Your Brain is the Enemy of Joy - What to Do About It
Updated: Mar 15
How many times have you heard someone say, “Be kind to yourself”? But why is that so hard? When we stop and listen to all the junk we say about ourselves in our heads, it can be pretty stunning. Often, those awful things we say are like white noise - they’re in the background because your brain is so used to hearing them. Think about that for a second:
how sad is it that we are so used to negative talk that we don’t always hear it?
The enemy brain refers to the negative thought patterns and self-talk that can rob us of our joy. It's that little voice in our heads that tells us we're not good enough, smart enough, or attractive enough. It's the part of us that focuses on the negative, worries about the future, and dwells on the past.
This is why your brain can sometimes be the enemy. What does the enemy brain do?
Keeps thinking about mistakes over and over (and over).
Reacts to any perceived emotional “threat” (important word here is “perceived”) with just making stuff up that will likely never happen and is not based in fact whatsoever.
Replays conversations over and over trying to find how it could have played out differently.
Dealing with the enemy brain can be tough, but there are some strategies you can use to manage it and find more joy in your life.
One strategy is practicing mindfulness, which involves being present and aware of your thoughts and feelings without judging them. The enemy brain is a reactionary organ - there is no thought to the chaos. By being mindful of what is happening around you, you also slow down the reactions and get intentional.
Challenge Automatic Thoughts.
Another strategy is challenging automatic negative thoughts. When you have negative thoughts, ask yourself if they're based in reality or just assumptions or fears. My favorite question to ask my clients in these moments is, “what are the facts”. This simple question forces the brain to slow down and consider the question (be mindful) instead of just allowing the brain to be in control.
I can feel some of you rolling your eyes right this second! I get it - we hear about gratitude over and over that sometimes it just feels like an insult in the middle of a storm. But, here’s the thing: by focusing on what you're grateful for, you can shift your perspective from negative to positive. Take a few minutes each day to write down three things you're grateful for. Some days, it might just be a roof over your head, shoes on your feet and food on your table. That’s okay. The practice of gratitude will help re- train your brain to focus on the good things in your life.
And don’t try to go at this alone. We get into this “can do” spirit, which is absolutely fine, but it can lead to not wanting to ask for help. Find a friend that can be a sounding board, find a counselor or coach that is trained in retraining the brain, or find a community. The Joy Unleashed Facebook Community might be the perfect place to start. Check it out here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/unleash.joy
The enemy brain may be powerful, but it doesn't have to control your life. By becoming more aware of your thoughts and using these strategies, you can manage it and find more joy and happiness in your daily life.
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