Book Review: Brain Rules

29 09 2010

Sophie:

So while establishing our first habit (reading every day) it has become very apparent that we’re going to be getting through quite a few books!  We’re both already half-way through our third.  So, as long as we’re reading them, we may as well let you know how they are.

Brain Rules by John Medina.

Brain Rules is an in depth look at the basic rules of optimal brain function.  It was written by a molecular biologist who describes one Brain Rule (what scientists know for sure about how our brains work) per chapter, and then offers ideas as to how we could potentially incorporate these ideas in our lives.

It’s basically my new bible, in a nutshell.  Poor Deryn and Boyfriend can’t get through a conversation without me spouting out “That’s just like this part in Brain Rules….”  But seriously, I love this book.  It’s so useful in every day life; I feel like everyone just NEEDS to know this stuff.  ESPECIALLY parents (even though I’m not one…); it just seems that it would be hard to raise a child without knowing the basic biology behind brain development, learning and wiring.  In fact, I just saw that this author is about to come out with a new book called Brain Rules for Baby in October.  I can honestly say that I have been able to apply every chapter of this book to my life.

I already included a few tidbits of info from Brain Rules in the “Science Behind Habitual Me” page, but there’s one thing in particular that I definitely want to apply to our little “adventure” over the next year – Scent.  Apparently, the more senses you stimulate, the more ‘ingrained’ a memory/experience will be in your wiring, because the information is stored in more areas of your brain.  Smell is the strongest sense to stimulate (other than vision, of course) because it is processed near areas of the brain responsible for creating emotions as well as memories.  That’s why a very specific memory may pop into your head when you are exposed to a certain scent.  So I’m thinking (and have actually already started this) that we need to have certain scents to associate with each habit that we’re doing.  So I took a trip to Wal-Mart to get a little high on essential oils.  After spending about an hour smelling every single scent they had at least 4 times each, I found a cool diffuser for $3 and settled on a citrus smell for waking up early, a rosemary-mint for meditation and yoga, cherry-blossom-something-or-other for reading and a cinnamon-apple just because it smells like Christmas :).  In theory, whipping out a certain scent on days I’m not very motivated may make these habits come a little easier. I’ll let you know how that works out, but in the meantime, you should read this book!

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Introduction *or* A Journey of a Thousand Miles and All That Stuff

13 09 2010

SOPHIE: I was lying in bed one night thinking about the changes I would like to make in my life.  I’ve been in a relationship for a REALLY long time (4 ½ years) and, through no fault of my boyfriend, have become bored and unhappy.  I realize that this has nothing to do with us, and more to do with my own satisfaction with who I am at this point in my life.  I’ve always wished I were ‘fit’, ‘classy’, or just really talented at something.

Somewhere in this thought process I was reminded of something I once heard – It takes 2 weeks to establish a habit.  I did a little research and found that it’s actually 3 weeks, and it’s not just a saying – it’s actually supported by a theory called Psycho-Cybernetics.  If it really takes 3 weeks to create a habit, then in one year I could create 17 habits!  I could really be whoever I choose with 17 changes.  I thought to myself “How awesome would it be to really go through with that; to take one year, figure out everything I want to be, and just do what it takes to get there?”

And so begun the list of characteristics I wanted to embody.

I’m a very private person (apparently to a comical extent) so I kept this to myself for a little while before running the idea by the one person I tell all my ridiculous inner-dialogue to – my roommate, Deryn.

DERYN: When Sophie first came to me with the idea for Habitual Me, I was enthralled.  We have had so many conversations about how people in our lives “surrender” to life rather than embracing it.  Some of our friends are getting married, having children and/or starting careers, but many seem to be resigned to a life that was assigned to them.  Countless times, Sophie and I had come to the conclusion that we would never become “Empty Shell People” – an idea from “Under the Tuscan Sun” that we had discussed when we were first getting to know each other.  An Empty Shell Person is someone who floats through life with no passion or excitement.  Empty Shell People do what they think is expected of them and resign themselves to whatever life just happens to plop in their laps.

Habitual Me, more than anything, is about taking control over my life during a time when it feels like I have very little power.  I recently realized that if I don’t make a change soon, then I’d be in danger of becoming a dreaded Empty Shell Person.  I go to my job because I can’t find one that pays any better.  I live a very specific (i.e., limited) lifestyle because my budget can’t handle anything else.  My student loans and current salary determine how often I buy new clothes, if I can go to my friend’s birthday party at that restaurant, if I can drive to the far side of town to run a particular errand.

The idea of Habitual Me is so appealing because it gives me the power back.  I now get to choose who I am as a person in a way that will (hopefully) stick.  In one year, I get to be the person I choose.  There are many things that I don’t know about myself: What my career path will be, What I’m looking for (if anything at all) in a long-term relationship, What my 5 year plan is, What my life has in store for me in the next year, etc.  I do know the type of person I want to be, the kind of coworker and employee I’d like to be seen as, the kind of daughter and sister I want to be, and how I want my nieces to think of me.

BOTH: So here we go!

Habitual Me is based on the theory that it takes 21 days to create a new habit (or break an old one).  21 days is a conceivable amount of time to commit to one thing, rather than just arbitrarily deciding “I’m going to be a different person in a year!” with no real plan mapped out.  We thought the best way for us to do this was to work backwards.

With these thoughts in mind, we (Sophie and Deryn) are beginning a one-year quest to become the people we’ve always wanted to be.  We started by brainstorming personality characteristics we admire in other people such as ‘classy’, ‘musical’, ‘generous’, ‘well-read’ etc.  Then, we came up with “habits” that correspond with these characteristics.  For example, a ‘fit’ woman – to us – exercises, meditates and eats healthy.  Now that we have a complete list of the 17 habits we will incorporate into our daily lives over the next year (21 days at a time) we can start our journey!  Ideally, we will continue with each habit after the designated 21 days end, because – after all – that’s the point!

For our complete list, see the “About Habitual Me” page.

So it’s officially day 1, and our FIRST HABIT is reading at least 30 minutes a day during week one, and at least an hour a day during weeks 2-3 in order to become well-read.  And we are both already wanting to watch T.V. instead :).  Time to suck it up and get things off on the right foot.

Right now Sophie is reading Brain Rules by John Medina

and

Deryn is reading Quarterlife Crisis by Alexandra Robbins and Abby Wilner








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