www.3fatchicks.com/how-endorphins-fight-stress/

and of course Wikipedia!!