fbpx
Monthly Archives :

May 2016

Invoke Your Primal Power, For WHealth
Invoke Your Primal Power, For WHealth 1024 568 Roddy Carter

If we fully appreciate the evolutionary power of the cognitive brain, and we closely observe highly successful people, we should be filled with optimism. Each of us has the power to drive belief and achieve WHealth.

The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

History is replete with the evidence that successful people have all harnessed one primal power, giving rise to BodyWHeath’s Fifth Golden Rule: “Believe”.

This is debatably the most powerful and most important of the 7 Keys to WHealth. It converted my good intentions into sustained healthy behavior. It keeps me motivated and working hard even now that I am healthy, because the limits of this power are unbounded.

In order to understand the role of our brain in belief, we need to review the evolution of this powerful organ.

At the center of our brain, the most primitive part of our central nervous system, we supervise critical survival instincts. The primitive brain (also known as the reptilian brain) is responsible for fight and flight responses. It is the default brain we use at times of crisis. Driven by fear and adrenaline, this part of our brain drives us to flee from danger, or turn to meet it with aggression. We need our primitive brains, but if that were all we had, we would be cold survival engines, like snakes and lizards.

Over time, early mammals added the limbic system to their primitive brains. The limbic system brought emotion and color to our world. The emotional brain provides a selective advantage to those species that have it, because it drives us to love and nurture our offspring, and to collaborate with others. We humans have the limbic system layered around our primitive brain stems. The language of the emotional brain is love and empathy.

Finally, we humans added a massive cerebral cortex, increasing our brain to three times the size of our closest mammalian relatives. The cognitive layer in the brain introduced thought and reason to our armamentarium, and clearly differentiates us from other animals. It is a powerful organ that enables us to master our environment. You will soon understand this power.

The three parts of our brain are intimately connected. Millions of nerve junctions enable messages to pass between them, moderating their influence in our lives. Our overall behavior is the composite effect of the three brain centers. In the absence of any “higher” function, the primitive brain rules with its negative, defensive messages. “Run, hide, fight”, it screams. This is useful when we are in true danger, but a disruptive influence at most other times. Both the emotional and cognitive brains can over-ride the primitive brain.

We have varying degrees of voluntary control over the three parts of our brain. We have no direct control over the primitive brain. At the other end of the scale, we are maximally able to influence our cognitive brains. The emotional brain is somewhere between the two; it has many of the features of an autonomous center, driving itself; but we can influence it indirectly via our cognitive brains.

These three parts of our brain are active in everything we do. Their interaction is critical in the generation of belief.

A big idea is generated in the cognitive brain. You now want something. When coupled with emotion, you transform want into a colorful, three-dimensional desire. But desire alone is not enough to overcome the retarding influence of the primitive brain that drives doubt, undermining your thoughts and hopes directly. You have to exert the overriding influence of your cognitive brain to silence doubt. Then, your desire becomes belief, and success is inevitable. Insight into the neuroscience of belief enables you to enhance this critical power, increasing the likelihood of your attaining WHealth.

There is intriguing science about the role of posture in confidence. It is well known that your mood impacts your posture. When you’re tired or sad, you’ll often slump on the couch until your recover. Interestingly, it works the other way too. Your brain responds to postural cues, affecting your mood and beliefs. When you act powerful, you become powerful. The simple act of forcing a smile by holding a pencil horizontally between your lips elevates your mood. Holding a powerful pose, such as the well-recognized raised arms of a victory salute increases the level of testosterone in your blood and decreases cortisol levels. Your brain senses these changes, and your level of self-belief rises!

You should be aware that your cognitive brain is vulnerable to hijack by your powerful reptilian brain. Fear and doubt can reverse-seed your cognitive brain with negative thoughts. This is dangerous, because you then have both major brain centers spreading fear and doubt. Even if you really, really want something, it is very unlikely that you will achieve it under these conditions. You become victim to these limiting beliefs.

Again, BodyWHealth has a solution. By employing the three Ds proposed by Martin Seligman, DisputationDistraction and Distance, you are able to redirect your hi-jacked cognitive brain towards more positive thoughts, unlocking belief to achieve success.

Change is ubiquitous, and our ability to negotiate change is a key trait of WHealthy people. Aversion to change is fuelled by your primitive brain when it surfaces fear in several recognizable guises. Fear of failure, pain, effort, and criticism impede your aptitude for change. Similarly, your primitive brain serves up fear of the unknown and even fear of success to hamper your resilience. Once you understand and acknowledge their origin, you should be able to actively engage your cognitive and emotional brains to overcome fear and doubt, allowing you to embrace change.

Parents of young children often ask me what they should do to raise confident, successful young men and women. Here is what I tell them, based on my understanding of the neuroscience of the human brain, and the power of BELIEF …“Treat them like royals”!

Affirmation is a powerful cue for the cognitive and emotional brains. If you lavish children with affirmation, you inculcate their brains with self-belief. Because they believe, they walk tall and think big. They don’t hear the nagging voice of their primitive brains urging caution as we do. Desires become belief, which becomes success. It’s a simple recipe.

My only word of caution: even as you soak their growing brains in the “you are worthy” message, it must be balanced with the twin guidance that it is hard work that will be the forerunner of their success. Self-worthiness in the absence of hard work is entitlement, a dangerous affliction for royals and lesser mortals alike.

Many of us were raised in polite, respectful families. We were taught humility, and we have taught the same to our children. Self-belief may easily become, or at least appear to verge on arrogance. It is closely tied to optimism, an entirely WHealthy mindset. But there is a narrow line between the good and the ugly in this regard. This quote by Rick Warren helps me to frame the solution to this conundrum – it is less about minimizing belief, and more about where you focus the benefits of your strong belief.

Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.”

Assuming that you master the power of belief, you will be chartering a fantastic course through life. Then, life happens. Things go wrong. Your perfectly laid plans unravel. What next? Can neuroscience and the power of belief continue to drive you towards WHealth?

Of course, you know that I wouldn’t ask the question if I didn’t know the answer. And I wouldn’t ask the question if the answer was a negative. Your mastery of your cognitive brain determines your resilience.

Resilience itself is a behavior, not an attribute. It’s the outcome of a number of mindsets. You can’t work on your resilience. You can’t say to someone, “be more resilient”. It’s not something you can just turn on. Instead, we need to look behind the scenes to understand what drives resilience. Then we can find things to work on.

Our psyches are fundamentally biologic in origin and design. They’re hard to study directly, so using the construct of our physical body may be helpful. In our bodies, we have the opposing forces of degeneration and rejuvenation going on all the time. This is no different in our mental and emotional domains. The default is degeneration. If we do nothing else, life breaks us down. So, the first learning is that we must actively drive mental and emotional rejuvenation if we want to be resilient. Stephen Covey calls this “sharpening the sword”.

Several other mindsets favor resilience. A neutral emotional response to setback enables rapid recovery. Secondly, positive thinking, which is under your complete voluntary control immunizes you against helplessness, the opposite state to resilience.

Conclusion

I was over half way through my 40s, a physician and exercise scientist. I had seen the consequences of physical neglect in my clinical practice and research. I understood the science intimately. Yet there I was, at least 50 pounds overweight, unable to walk up a long flight of stairs without resting. With four beautiful, growing children that I love dearly, I had every reason to want to stay healthy for a long time. I understood the foundational Golden Rules – to exercise, eat what I need not what I want, to sleep well, and to work unrelentingly at good habits. Yet, there I was, stuck in a very bad place.

Then suddenly one day, almost by accident, I looked in the mirror and saw a young man and an athlete. That one moment changed everything. Sure, I saw the same reflection I had seen the day before; the same bulges and sags that arise with neglect and middle age. But I didn’t stop in that negative, superficial moment. I looked through that façade, and believed that the man behind this was young, fit and healthy. And miraculously, I was. Because I believed I was an athlete, I acted like one. I pictured, believed and then lived the future. Three years later I had lost 40 pounds and could run up those steps without pausing, and more. I was 5 years younger than when I started. That’s the power of belief. That’s BodyWHealth!

Simple Recommendations for Unlocking Emotional WHealth
Simple Recommendations for Unlocking Emotional WHealth Roddy Carter

When I work with WHealth Seekers, their most common wish is for happiness. Here are 34 ideas for you to explore on your journey to WHealth:

  1. Engage. The fabric of your own life must merge with the lives of others. Share their journeys. Help them carry burdens. Celebrate their victories.
  1. Love, more than you think is possible. Remember that love combats fear. 
  1. Give, more than you think is reasonable. Make the value you exude and share with the world appreciably less than what you take from it. Make sure that people are better off when you leave than when you arrived.
  1. Reach out, often. Offer warm, loving (but appropriate!) touches to everyone you can.
  1. Smile, often. Look people in the eye and share joy and kindness. Speak to others face to face, using video-chat apps if necessary rather than the telephone. Use emoticons when you text.
  1. Laugh, often. Laugh out loud. Laugh alone. Laugh with others. Laugh with people, not at
  1. Surround yourself with positive, resilient people. The more, the merrier, literally!
  1. Trust the people around you. Seek and embrace the benefits of social engagement and friendship. Strangers are friendships that haven’t happened yet.
  1. Volunteer. Give your time to others, detour from your route to help others, and work for the success of others.
  1. Live with purpose. You are part of something bigger than you that drives and inspires you—live that way!
  1. Live on purpose. Be proactive more than reactive. Work deliberately to achieve your goals and manage your resources. Run your life and manage your calendar, rather than having your life and calendar running you.
  1. Believe that life is easy. With this perspective, obstacles become challenges. You become the master of your own destiny. The journey becomes fun!
  1. Focus on things that bring you joy. Understand what gives you meaning and find ways to build it into your life.
  1. Use positive, purposeful words. Complaints, negative reflections on the past, and speculation about the activities of others are energy traps. Gossip is toxic. Direct your energy forward, moving positively toward your purpose.
  1. Concentrate on what’s right in this world. Positive conclusions about the world drive your energy and optimism.
  1. Avoid energy drains. Move quickly away from activities and people that induce negativity, and divert your energy to uplifting activities and people.
  1. Appreciate your gifts. Recognize your unique strengths and talents, and be grateful for them. Apply them deliberately to advance your journey, to help those around you, and to make a difference.
  1. Don’t compare yourself to others. Be comfortable in your ownKnow that you have something unique to offer the world.
  1. Don’t harbor jealousy. Invest time celebrating rather than mourning the success of others.
  1. Be mindful. Live in the present. Be thankful for your past, without regrets. Be hopeful and excited for the future; you may be nervous, but don’t be fearful of what lies on the journey ahead of you. While appreciating every current moment, know that your best day is ahead of you still.
  1. Consider your future with calm and confidence. Rather than picturing the few things that can go wrong, spend time imagining success in exquisite detail. Belief fuels success.
  1. Make time for awe. Find your awe, whether in music, art, nature, sport, or adventure. Then indulge in it.
  1. Empower your cognitive brain. Remember that it can overcome any fear your primitive brain throws at you if you give it the chance. Practice using it, building its positive muscles until overcoming your fears is a reflex.
  1. Respect your primitive brain. Remember that it’s there to protect you. Appreciate how it ensures your safety, and learn to discern when it’s alerting you to real threats.
  1. Stage productive conversations. Use your cognitive brain to respectfully disagree with your primitive brain.
  1. Foster a neutral emotional response to setbacks. Bad things happen. Get over it. Build forward positively.
  1. Embrace vulnerability. In gentleness is awareness and strength.
  1. Yield (selectively) to forces greater than you. The river wins when it flows around the big boulders, bringing life and energy downstream.
  1. Avoid rigidly controlling your life. Life happens. Success, happiness, and purpose come from adapting your plans and seizing the opportunities presented by change.
  1. Recognize and dispute automatic negative thoughts. Be mindful of your internal discussion. Reject automated doubt and fear.
  1. Embrace and foster optimism. Your mental and emotional response to events is critical. Practice optimism.
  1. Be thankful. Gratitude for who you are and what you can contribute is a powerful, purposeful force.
  1. Trust your abilities. Know that you can accomplish anything you put your mind to.
  1. Expect WHealth. It’s in your hands!

And throughout …

Have fun!

Roddy

(This list is excerpted from the book, BodyWHealth, Journey To Abundance.) Buy it here.

To Live, We Need (to) Love!
To Live, We Need (to) Love! Roddy Carter

Loneliness is not only a sad place; it’s a bad place. Research has shown that lonely people die prematurely. The magnitude of the risk is considerable. It’s as bad as smoking! Loneliness impairs the immune system, triggers inflammation and disrupts sleep. If you’ve read my other blogs, you’ll know how inflammation increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer, and you’ll know that the quality of your sleep directly affects your BodyWHealth. More importantly, we know that it’s not enough to simply be with people; you can be lonely in a big city, or in a marriage. You have to be engagedwith them to avoid unhealthy consequences.

To explain this we’ll need to learn a little about the human brain and its evolution. Hundreds of millions of years ago, our earliest ancestors had very simple brains. We will call these the “primitive” brain. Scientists also call it the “reptilian” brain, because it’s not a lot more than that, and if you picture the size of a snake’s head, you’ll guess that they have a tiny brain! This primitive brain did a great job helping its owner survive. But that’s all. It equipped the owner to fight or flight; its default mode is defense. Picture yourself in your most lonely, reactive, selfish, defensive state and you’ll understand what this brain is good at.

Happily, evolution added a second part to our mammalian brain in order to increase our reproductive success and survival. Hundreds of millions of years ago, we developed what I’ll call the “emotional” brain. Actually, it’s a collection of brain structures that we built around our primitive brain stem. Scientists also call this the “limbic” system. It acts as the emotional interpreter, and its currency is a neurotransmitter called serotonin, the “feel-good” chemical. The evolutionary purpose of our emotional brain is ingenious and our craving for serotonin transformed our existence in two dramatic ways. First, it turned us into loving parents. Reptiles (that only have the primitive brain) wastefully produce millions of offspring, hoping that a few will survive. We humans have one baby at a time (mostly) and efficiently invest our energy into the development of our progeny. Second, the lure of serotonin drove us to engage and collaborate with other humans, vastly increasing our survival success. Nature created serotonin as a pleasurable reward in order to reinforce social engagement.

Several things are known to stimulate an increase of serotonin in the emotional brain. Physical contact is the most important. When we snuggle together on a cold night (a good survival strategy for warm-blooded mammals), we are rewarded with a serotonin boost. Both affirmation and parenting behavior have also been shown to increase the “feel-good” neurotransmitter. Finally, we know that exercise and light increase serotonin levels. So, the arrival of the emotional brain and our strong craving for serotonin drive and reward affection and social engagement. We need these for BodyWHealth.

The emotional and primitive brains are both essential, and work together to make us human. They are the yin and yang, and balance each other. If we only had the primitive brain, we would be governed by fear and would live defensively. We often default to this mode under stress. The primitive brain is strong, but the emotional brain can override its influence. Serotonin switches off adrenalin and cortisol secretion, opposing our primitive fight and flight response, and enables us to control our selfish instincts. Note that we oppose fearwith love. This is the fundamental antithesis that governs our lives. In essence, we need fear to survive; but to live, we need love!

The third component of the human brain is the cerebral cortex. This “cognitive” brain adds conscious thought and differentiates us from other mammals. It is the most recent evolutionary addition, and makes our brains three times larger than those of our closest living biological relatives. Unlike the primitive and emotional brains, we are in full control of the cognitive brain, and it can over-ride both. Thought is a powerful gift, and can influence the behavior of both our primitive and emotional brains.

The emotional brain, with its serotonin treasure, is sandwiched between the primitive brain and the cognitive brain. It is subject to the influence of both. The primitive brain exerts a negative, selfish pressure, insisting that we survive. The cognitive brain is under our active control and can influence our emotions either positively or negatively.

It’s clear that for BodyWHealth, we need our emotional brain overflowing with serotonin. Interactions with others drive this, but we know that people can be lonely in a marriage, and lonely in a city. So, clearly social interaction alone is not enough. We need social engagement. We need affirmation and physical contact. More powerfully still, we need to give. We must invest socially and emotionally. When we do this, we are rewarded with both serotonin and BodyWHealth.

Have fun,

Roddy

“Have Fun”: A Tiny Greeting with Huge Impact
“Have Fun”: A Tiny Greeting with Huge Impact 1024 568 Roddy Carter

I conclude every article with a simple greeting. If you’re signed up for my newsletter, you’ll see that I sign-off each week with the same words. I’m an executive life coach that helps clients achieve BodyWHealth. Many come to me with substantial burdens. Yet I still say goodbye to everybody in the same way: “HAVE FUN!” Why?

It’s very simple. Fun is contagious good health for you and for everyone around you. Fun is good for you, even if you have serious physical, mental or emotional challenges. Perhaps I should say especially if you have major problems.

Fun is an attitude. It’s a physical process that starts deep in your brain. From there it ignites several important chemical and hormonal pathways. It results in characteristic behavior – smilinglaughing, sparkling eyes, relaxed shoulders and an easy gait. When you have fun, you reach out and touch other lives. All of these actions spread goodwill (an appropriate term) and reward the giver. It is a powerful virtuous cycle.

When you generate fun, have fun or participate in fun, your body releases hormones that elevate your mood. The act of smiling alone, even if you weren’t enjoying yourself, releases the feel-good hormone serotonin, which directly elevates your mood and indirectly counters the negative impact of stress. Laughter adds more benefits, like improved cardiovascular health, longer life and a stronger immune system.

When you’re having fun, you reach out more to others, physically and socially. Both bring health benefits. Affectionate physical contact stimulates the release of several powerful hormones. Dopamine, endorphin and oxytocin all work directly to elevate mood while reducing stress and anxiety. They have a beneficial effect on blood pressure, heart health, and immune strength. Reaching out socially is a powerful driver of emotional health. So-called “pro-social” behavior also has direct physical benefits. This is more pronounced when you engage with others, rather than simply connecting with them. When you have fun, you take the social interaction beyond a superficial connection into the territory of deep engagement. Abundant reward follows.

When I suggest to someone that they “have fun”, it implies that they have active control over their disposition. This is true. We have voluntary control over our thoughts. We can lead our brain towards positive, fun thoughts. The cognitive brain then co-opts the emotionalbrain, and you convert thoughts of fun into a desire for fun. Together, the cognitive and emotional brains override any reservations harbored in the protective and conservative primitive brain. The result is that you have fun! So, even if you don’t feel “in the mood” for fun, and perhaps haven’t felt “in the mood” for some time, you are able to change your hard wiring in a positive way. If you do this often enough, for long enough, fun becomes a healthy habit. Any behavior that you deliberately sustain for 42 days becomes entrenched. Try it!

Finally, remember to be thankful for fun. Appreciation is an immensely powerful mindset. It not only reinforces the virtuous cycle with a positive feedback loop, but it becomes explicit to the world in the form of gratitude, a potent force for good in your life and the world around you.

When I say that tiny little phrase as a terminal greeting, I hope you understand now that it’s not a trivial throwaway phrase denoting imminent separation. Instead, it’s a meaningful plea for you to manifest the cognitive and emotional state that will bring light, health and happiness into your own life, and the many lives that you touch.

HAVE FUN,

Roddy

The Essence of BodyWHealth: Advice for the Journey
The Essence of BodyWHealth: Advice for the Journey Roddy Carter

BodyWHealth is a state of profound physical and emotional fulfillment. It is a state of deep contentment. It is more valuable than health or wealth. BodyWHealth is an investment strategy based on solid scientific principals that optimize your biology and reward you with abundant riches, including health, happiness, and a profound sense of gratitude. We know when we have it, and we know when we don’t.

The road to BodyWHealth starts, as the name suggests, with our body. By understanding and investing in our biology, we optimize our health. When we are healthy, we provide the physical and chemical foundations for happiness. When we are healthy and happy, we are fulfilled; we are WHealthy.

Most people regard this elusive state as unachievable. They regard it like confidence or wealth, something reserved for the elite or lucky. The powerful truth is that BodyWHealth is within everyone’s reach! Belief is fundamental to securing it. When we truly believe that we can achieve BodyWHealth, we do.

How can I help you to enjoy BodyWHealth?

Two underlying scientific principles hold the secret to physical and emotional WHealth. For physical WHealth we need to understand that society has evolved far more rapidly than our biology. We must retain a lifestyle that serves our bodies, even as we enjoy the privileges of our modern existence. For emotional WHealth, we must appreciate the evolutionary development of our brain. Powerful forces exist in our primitive survivalist psyches that oppose emotional WHealth. Insight brings understanding, which in turn brings the ability to influence our bodies and minds towards WHealth.

Through my medical training, knowledge gained from the University of Life, and my own personal experience, I believe that there are 5 Golden Rules to enjoying BodyWHealth. The first is exercise. You have to achieve the equivalent of 10,000 steps on at least 5 days of every week of your life. Exercise triggers the release of anti-inflammatory chemicals that resist decay, retard aging, and promote rejuvenation. The second Golden Rule is to count calories. It’s not the counting that is valuable, but this is the route to weight control. Fat is toxic. It nourishes inflammatory agents that promote disease, including heart disease and cancer. When you are disciplined about counting calories, you will ensure that you achieve the appropriate daily caloric balance towards your ideal, lean body. The third rule is “no excuses”. Simply put, excuses permit failure. The fourth rule is to ingrain healthy lifestyle as habit. Exercise and prudent eating must be daily rituals. The rule of 7s entrenches change – 7 days, then 7 weeks and finally 7 months. If you meet these milestones, you’re likely to have transformed your life, forever. Finally, Golden Rule #5 is to believe and celebrate. These are immensely powerful forces that convert aspiration to achievement.

There are additional insights and skills that supplement the Golden 5, such as the power of sleep and breathing, and the vital force of social engagement and giving. We can enhance our BodyWHealth by acquiring and practicing these skills.

BodyWHealth is a journey. I will be successful if I help only one person to achieve the destination. I am honored if you choose to join with me on our journey!

Have fun,

Roddy

5 Steps To Whealth; Unlock Your Inner Angel
5 Steps To Whealth; Unlock Your Inner Angel 1024 568 Roddy Carter

We’re all looking for it. We know it exists. Those who have tasted it, boast about it – either in explicit words, or through their radiance. The road to health and happiness is simple, yet not easy.

It may be appropriate for us to seek guidance from the Italian sculptor and artist Michelangelo for guidance in achieving the sweet life,la dolce vita. When asked about the creative genius that resulted in one of his more famous works, he outlines a simple approach that should equally lead us to our inner beauty.

“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”

There are 5 lessons for us embedded in the master’s quote that will help us to find health, happiness and prosperity.

  1. Michelangelo saw the angel in an ugly slab of unpolished marble. Each of us is this angel. As we look in the mirror, either literally or figuratively, we need to trust and believe the angel is in there. When we can imagine the angel, we will find her.
  1. Mother Nature, in her wisdom, created us with great care and detail. Regardless of our current shape or form, our natural design is for beauty. When we believe in the angel, we will unlock her beauty.
  1. Michelangelo carved until he set him free. He worked hard, and he didn’t stop until the angel was liberated. When we are patient and diligent in our pursuit of WHealth, we will be rewarded.
  1. Michelangelo released the angel with his hands. Similarly, your WHealth is in your own hands. You are the sculptor. It’s your imagination, creativity, belief and hard work that will earn the reward. The biggest step is belief. Your cognitive brain is under your voluntary control. Mother Nature has gifted you with the ability to determine your own future.
  1. Mother Nature has designed a powerful reward for each of us when we honor our natural design. The prize is health and happiness. This is the ultimate worldly liberation, la dolce vita.

Michelangelo and Mother Nature, both creative geniuses have described a pathway to freedom and abundance. When we honor our physical design with exercise, prudent caloric balance and sleep, we unlock physical WHealth. When we do the right things consistently, we unlock the power of habit. When we harness our giant cognitive brain, we unlock the power of belief. When we honor our emotional design by engaging socially and living purposefully we unlock emotional WHealth.

This is BodyWHealth; the pathway to health, happiness and prosperity. It’s in your hands!

Have fun,

Roddy