Neuroscientist Lisa Feldman Barrett, is the author of 7½ Lessons About the Brain. She offers some eyebrow-raising ideas in the book, and it’s a fun, fast, fascinating read—I highly recommended it.
An important point she makes early in the book is that the brain’s primary function is NOT for thinking, but for controlling the body’s resources.
The brain is constantly monitoring whether there is the correct balance of water, salt, glucose, and other biological resources needed to navigate life. She calls this “body-budgeting” (the scientific term is allostasis). She explains:
“Of course, your brain does think and feel and imagine and create hundreds of other experiences… But all of these mental capacities are consequences of a central mission to keep you alive and well by managing your body budget.”
Why is this important for us to be aware of? Because as a human, and that would be all of us, we are wired to want things, create things, set goals, and accomplish goals. So, if we don’t have meaningful goals, the body-budgeter that’s controlling the show will send the message—hey, your “bank account” for energy, ideas, and focus is low.
You probably know what that feels like. When you’re putting effort toward unmeaningful goals, or working at a job that doesn’t inspire, or being in an unfulfilling relationship, and so on—it takes extra energy and feels heavier and harder. Conversely, when you’re putting effort toward meaningful goals, or jobs, or relationships—it shifts the neurochemical balance in our bodies and brains, and that allows us to think better, feel better, and take action better.
So do your brain a favor! If you’ve got a task on your to-do list that feels heavy, look for some level of purpose and meaning associated with it. It will help spark some energy for the task. In fact, that’s what I’m doing this minute. I got my second vaccine recently and I’m dragging with a fever. After taking a little rest, I said to myself, walk your talk, woman, go record the weekly message. It’s meaningful because you love sharing brain nuggets that make life easier. So there you have it!
Oh, and one caveat here – and that is to not plaster purpose over tasks that are continually NOT meaningful… that’s just strangling the inner wisdom within yourself that says, I really want DIFFERENT goals. If that’s the situation, explore how making a shift is purposeful and meaningful. That’s what will give you the body budget needed to navigate the change.
Love and light,