Challenge, Day 2

Head psychology logoTruly, today was day one, as yesterday I simply talked about my bad spending habits of the day. Today was the day I was supposed to start stashing some cash in place of wasteful spending, so I could save and setup an investment account for my kids future. I failed on a couple of accounts, but still was able to prevent from some bad spending. I stayed up too late last night and realized on my way in to work I had forgot to make and bring my lunch. Poor planning on my part, which brings into light something I wanted to address in this article anyway. Poor planning and budgeting leads to a total lack of control. If you don’t set goals, you have no way to completely measure your successes and failures.

So, let’s try and start this again today, instead with a mission. Cheers to you if you already have done what I didn’t, you’re one step ahead of me. However, I still have some useful advice. Yesterday I promised to speak about how we think, and how it relates to your ability to control your spending habits. I’m definitely not a doctor, nor a scientist, but I have learned some basics about how our brain has evolved and I’m certain you’ll be interested to hear. Instead of me messing something up, below is directly from the source, we’ll talk about what it means after.

So the human brain consists of these three different but interconnected brains and the way in which these three brains interact with each other underlies human behaviour.{1}

Reptilian Brain

Innermost in our brain is what is called the reptilian brain, its oldest and most primitive part. The reptilian brain appears to be largely unchanged by evolution and we share it with all other animals which have a backbone.

This reptilian brain controls body functions required for sustaining life such as breathing and body temperature. Reptiles are cold-blooded animals which are warmed by the daylight sun and conserve energy by restricting activities when it is dark. The biological clock (controller) for their activity-rest cycle is located in the eye itself {10}.

At this level of evolution, behaviour relating to survival of the species, such as sexual behaviour, is instinctive and responses are automatic. Territory is acquired by force and defended. Might is right.

Mammalian Brain

Next to evolve from the reptilian brain was the mammalian brain. An enormous change took place as mammals evolved from reptiles, the mammalian brain containing organs {11, 12}:

For the automatic control of body functions such as digestion, the fluid balance, body temperature and blood pressure (autonomic nervous system, hypothalamus).

For filing new experiences as they happen and so creating a store of experience-based memories (hippocampus).

For experience-based recognition of danger and for responding to this according to past experience. And for some conscious feelings about events (amygdala).

To this extent the mammal is more consciously aware of itself in relation to the environment. Millions of neural pathways connect the hippocampal and amygdala structures to the reptilian brain and behaviour is less rigidly controlled by instincts. It seems that feelings such as attachment, anger and fear have emerged with associated behavioural response patterns of care, fight or flight. {4}

Human Brain

And the mammalian brain became the human brain by adding the massive grey matter (neocortex) which envelopes most of the earlier brain and amounts to about 85 per cent of the human brain mass.

This massive addition consists mostly of two hemispheres which are covered by an outer layer and interconnected by a string of nerve fibres. {13}

The brain is actually divided into its ‘hemispheres’ by a prominent groove. At the base of this groove lies the thick bundle of nerve fibres which enable these two halves of the brain to communicate with each other.

But the left hemisphere usually controls movement and sensation in the right side of the body, while the right hemisphere similarly controls the left side of the body.

We saw that with the mammalian brain emerged feelings such as attachment, fear and anger and associated behavioural response patterns.

And human emotional responses depend on neuronal pathways which link the right hemisphere to the mammalian brain {4} which in turn is linked to the even older reptilian brain.

So what point am I trying to get across here? You’ve developed an advanced brain, you can choose to control the impulsive thoughts of your animal side by acknowledging them as they come. You alone can make a decision to actively decide to save your money and invest it, or spend it on something that will feed your animal brain. You’re above that though, and so you will move forward and try to do this. When you’re at the store or thinking of buying something, ask yourself this simple question; Who needs this? The animal or my future? Bottom line, we’re going to start a new way of thinking today, and try it out for a month, we can reassess at that time.

Now, let’s take another simple step together. Let’s start with making a plan for tomorrow, and stick to it. I’m going to go make a sandwich from some turkey I bought and pack it along with an apple or two. Total cost of the meal, $3. I’ll be saving $3 and depositing into my can. I hope you’ll join me in doing the same. More importantly, I’m making plans now for dinner tomorrow – so I don’t do anything stupid like waste money on a pizza or the likes. I’ve got meat in the freezer and fresh vegetables in the fridge. Total cost for the chicken I will prepare for my family of five (six including the baby in my wife’s belly), less than $5, I’m going to grill it on the stove top. The vegetables and bread will cost no more than $5. Total cost for dinner, $10. Now, you do the same, adjusting the costs to meet reality in your locality. The key here is to set a plan and budget and to set aside the money you would have wasted on junk, and put it in your can to save and invest. My budget is for the $3 lunch, and $10 dinner, a total of $13. Tomorrow, we will work on setting a plan up for the remainder of the work week, and not get too far ahead of ourselves. Eventually, we’ll get to setting a monthly, and annual budget, and look at the areas of spending that feed the animal, rather than your future. Then, we’ll plan for the weekend on Friday. See, this isn’t too bad.

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