I am fascinated by the brain books I’ve read lately, and seeing how that information applies to writers. (See three book links at the end.) Information from the new brain research–if actually applied–could change your writing life.
One book, Who Switched Off Your Brain?, deals with what the author calls “the Dirty Dozen” areas in our lives where we create our own problems, often by well-meaning efforts. This toxic behavior can steal our dreams–including our writing dreams.
Two of the dirty dozen that hit me between the eyes were “toxic seriousness” and “toxic schedules.”
AHA! #1: Toxic Seriousness
I’ve known for years that negative emotions like anger and unforgiveness can literally make you physically sick. But did you know that an absence of fun in your life can make you sick too, susceptible to every virus that comes along?
Laughter IS the best medicine!
For a lot of reasons, I grew up with the firmly entrenched idea that “life is a serious matter.” People who didn’t take life seriously annoyed me. I thought they simply didn’t understand the situation!
Well sometimes life is no laughing matter, but you still need to incorporate more fun in your life. [I finally understood why I felt so much better physically after spending time with my grandkids, despite being tired. I laugh a lot more on those days!]
Did you know this? Studies show that…
“a really good belly laugh can make cortisol [the stress hormone] drop by 39% and adrenalin by 70%, while the ‘feel-good hormone,’ endorphin, increases by 29%… Laughter boosts your immune system by increasing immunity levels and disease-fighting cells.”
Another medical study showed that humor gets both sides of your brain working together, which is so necessary to writers. We need to be both creative and editor-minded (left-brained and right-brained) in order to do our best writing.
So take time to bring fun into your life today–and every day. Look for the humor in situations–or even yourself. Watch a funny video. Read something that tickles your funny bone. Tell a joke!
AHA! #2: Toxic Schedules
My “toxic seriousness” went hand-in-hand with what the author called “toxic schedules.” One had a direct impact on the other. My overly serious attitude about life leads to an over-scheduled week that doesn’t work unless I invent a 48-hour day. And, of course, a packed schedule adds pressure and just reinforces an overly serious attitude.
Current brain research shows that there’s a lot more at risk than just being tired when you over-schedule yourself. Of particular interest to writers, without sufficient relaxation in your lifestyle,
“you will become a less effective thinker, defeating your ability to accomplish the mental tasks that stole our relaxation in the first place. In fact, for the brain to function like it should, it needs regroup/consolidation time. If it doesn’t get this, it will send out signals in the form of high-level stress hormones, some of which are epinephrine, norepinephine and cortisol. If these chemicals constantly flow, they create a ‘white noise’ that increases anxiety and blocks clear thinking and the processing of information.”
To put it another way, relaxation is NOT a waste of your time. You’re doing your brain–and all of your writing processes–a big favor.
So how did that information impact my life? I spend plenty of time with my grandkids (ages 2, 7, and 10), guaranteed to produce the belly laughs I need. And I take off one day per weekend for church, visiting family, relaxing with a movie, and hiking. When I do, I sleep like a rock and face the work week rejuvenated.
I’d encourage you to make some guilt-free habits along the same lines to bring laughter into your life and margins of time into your days. Until you try it, you won’t believe the difference it can make in your writing life.
Just curious…what kinds of things make you laugh? I’d like to incorporate more laughter into my life. Please give me ideas below!
For more information and links to three terrific “brain” books: