Posts Tagged ‘brain’

Your Amazing Brain & What You Can Do With It

February 16, 2017

Several years ago, I experienced a traumatic shock, and while it isn’t important to elaborate on the details, it’s enough to say that it turned my world upside down. People talk about PTSS as it relates to people who have returned from war but it is very possible for anyone to be a victim of the “after shocks” of a traumatic event.

In light of my experience, I did a lot of research and became fascinated by the workings of our brains and how we can change or alter our thought patterns. I learned about the science of neuroplasticity. The term is derived from the words Neuron and Plastic. Obviously, neuron refers to the neural cells in your brain and plasticity means to mold or modify. So neuroplasticity is the science that explains the potential that your brain has to create new neural pathways; basically changing the way you think. Cool, huh?

The more I learned, the more I realized that I had the capability of reorganizing my thoughts and I really needed to do something to get out of the negative spiral I was in. And I realized that it was going to take some action on my part.

Think of it this way, when you memorize a song, you do so by constantly repeating the lyrics and singing it over and over again until it’s locked in. You have created a neuropath which allows you to remember that song. Suppose you decide to put new words to that song, like a parody. How do you do it? The same way…you sing it over and over and over again until you have created a new neuropath.

If you play an instrument or if you are a dancer, you know the concept of muscle memory. Your brain remembers the steps of a dance or where you put your fingers on your instrument. The science is fascinating and complex, but the concept is simple. As it relates to getting past a fearful mindset, you have the ability to change a negative thought pattern into a more positive one. But just as in singing a song, playing the piano, or dancing, you have to practice. If you are going to change a thought, you have to apply action!

That means that you have to begin to replace negative thoughts with positive ones. You can’t just leave an empty spot, or those troll thoughts will jump right back in! When I was teaching, I used to ask my students to answer a riddle. Here it is: Five frogs sat on a log and one decided to jump into the water. How many frogs were left on the log?

The answer is…..FIVE frogs were left on the log because one only DECIDED to jump into the water, but took no action!

I am not a doctor….but I am a DIVA and that stands for Delighting In Victorious Attitude and I think we all deserve to have an attitude of altitude!


I would love to work with you! I offer one-on-one and group coaching classes as well as keynotes, seminars, and trainings. Contact me at

Drop In To See what Condition Your Condition Is In

August 12, 2015

There was a song in the sixties with the lyrics “I just dropped in to see what condition my condition was in.” I can’t even tell you what that meant, but I think it is a pretty good phrase to remind us to slow down every now and then and take stock of what’s going on in our brains.

Just today, I heard several people make comments about how they were so stressed, they couldn’t even think straight. One said that she keeps forgetting things because her brain is so full of “stuff.” I’m guessing that most of us can relate to that feeling. Sometimes, my brain feels like spaghetti…I can’t separate one thought from the next. I like spaghetti. See? I can’t stay with one thought!

In this age of technology; our brains are receiving so much information every day, it sometimes leads to sensory overload. Add to that; the pressures of daily life and the fact that everywhere we turn there is a news broadcast, magazine headline or YouTube video that we are trying to process and it’s no wonder that sometimes we just short out!

If you are noticing that you’re feeling short tempered, impatient, forgetful, or just find yourself staring into space and mumbling incoherently (maybe that’s just me) maybe it’s time to shut down for a moment and consider what’s going on. I think people used to do that in the olden days…when I was young.

If your electronic device isn’t functioning at optimum level, you get it checked out. If your car starts acting sluggish, you take it in to see what’s wrong. Doesn’t your brain deserve the same respect? There are no medals handed out for exploding or imploding mentally! All of us should be on talking terms with our emotions and occasionally drop in to see what condition our condition is in.

Linda Henley-Smith is an author, speaker and trainer. Visit her website at

All the Sounds of the Earth Are Like Music

June 24, 2015

The opening song in the Broadway musical, Oklahoma, tells of the beginning of a day that promises to be beautiful. One of my favorite lines is “All the sounds of the earth are like music.” It reminds me that if we focus on listening to the positive things around us, the sounds can be glorious!

I am not discounting the horrible events that are happening in the world nor am I suggesting that we ignore them. But if we focus only on the hurt and anger, and don’t consider the positive aspects of life, we will start to see the world through bleak and hopeless lenses. Negativity breeds negativity. A kind, loving and hopeful attitude can help us to break that cycle.

When I am feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, frightened or angry, I have found that if I stop for a moment, move away from sound pollution (noise), take deep breaths, close my eyes and just listen…something magical happens. It as if my sense of hearing is heightened. Everyday sounds of the world around me become music. Sounds odd…I know. But you see, every sound that we hear has a tone. The law of music is working throughout the whole universe. A bird chirping, lawn sprinklers turning, the squeal of a child playing, even the wind blowing through branches…all become a symphony when we listen with a different ear. They are the soothing sounds of normalcy…the sounds of life.

People have been acknowledging this for years and years. You may have heard the phrase “Music of the Spheres.” Pythagorus was the first to theorize that the whirling planets produced tones. Today, musical terms appear frequently in astronomer’s descriptions of space. We may not be able to perceive all of these sounds with our ears, but the music is deep within us, and it is exquisite if we will just be still and listen. And we hear with more than our ears; we perceive the world with all of our senses. As Einstein wrote, “We all dance to a mysterious tune, intoned in the distance by an invisible piper.”

The wholeness of the universe is so much greater than what we see on the news. While we can’t turn a blind eye to what’s going on, we will be much more able to make a difference and contribute in a productive way if we take time to listen to the sounds that are good and life-affirming. When we do that, we can reenergize and refocus our thoughts and look at the world with fresh eyes and a new attitude.

It has been said that music soothes the savage breast, and to paraphrase Johann Sebastian Bach, the purpose of music should be to refresh the soul. How wonderful that it is all around us!

Nature (and my dog) Hates a Vacuum

June 16, 2014

At the risk of setting everyone off on a “Frozen” song, I am going to mention the words “Let it Go.” Now that the song is stuck in your head and you probably hate me for bringing it up, I shall continue on.

Anyone who has ever experienced heartache, confusion, fear, disappointment or upheaval knows that eventually you have to process what has happened, accept that you have been bumped out of your comfort zone and your life has probably been changed a bit.
And most of us have learned that if we are to continue to move ahead in life, we have to unstick our feet from the wastewater of worldly woe (don’t you love that?) and release any negativity that has resulted from a difficult situation. It is important to turn loose of the emotional baggage that is no longer serving us well. We have to face the negativity, stop hiding behind it, and be willing to let it go.

But there is another part of the puzzle and that is that nature abhors a vacuum. I think Aristotle said that. My dog also abhors vacuums and he hides from them under the bed, but he is not as famous as Aristotle. Obviously, Aristotle was not referring to a Hoover; what he meant was that when something goes away, the place it occupied needs to be filled with something else. In this case, when we release our negative thought patterns, they need to be replaced with some positive ones.

The first step is to introduce some new ideas and possibilities into your thoughts and get in the habit of practicing positive thought replacement. Rather than focusing on what you have lost, try to think of something positive that may have come from the situation. I recently talked with a woman who was trying to recover from a major financial crisis. She told me that until this happened; she never had realized or appreciated how many supportive friends she had. Her words were, “Believe it or not, I have reconnected with so many people who are willing and even happy to help me pick up the pieces and start again. Were it not for what I thought of as a disaster in my life, I would never have known just how blessed I really am!”

The next step is to train your brain to live in the present; not in the past. Your newer and more positive thought patterns will help to pave the way for healthier, productive emotions and attitudes. Whenever an old self-defeating thought or negative self-talk tries to make a comeback, immediately make a list of things for which you are grateful. An attitude of gratitude will get you farther than getting stuck in the mental mud.

Remember than negative thoughts have no power other than that which you give them. You can nurture them or take away their strength by simply capturing them the moment they come into your head and mentally eliminating them. I picture my negative thoughts as balloons and visualize myself popping them. That’s my positive replacement thought and it’s kind of fun.

Finally, understand that being positive is not ducking reality or thinking like a Pollyanna. It simply means that you realize that there are alternatives to sinking into a pit of despair!

Metal Chains Aren’t as Restrictive as Mental Chains!

August 18, 2013

Most people probably wouldn’t find the idea of being locked up in a prison very desirable. Given the choice, we would rather be free to roam and romp and do whatever we like to do. It is ironic, then, that we often lock chains on ourselves which make us feel trapped and powerless.

Of course, these aren’t physical chains. They are chains made of thoughts and habits which can restrict you as much as any metal restraint. Each link is made of a counterproductive belief about yourself. It can take the form of negative self-talk, self-sabotage, feelings of unworthiness, false ideas about your abilities and talents….and the list goes on.

Every time you allow your mind to spend time on these thoughts, you are tightening the grip of your shackles, and you’re putting one more lock on the door of your self-made jail cell. You will eventually find it more difficult to even ponder finding joy, success or freedom to live the life you desire.

Each one of us has a choice. The only guard at the prison door is yourself and you carry the key! You can sit on your pile of chains and mournfully sing “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen,” or simply claim your “pardon” and step out into freedom. The key is in your pocket. It is your ability to love and accept who you are, as you are. It is your willingness to turn your back on old fears, worries, doubts and resentments and speak to yourself kindly, with affirmations of your value.

The path may not always be easy, but it sure beats sitting chained up in a prison!

Spin the Wheel and Guess My Stress!!!

May 15, 2013

Do you ever feel as if you live and work in a battle zone? Do you awaken every morning expecting to go through your day ducking the slings and arrows of stress, frustration and anger? Do you ponder how stress will zap you? Will it come in the form of traffic jams, negative people, budget cuts, increased workloads, impossible schedules, sick kids, or some other equally overwhelming form?
Sometimes, we set ourselves up for stress from the moment we open our eyes. We have prepared ourselves to expect the worst. We spin the stress wheel and play “Guess My Stress! What will make me anxious and possibly sick today?”
So we start our day girded in battle array…ready for the stress snakes to wrap around us and squeeze out all of our air….and we usually get what we expect. Sometimes it feels as if we are stress magnets! We are so used to accepting it, that it becomes a part of us.
Often, we tend to expect the worst because we are creating a reality before we even have all of the facts. Anticipation and presumption can be our enemies. And whether the danger is real or imagined doesn’t matter to our bodies! So, when we convince ourselves that trouble is ahead, we are setting ourselves up to get sucked into the stress spiral and down we go! If we can learn to resist catastrophizing and jumping to conclusions, we will have a better chance to meet whatever comes our way, with calm and clear focus.
It helps to remember that we do have the power to choose the thoughts that we allow to rent space in our brains. It isn’t easy because most of us have been entertaining and nurturing the “Stress is Going to Get Me!” attitude for a long time. We have accepted stress as an acceptable way to live…and die! We program our brains to go into ANT mode (automatic negative thoughts) and ANTS attract the stress snakes
A successful personal stress management program includes identifying stress triggers and stress busters, but just as important, is a person’s ability to step away from the stress wheel and refuse to hang out with ANTS and Stress Snakes!
“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.”
~ William James

Returning to Wonderland

February 26, 2013

There is a childlike quality to wondering and it is this wonderment that keeps us young at heart and in tune with the world. This point was recently made clear to me as I snacked on milk and cookies with a brilliant five-year-old. She is brilliant, not only because she is my grandchild, but because she possesses wisdom that I apparently have misplaced in my brain, which is too full of grown-up stuff!

She asked, “Did you ever wonder why the sky is blue?” I certainly should have known that! But, the truth is that up until that moment, I had pretty much taken it for granted. As a matter of fact, I often become so wrapped up in seemingly important life details that I forget to even look up at the sky for days at a time. It was that realization that caught me off guard.

As I stood next to her, staring up at the blue vastness above me, I asked her what else she wondered about. Her answer?  “I wonder about lots of things. I want my brain to grow big and if I don’t think about things, it will grow small.”  It was at that point that I began to feel like a pea brain.

It is logic like hers that is responsible for the discovery of such life enhancing developments as electricity, penicillin, good music and chocolate éclairs. In all of those cases, someone had to wonder “What would happen if…?”

After that day, I started to wonder about more things. For instance, what happens to fat when you lose it? Does it just float around in the atmosphere and eventually attach to some innocent passerby? Why is it that only one out of every three hundred shopping carts has four wheels that go the same way at the same time? Why is laughter contagious? Why is it that at a certain age, people lose hair where they want it but grow hair where they don’t want it? But most of all, I wondered about why and when I stopped wondering.

There is a difference between being childISH and being childLIKE. There is nothing immature about stretching our minds; as a matter of fact, that is how we stretch our productive lives. If we don’t exercise our brains, they might get flabby and a flabby mind never did anyone any good!

The best part is that we can never be too old or too tired to participate in “brain aerobics.” Wondering keeps us in touch with our inner child and prevents our brains from growing small! So says my five-year-old and I have no reason not to believe her!

By the way, I now know why the sky is blue. I am still working on the “where the fat goes” question.

Head + Heart = Good Decision!

May 23, 2012

It seems as if we spend a lot of time trying to figure things out.  Personally, I often contemplate issues such as: Where does fat go when you lose it? Does it just float around in the universe until it finds a new home on the hips of some poor, unsuspecting person?  And, I wonder why the universe sees fit to make sure I always choose the wrong checkout line in the grocery store. But, I also try to solve more important challenges from time to time, as we all do.

We are told to “think things through” before making decisions, and to “use our heads” when solving problems.  Our heads are indeed important, but so are our hearts! I think we are sometimes able to make better decisions when we give some credit to our “gut” feelings and hold back a little on idolizing our intellect.

When I sense that something in my life is askew, I feel it in my solar plexus; often referred to as the pit of your stomach…your gut…if you will. I think that is the center of all of our emotions.  It’s probably why some people lose their appetites when they are grappling with a problem. On another personal note, I often lose my temper, I always lose my keys and at times I have lost my mind…however, I have never lost my appetite. But, I digress….

Seriously; in order to live a balanced life, we need to use both head and heart in making decisions and choosing our paths. Sometimes, we can know something intellectually and yet still feel uncertainty in our gut. When there is a disconnect between the two….it can cause us to be conflicted.  If most of our reactions and decisions are based on our intellect and logic, and we don’t allow our heart to join in, we become double-minded and that can often be confusing. However, if we let emotions and gut play a part; we become single-minded, because both of our decision-making mechanisms are united and working as one.

I have come up with an acronym to help me step aside and take a look at challenging situations with a more complete perspective, using all of my senses, my emotional intelligence, and especially my gut feelings:

Get out of your head.

Utilize your emotions.

Trust your instincts.

If we learn to have our heads and hearts work in tandem…we just might find out how great it feels to trust ourselves to make good decisions!


Mental Flossing to Prevent Truth Decay

April 19, 2012

Sometimes we just can’t get away from negative people; who shall be called “trolls” for the purposes of this article. And sometimes our brains can be overrun with Automatic Negative Thoughts, which are otherwise known as ANTS. Having ants in our pants is serious, but having ants in our brains can be downright deadly!

Negative people, situations and thoughts can skew reality; causing us to perceive things as truth that are not really true! For instance, when we compare ourselves to other people and just don’t measure up to their standards….we are walking on a thin line and run the risk of convincing ourselves that we aren’t good enough or successful enough or attractive enough or anything else enough!  If we allow ourselves to be influenced by someone else’s opinion of us; that too, is a slippery slope into the pit of despair! It is a false concept that becomes our truth.

This is not to say that we should ignore constructive criticism or not try to improve ourselves; it simply means that if a troll is having a grumpy day and hisses at us or if someone is literally sucking all of the joy out of the room, or if someone’s opinion of us is mean spirited, we need to be able to put things into proper perspective and not let their foul mood define our attitude.

It also means that we have to monitor our own thoughts and not rent mental space out to non-productive or negative images. Your brain is prime property! You need to keep the neighborhood in good shape and not allow it to turn into a garbage dump!

Our thoughts are things. Every time we allow a negative image to enter into our brain and we continue to focus on it and nurture it, we are allowing it to progress to the point of making a neural –connection which will become a permanent part of our thinking process.  We then have a mistaken perception of what is really true…yikes! We literally can program our brains to automatically flip into negative thinking mode, but we can also “floss” out those thoughts and reprogram with positive connections. Whew! That’s good news!

When you find that ANTS are invading your head space; take a minute, close your eyes and focus on that negative image, becoming aware of how it’s making you feel. Is your stomach in a knot? Is your head pounding? Do you just feel lousy? Now, allow yourself to create an image of something positive that makes you feel peaceful or joyful. Visualize that happy thing literally pushing or kicking or eating or squashing that negative image and taking over its spot in your thoughts. Gone is the false idea of how someone else thinks you should feel and in comes the truth of your own value, worth and abilities. Allow yourself to breathe deeply and feel the pleasant sensation flooding your brain and overtaking the stomach knot.

Don’t allow anyone else to choose how you feel about yourself or the day!  The truth is that you can control how you feel and deal with situations.  It takes practice, but mental flossing really works and is a helpful tool in preventing truth decay!

Avoid Brain Chaos Syndrome

February 6, 2012

I recently found myself in a place of great chaos. I’m not referring to my garage, which is where everything that can’t find a resting place on a wall, a table, a counter, or the floor of my house goes to hang out. Nor am I referring to the interior of my car, which is the breeding ground of many science projects due to regular transporting of small children who eat part of their Happy Meals and stash the rest between the seats.

This chaos was in my head. As often happens, I had overloaded my brain with “stuff.” Every now and then, I fill every available crevice with what I call the “shoulda, woulda, couldas, oughtas, and what ifs” of my life. These are the things that I need to release, but I keep them around just in case I need to feel lousy. Add to that, the list of self-imposed duties that I feel I should accept when I am in my Wonder Woman frame of mind. These things, combined with my actual every day responsibilities, often cause me to go on Stress Overload. When this happens, I hear myself saying things like, “I’m at the end of my rope!” Completing this cycle, are one or all of the following: tears, a barrage of negative and possibly naughty words, a sense of panic, misdirected anger, and finally, total exhaustion.

How ridiculous is that? But, I believe I’m not the only one who goes through Chaotic Brain Syndrome. It occurs when we don’t regularly delete unnecessary and negative thoughts, and we keep filling our brains with more and more things that cause pressure, stress and feelings of being overwhelmed.

I think of my brain as a storage closet. I keep lots of stuff in there, but I need to rearrange and discard items on a regular basis. There are things that I don’t need any longer (guilt, remorse, bitterness, feelings of martyrdom) and if I don’t remove them, there will not be room for the things I do want to keep or any new items that I’d like to store in there (joy, hope, healthy balance, confidence, self-value.)

If you are feeling chaotic, look into a mirror. If you are not wearing metal breast plates or a cape that blows in the wind, chances are you are not a Super Hero and you don’t have to fix all of the problems in the world. And if you are feeling like you’re at the end of your rope, first of all…just be glad that you have a rope. Then, try climbing the rope, rather than hanging yourself with it or waiting for someone to pull you up. Begin by saying “no” to extra responsibilities that you just can’t handle right now and saying “yes” to things that allow you to have good mental health.