Owning a car comes with the responsibility of ensuring you get your oil changed and tires rotated on a regular basis, it’s regular maintenance of your vehicle. Also, when the “check engine light” comes on, you take it to the mechanic to see what is wrong…and get it fixed. I HATE when the check engine light comes on. It causes me great anxiety and I immediately think I’m going to be stranded in the middle of nowhere (even though there is no route that I travel that is in the middle of nowhere). Car maintenance isn’t convenient….ever. However, it is necessary to keep your car in optimal condition.

Just like taking care of our car by having routine maintenance is necessary for optimal performance, it is also necessary to take care of ourselves with routine maintenance. Our brain is our hope engine. If our hope engine isn’t functioning optimally our hope is destined to diminish.

Did you know that scientist have pinpointed where in our brain hope is located? The orbitofrontal cortex is where our “hope engine” resides in our brains. And it is more than just our brain, it’s also our mind. Our mind consists of our thoughts, both conscious and unconscious thoughts that are happening all day every day. We think even when we sleep, that’s when our mind is sorting out all of our thoughts and organizing them in our brains. There is a lot happening in our heads every day!

So how do we provide routine maintenance for our hope engine?

  1. Monitor your thoughts – Our brains are neuroplastic, constantly changing, and our thoughts have remarkable power to change the landscape of our brains. Positive thoughts have a positive influence on our brain and our ability to hope. Toxic thoughts also have the power to change our brains however in a negative manner. The relationship between what you think and how you understand yourself – your beliefs, dreams, hopes, and thoughts – have a huge impact on how your brain works. Research has even shown that our DNA actually changes shape in response to our thoughts!
  2. Be aware of your environment – The environment we are in, including the people we are around, influence our thoughts. What we watch on television, social media, the music we listen to influence what we think and how we think. Be aware of the impact these things have on your thoughts. Does looking at social media cause you to compare yourself to others negatively, to be envious of what someone else is portraying? Then stop looking! Surround yourself with positive people who encourage you, uplifting music, reading positive stories and books. Limit or remove the toxicity from your environment so that it does not influence you negatively.
  3. What are you putting in your engine – When you put fuel in your car you can choose your octane level- regular to premium…just don’t choose diesel if your car runs on gas! The point is, you have a choice. We also have a choice on what type of food we put into our body to fuel our engine. Processed sugar is not a pathway to hope! It is a short-term high coupled with a long-term low. If you want your engine to function with optimal performance it is important to choose healthy foods such as lean protein, fruits, vegetables, and drink plenty of water. It is a choice. And before you make a healthy choice you need to have healthy thoughts (see #1 in this list). If we think healthy food doesn’t taste good, takes too much time to prepare, isn’t convenient, then guess what? You have already made your choice.
  4. Increase your blood flow – You guessed it! You can’t lock that car up and never take it for a ride. Use it or lose it! It’s the same for our bodies! Exercise is essential to keep our brains and our bodies functioning optimally. Research has shown walking for 30 minutes, 3 times a week has shown benefit to our heart and our bodies. When you get your heart rate up to 50% of your resting heart rate for at least 30 minutes you increase blood flow in your brain which releases a chemical called brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF) which is a protective factor to your brain cells.

If you WANT peak performance in life, it starts with what you think. Your thoughts are what will influence your actions. Take time to protect and maintain your hope engine, your brain and your body will thank you!

Written by Shea Hutchins, Canopy Chief Solutions Officer