ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

How to Train Your Brain for Less Stress

Updated on October 9, 2012

Training for Greater Control of your Mind

An aerobic workout five days a week can expand your heart so that it can pump more blood faster to feed muscles hungry for oxygen and fuel. Similarly, lung performance may also be enhanced by exercise that makes you breathe hard. Eating the right foods, including a healthy amount of non-soluble fiber can make your digestive system more efficient.

What about your brain?


The Busy Brain

Your brain does a lot of things. Some of them are automatic and some are manual. Your brain automatically makes sure your heart keeps beating and your lungs keep breathing. To an extent you can control your breathing and influence your heartbeat, but if you try to stop breathing your brain will automatically try to intervene.

There is a dichotomy between mental software and firmware and the power of conscious thought over unconscious reactions. The brain has many fail safes wired in to prevent you from hurting yourself, yet we know we can circumvent all of these natural safeguards with relative ease. Similarly, the brain can bring us harmful stress, yet the power of conscious thought can do much to mitigate these effects as well.

Survival Instinct

Your brain generates thoughts on several levels. On the most basic level, it thinks about survival, analyzing data from the senses to detect danger and prepare the body to react – commonly known as the ‘fight or flight’ mechanism. Ironically, this mechanism that automatically helps us survive is also the source of much of our stress.


Training Your Mind to Deal with Stress

Stress can also result in heart disease, arterial deterioration and a broad range of mental illnesses, to name a few of the long term effects. So you can see it is something to avoid.

Our brains are at work 24/7 figuring out things to watch out for and identifying possibilities to be afraid of. We are always imagining future threats or rehashing the implications of perceived past failures. Both the past and the future seduce our attention away from the present. Of course, since the past cannot be changed and the future cannot be predicted, worrying about either is a complete waste of time.

This is how internally-generated stress happens: Your fight-or-flight mechanism is designed to respond to emergencies of all kinds by signaling the release of adrenalin to give you extra strength and speed, tightening your muscles in preparation for whatever actions might be necessary and bringing all your senses to an alert state. When there is a real threat, this is handy. When there is an imagined threat this tremendous expenditure of energy simply results in wear and tear on your vital systems.

A good measure of stress can be avoided by training your mind not to get hooked on negative fantasies of the future or harsh critiques of the past. I first discovered this long, long, long ago when I was in my early twenties. I used to beat myself up a lot back then, but then I figured out it wasn’t fun or helpful so I did something about it.

I realized I had a bad self image and did not like myself. To remedy this situation I stood in front of the mirror for a few minutes every day and told myself how beautiful and wonderful I am. After a while, I stopped thinking bad things about myself and I started to realize that when people treated me badly or harshly it was usually much more about them than it was about me. I realized that people have their own problems and I am not usually one of them. I had trained myself to think differently.

I used to have a terrible time falling asleep at night because when I went to bed, I lay there cataloging all my faults and shortcomings. Then I realized, hey, this doesn’t feel good! So now when I go to bed I think about things and experiences that make me happy, or something neutral, like the sound of my breath. Now I rarely have any problem falling asleep at night.

The effectiveness of training the mind has been documented for decades in clinical tests by the Benson Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine. Herbert Benson, cofounder of the Institute, strongly endorses the use of meditation to change destructive thought habits. Meditation has helped me learn to identify and handle harmful thoughts as they occur.

In meditation, a person takes control of their brain and concentrates on one simple thing, like their breath or a point on the floor in front of them, or the corner of a picture frame. Thoughts still come in – thoughts always come in – but when they do, the meditating person acknowledges the thought and returns to their focus. In doing so, they separate themselves from the thoughts that are naturally generated by their brain. It’s like the thoughts have taken a step down in priority, from urgent matter to ‘wait your turn.’

With only a few months of practice, I found that my thoughts less frequently caused me to go on some fantasy safari into the future or mental retreat into the past. Instead I found myself conscious of the thought coming in, and I had gained the ability to decide whether to pay attention to the thought or dismiss it. I don’t always have to let them lead me down the garden path. That gives me more time to spend on now, when life is actually happening.

Meditation is a workout that expands the muscle that helps you be in command of your thoughts. It is one of the ways you can train yourself to have a better, less stressful life.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)