I’ve learned to hack my brain and body for optimal happiness, less stress and increased resilience…and anyone can do it! You have the tools already ingrained in you. You just have to take the leap and begin with small actions. I recently read and reviewed The 5 Resets: How to Rewire your Brain and Body for Less Stress by Dr. Nerurkar. I read nonfiction with the intention to learn and apply new practices and habits into my life because I always want to improve my state of being. This is why I've started charging my phone outside of my bedroom, and I'm here to share with you the four life changing things that have happened to me because of it.
Did you know that by stopping the use of devices in the evening until after you’ve woken up, had a glass of water and a little sunlight - you will begin to rewire your brain and body for less stress because you will get better sleep and have more energy with heightened focus? It is a scientific fact, so why do so many of us not take this simple action? Devices and social media are extremely addictive. It doesn’t matter how intelligent you are either, addiction shows no discrimination. Social media can be a useful tool, however, it’s designed in a way to psychologically rob our brains and hijack our neural pathways. Social media companies want and need you to get addicted and spend as much of YOUR time as possible scrolling and interacting. The problem is devastating to your brain and body. It creates more stress, depression, and decreased energy. I’ve been a victim of the doom scroll. Then, one day, I caught myself and had to ask a tough question: Is this what I want to become? Because, let’s be real, what you spend your time on is who you become.
In The 5 Resets, Dr. Nerurkar suggests charging your phone outside of your bedroom at night and not returning to it until the morning, after being awake for some time. I finally took the leap and tried this. Here’s how I do it (seems trivial but this is where people just don’t take the action.)
I’ve been doing this for two weeks now and experienced phenomenal results. Again, free tools that live within each of us. You just have to try it and trust the process. Here are four things that have changed in my life from doing the above steps.
Are you ready to hack your brain for optimal well-being? You have the tools right now, it’s just a matter of taking actionable steps. What are some ways you’ve used neuroplasticity to your advantage to train your mind?
Happy February dear reader…and you know what that means?! We slayed the first month of 2024. Before we dive into our first February topic of how to rewire your brain and body for less stress - all proven by the book The 5 Resets by Dr. Aditi Nerurkar, MD - I want to say thank you for coming back each month and tuning in. I appreciate you! Because of your friendship and dedicated attention, last month I was inspired to write the FOUR blogs and a free ebook below just for you:
I wrote an ebook for you too! Don’t forget to grab that below to learn about the six mantras I live by every day for peak happiness.
Are you ready to learn how to rewire your brain and body for less stress using techniques available to you right now? I read the book The 5 Resets so that I could share with you the techniques I learned to help you achieve less stress and more resilience. Let’s go!
I want to start with this quote from the beginning of the book, “We’ve learned to tell ourselves that we’ll engage in self-care at some future time - when we aren’t so busy, when the kids are grown, when we’ve reached a work goal, when the pressure is off, when we have a vacation week, when there’s more money in the bank, when we retire. Regrettably, we give self-care the least attention when we need it most.”
Sound familiar? Dr. Nerurkar goes on to say, “Stress is the most common and unifying experience we have as human beings. We’re all living life with the same intensity, but we go through the experience feeling completely alone. We’re completely isolated in our togetherness with stress.”
This resonated with me and is what encouraged me to write this blog - to share in our common experience and togetherness with stress. Here’s the great news, backed by science:
So how does the brain respond to stress? It’s crucial we dive into some of the science because first, it’s fascinating, and second, it’ll prove to you how simple it is to rewire your brain.
Stress starts in the brain’s hippocampus (our emotional center.) Yes, stress = emotions. But here comes the aha! moment, the hippocampus is also where we learn and create memories. This means, stress is a learned response. This also means, stress can be unlearned. The ability to unlearn and rewire our brains is because of neuroplasticity. All that means is our brains have the ability to change - pretty damn cool if you ask me. It’s that simple and similar to strengthening any muscle (like the glutes, which I’ve been focusing on growing and the hubby feels a difference!)
The more you engage in a new habit (taking daily walks, eating broccoli, etc.) the brain creates a pathway for that habit and strengthens that pathway. This is the foundation of the five techniques in this book. Before diving into those five resets, Dr.Nerurkar defines what she calls the Resilience Rule of 2. She encourages us to only make two changes at a time because we are more likely to stick to those changes in the long term. This is why many New Year’s resolutions fail. Example - rather than saying, “I want to lose 20 pounds,” and placing pressure on yourself to heavily restrict your diet and go to the gym - focus on two simple changes to start. Maybe you won’t eat past 7pm and you will go on a daily 20 minute walk. Once you do that for 1 - 2 months, you can introduce another two new items.
Here are the 5 resets to practice for less stress and more resilience
Reset 1: Get clear on what matters most
Dr. Nerurkar suggests uncovering your MOST goal, which stands for:
Motivating: a goal that is motivating and within reach, a goal that energizes you
Objective: changes you can regularly monitor, no matter how tiny or incremental
Small: small enough to guarantee success
Timely: time-sensitive, ideally within three months
If you’re not sure what matters MOST, the next bit is my favorite. You can discover your MOST goal by asking yourself what five activities did you do as a child that brought you joy and made the hours pass like minutes? Go write it down! Here are mine:
Next, pick two from your list and begin incorporating into your life every day for 15 minutes. Congratulate yourself each day after completing the activity. As you continue to incorporate these activities that bring you joy, your stress will reduce.
Reset 2: Find quiet in a noisy world
You may not like this one, but it’s so important. It can make or break someone’s chronic stress.
“The most detrimental relationship in your life is most likely the thing glowing in the palm of your hand: your smartphone.”
You must learn to design digital boundaries. We continue to hear it but refuse to make the change. Decreasing smartphone use leads to improved well-being and sustainable mental health outcomes. It’s FREE to decrease your smartphone use, you just have to be smarter than your smartphone.
After reading this, I began charging my phone in my office starting at 9pm. It no longer charges in my bedroom. Did these questions just pop up in your mind, “What about your morning alarm? What if there’s an emergency and someone has to get a hold of you in the middle of the night?” On and on… I am surviving. I use Alexa as my alarm now but I could easily purchase an alarm clock if needed. My husband charges his phone in the room, so any emergency can come through him. I am now on day 5 of doing this and my sleep is starting to improve. I have more creative ideas as well. You should try it. Or commit to putting your phone away when you are spending time with those you love.
Reset 3: Sync your brain and body
Dr. Nerurkar refers to research from the book, The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from People Who’ve Lived the Longest. Sounds promising, think I should read that next and share my learnings?
In this section, there is emphasis on the science of bringing your attention to your breathing. This is another one we’ve heard time and time again. It’s one I try to teach my family and friends, and yet, they all seem to have the same reaction - not really anything. They nod and move on, never actually incorporating this simple, very easy technique into their lives. It’s disappointing because it’s not until stress causes physical consequences and a doctor says the same thing, and even then people roll their eyes at breath techniques. I walk the walk, and have used breathing exercises before I read this book.
The next time you feel overwhelmed and stressed, whether you are running late, having a tense conversation, or even if you’re not stressed and just watching a movie, try the Stop - Breathe - Be method.
In your mind, say STOP. Then say to yourself BREATHE, and take a deep breath and slowly let it out. Then say BE, and take a moment to ground yourself in the present. That is it. I focus on my breathing while driving, doing chores, and making my coffee in the morning. It is also a free technique, scientifically proven to reduce your stress and you can start right now. Go ahead, try it.
Reset 4: Come up for air
Get ready for the myth of multitasking. Our brains function best when they aren’t overloaded. It’s a scientific fallacy that working faster, harder and longer improves productivity. That’s great news!
Our brains need to decompress. When we step away for a break, our brain goes through a process called consolidation. Brain consolidation is when new learning and information in our minds gets cemented into pathways for future use. Our brain changes more when we take those needed breaks rather than during learning sessions.
This is why multitasking is not at all productive. When our brains multitask, they are task switching and this is detrimental to our brain’s memory and attention. Multitasking can actually slow productivity by 40%.
Ready to hear the opposite of multitasking…monotasking. And here’s how you do it using what's called the Pomodoro Technique. Set a timer to work on one task (you can start with 25 minutes or even go 45 minutes.) Once the timer goes off, take a 5 minute break. Start a new timer with a new task. That’s it! I set up my work day this way and it’s been phenomenal. I make progress every day on all my project areas. This method strengthens the prefrontal cortex of our brains, the logical decision making area. Pretty cool right?!
Reset 5: Bring your best self forward
Part of our unified experience of stress includes our inner critic and self-talk during times of stress. Be honest with yourself, how do you speak to yourself internally? Just this year, I’ve started to change my self-talk into positive words - and I am about to turn 37 next month (insert quote from Kevin Smith’s Clerks, “37!!!”)
Another easy and free technique. Notice when you are berating yourself, then stop by using the Stop, Breathe, Be technique and reframe what you said to yourself into something more positive.
Another tip the author gives is to start a gratitude practice each day. I know, insert eye roll, but check this out. Calling out your gratitude has been shown to decrease stress, improve mood and improve overall life satisfaction. Again, no cost. You can either think about what you're grateful for each night or write it down. I started writing mine down and have been for four nights now in a row, and I plan to stick to it since my phone is charging out of my room by 9pm.
I have only summed up what I learned from the book The 5 Resets. There is so much more great information in this book so be sure to check it out. These techniques are easy wins. I am incorporating them into my life and already see the difference. You only have one life, why live it miserably when you have full control of rewiring your brain and body?
Thanks again for your friendship and readership,
I promised in my last blog, The one Post-It note I have on my desk to help with productivity, that I would test out the post-it note mantra on my desk which asks, “What would this look like if it were fun?” Reaching peak productivity is not always glamorous and often requires us to do tedious tasks in order to make progress. Those tasks are necessary but sometimes very boring. So, how do you organize any space and always make it fun? Ask yourself, “What would this look like if it were fun?” I tested this recently with my bestie when she asked for help in cleaning and organizing her wood burning art studio. She was feeling overwhelmed at the thought of organizing her art space. It seemed like an impossible task. So, we rolled up our sleeves, and made it look and feel fun.
BEFORE (Some may say, a crackhead den...not that there's anything wrong with that - insert Seinfeld quote lol.)
IN PROGRESS...COMPLETED PHOTOS FURTHER DOWN!
So, how exactly did we make this fun? We came up with a few easy ways to make the process enjoyable. We decided to:
When I shared the idea with my bestie to document our journey, her face lit up, “That would be cool!” The excitement was starting to brew as we faced the stressful job ahead. BTW - there is such a thing as good stress and this is an example of it. Good stress enables your brain to solve problems that are achievable and once achieved brings a sustainable happiness that instant gratification does not provide. Along the way, I discovered something about my bestie…she owned a label maker! Hear me out, I have never owned one. They are so damn satisfying. I was organizing the space in her studio where she keeps her finished pieces and asked, “Do you have a label maker?” I didn’t expect the answer would be yes. But it was, and now I’m here dreaming about label makers every day. Check out my TikTok video below to get full impact.
The best part of re-organizing a space is getting rid of all the crap you don’t need that has piled up. It’s exhilarating. I’m one of those hard core people, if I haven’t used or worn something in six months, I don’t deserve to keep it. That’s where we started, filling four trash bags. This cleared the space and allowed us to visually see what was important. Organizing is far easier once all the unnecessary items are out of the way. I also want to point out, all the furniture and shelves in my bestie’s studio are second hand. She is a master thrifter (definite potential for another blog on her mastery skills.) This girl can find anything at a bargain.
After two and half hours, the bestie’s wood burning art studio was transformed! We designated areas for specific phases of her wood burning business: creating, staining, completed inventory, and packaging.
Follow Wood Burning with Ashley - here's why!
Check out some of her beautiful pieces below. She burns everything by hand after she places a stencil drawing down. If you see anything you like, you’ll be getting quality in addition to reasonable pricing. She is responsive and can customize anything. Be sure to follow her Facebook business page Wood Burning with Ashley here.
The next time you dread a task, ask yourself, “What would this look like if it were fun?” It could be as simple as asking a friend to help, putting on your favorite tunes or documenting and sharing the journey with others to provide value to the world. What have you been procrastinating on? Tell me in the comments.
Thank you for taking time to tune in dear reader,
I’m from California, born and raised. I’m a big city girl, Bay Area at heart. I moved my family out to Pennsylvania in 2020, to a small town of roughly 14,000 called Bloomsburg. I’m always asked, “Why would you move and come here?” That my friends is worth a dedicated blog in itself, but to give it straight - California is one of most expensive states in the U.S. My quality of life has improved exponentially, and my money goes so much farther.
There are pros and cons to everything. The pros of moving to a small town have outweighed the cons, but there are some challenges. There isn’t too much diversity and culture. I have to drive about 40 minutes out to see other Latinos…until I found La Malbec restaurant in our little town. Fine dining, at its finest and owned by Ecuadorians. Music to my ears, and I discovered also explosive flavors to my lips.
The hubby and I pawned off the kids to the grandparents and it was on like Donkey Kong (yes, I’m a 90s kid!) We were beside ourselves. We live in a town of 14,000 - not the same as San Jose, population creeping to 1 million! I’ve had many dining experiences, and some in very large cities (Los Angeles, Philly, New York, etc.) So, here it is - La Malbec in Bloomsburg, PA was the finest dining experience I’ve ever had.
I have no complaints and everything was on-point to perfection: service, cuisine, cocktails, and interior design. We dressed fancy and we felt damn good walking underneath warmly lit, decadent glass chandeliers.
First things first, cocktails of course. My hubby ordered a Manhattan and I got a dirty Martini. They couldn’t have been more perfect. Next up, salads. He got the Cesar and I got the beet. My husband grew up with hard core Italian grandparents who owned a catering company. Why do I mention? I learned from my hubby years ago, Cesar salad dressing is either done right or not at all. Apparently when made from scratch it requires an egg yolk. A person raised by Italian grandparents knows the difference. This was the best Cesar dressing we’ve ever had. My beet salad was epic as well, not to mention the peppercorn in grinder sitting on our table; a game changer.
Next up, their specialty cocktail, the Smoked Maple Old Fashioned. We expected a drink brought to our table but we received so much more; a unique dining experience. Watch the video for full impact. Taste - supreme. Delivery, like none other.
Let me remind you, we’re not at the entrees yet. My husband ordered the grilled chicken over pasta and lemon butter sauce. I got the salmon over pureed cauliflower and chopped vegetables. Again, perfection; of taste and plating. Let me start with the grilled chicken over pasta. The lemon butter sauce melted so hard, it left you needing that next bite. When the fork pierced my salmon, it sliced apart so slick with superb tanginess as I slid it across that lemony cauliflower puree.
It doesn’t end there!
We rarely finish dishes when dining. We devoured our salads and entrees. We drank every last drop of our cocktails. We usually pass on dessert…not this time. Two words, creme brulee. I’ve had creme brulee many times and this was by far the best.
The owner came out to our table, Roxanna. I have an Aunt Roxanna, and it felt no different. I felt like the niece of this restaurant. I have a strange affinity to restaurant owners coming out to greet customers at their tables - it’s my favorite.
Take it from a born and bred Californian, a Mexican-American and very cultured person - La Malbec was one of the finest and best dining experiences I’ve ever had.
Check out La Malbec's website here, Facebook page, and Instagram.