Some Parts of the Brain Improve with Age

One of my recent articles gave a statistic from the sports psychology world stating that it requires about 5 positive comments to overcome 1 negative comment when coaching young players. This means that negative comments carry a lot more weight in the mind of a child than do positive comments.

Most people lack real confidence.

But this extends far beyond young athletes to most of the population. Most people dwell on criticism or a bad experience far more than they think about praise or positive experiences. This all comes back to the beliefs that you have implanted in your brain throughout your life.

If you continually tell yourself that you are no good at something then your brain will pay a lot more attention to the evidence to support that viewpoint than it will to evidence that contradicts it. Your brain is always trying to uphold your beliefs.

Since most people have limiting beliefs, they are more focused on negative feedback than positive feedback and that’s how the whole 5 to 1 (positive to negative) ratio gets established – 1 negative piece of feedback is as powerful as 5 positive pieces.

Seeing the sunny side of life

I ran across a couple of papers this week in Psychological Science and The Journal of Neuroscience showing how brain activity that controls this, changes as we get older. Our brain circuits that filter your positive and negative experiences actually rewire as you age.

When we are younger, our brains allow negative information and bad experiences to go straight to our automatic responses. We don’t think about them too much or evaluate them before we allow them to affect us. On the other hand, positive feedback and good experiences get some extra processing by the ‘higher functioning’ part of our brains before we allow them to effect us. The positive stuff has to pass through a filter before we believe it but the negative stuff doesn’t.

As we age this begins to reverse. Our filters of the negative stuff get stronger and our filters of the positive stuff get weaker. We allow positive stuff to affect us more easily (in a good way) and screen out some of the negative stuff. We don’t spend so much time dwelling on criticism and accept more praise.

This is just an average description of the whole population. Of course, there are people that are good at filtering out the negative stuff early in their life and others that never get good at it. There are people that take complements and praise very well at a young age and others that never learn how to accept it.

Speeding up the process

So the question becomes, can we do anything to accelerate the process? Can we ‘train our brains’ to become better at accepting positive stuff and better at filtering out negative stuff without having to wait until we get to our elder years?

I believe that you can. There are certainly things that you can do directly to pay more attention to feedback that will boost your confidence and dismiss other experiences that tend to bring you down. There are also many indirect things that you can do to support the health and maintenance of your brain.

This comes back to performance concepts that I’ve discussed before. Your brain is in a constant state of remodeling itself. It is up to you whether the new updates you make on a daily, weekly and yearly basis will be the same as the old ones, or improved.

You can ensure that your new updates are physically stronger with the basic nutrition, sleep and physical and mental exercise needs – or not. You can also ensure that your new updates perform better by working on your ability to think for yourself and replacing some of your limiting beliefs with empowering ones.

Over time, this will strengthen your filters to deal with all your negative experiences and allow more of the positive experiences to get through. Science shows us (as discussed above) that our brain circuits have a natural tendency to improve on this front as we get older, but the speed at which you do it and the final levels that you reach are up to you.

Focus on the good feedback and your health, and the brain circuits that control your positive beliefs will literally get stronger and faster. This will increase your confidence and your ability to control your own life.

Copyright (c) 2007 The Brain Code LLC