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Cognitive Exercises

Cognitive Exercises

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Published by Michael S. Logan
Cognitive Exercises
Most counseling experiences are going to touch on cognitive exercises in some way, shape, or form.
In Alcoholics Anonymous, for example, there are a number of catchy little phrases like "The Attitude is Gratitude" which serve to change the chemistry in my brain and body very rapidly.
Cognitive Exercises
Most counseling experiences are going to touch on cognitive exercises in some way, shape, or form.
In Alcoholics Anonymous, for example, there are a number of catchy little phrases like "The Attitude is Gratitude" which serve to change the chemistry in my brain and body very rapidly.

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Published by: Michael S. Logan on Feb 11, 2011
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 Cognitive Exercises Most counseling experiences are going to touch on cognitive exercises in some way, shape, orform.In Alcoholics Anonymous, for example, there are a number of catchy little phrases like "TheAttitude is Gratitude" which serve to change the chemistry in my brain and body very rapidly.In fact, Mihalyi Cszikszentmihalyi,Ph.D., the author of the book FLOW says that we respond tochanges in facial expression and tone of voice in 1/18th second, which is about twice as fast as Ican blink my eyes. I have also seen the number of thoughts we have is 60,000 per day, so wealready do a lot of cognitive exercise.So I need to have my cognitive exercise thoughts available for frequent and rapid deploymentover the course of the day in order to achieve my feeling and or behavioral goals.In fact, cognitive exercises might actually involve a workout, because a brain that is regularlyexercised is a brain in which awareness is increased, and the potential for positive cognitiveexercises is increased.Perhaps you have never heard of the concept of brain fitness. For an excellent picture of brainfitness, let me recommendBrainfit for Lifeby Simon Evans,Ph.D., and Paul Burghardt,Ph.D.,who are neuroscientists at the University of Michigan. Their work is written for us non--professional neuroscientists, which makes it a very useful tool in your search for cognitiveexercises.But perhaps you got to this page in search of some information about cognitive behavioraltherapy (CBT) or Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy (REBT) which are models of counselingwhich teach us how to become aware of our self-talk and dispute it if it is not serving us.No, you do not have to believe your self-talk, often we develop some patterns or habitual wordsthat pop into our heads in response to a perception, like a look of irritation on my wife's face.I might say to myself, "What did I do now?", and feel fear, or anger.That kind of habitual response is called an automatic negative thought, and needs to be disputed,or questioned in my head before I respond to my wife's expression with a shout or a defensive orargumentative comment, because she may have just stubbed her toe, and her expression hasnothing to do with me.In order to complete that cognitive exercise, I need to be attending to how I am feeling, whatwords are running through my head as I move through the day, and if the words are about anevent that happened years ago, or may happen in the future, I need to bring my focus back to thehere and now, and make the cognitions in my head work for me.
 
My experience with cognitive exercises has been on the job if you will, and I usually discover anANT or automatic negative thought after I have suffered an unpleasant consequence, but thereare some new tools out there that give me an opportunity to train my awareness of my thinkingso I can change the thought to change the feeling before I utter the words which will get me introuble, or I make the expression which someone else may interpret as insulting.The first tool, whichEvans and Burghardtdiscuss, is a brain fitness program called Mind SparkeBrain Fitness Pro, based on the dual n back task, which is a fun, frustrating, and addictivepractice which will increase your awareness of how fast you drift away from a task.Mind Sparke practice has the side effect of increasing your IQ also, as measured by your fluidintelligence. Practice with Mind Sparke will exponentially increase your awareness of what ishappening in your own head, and give you the ability to replace limiting cognitions withsomething more empowering. (Remember Gratitude is the Attitude)?Remember, I can dispute automatic negative thoughts as frequently as I want, and I can evenpractice automatic positive thoughts, (APT)sort of like what the Transcendental Meditation folkswould call a mantra.Want to check out some very interesting work on meditation? Read Sharon Begley's book,"Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain", which reports that meditation makes measurablechanges in the size of certain areas of your brain. So focus like what I am advocating is verygood for your brain in many ways.I really like the impact that Mind Sparke has had on my awareness and attentional skills, since Iam 62 and want my brain to stay connected to person, place, and time, which means am here onthis plane of reality.The next program which helps me become significantly more aware of my current cognitiveexercises is a heart rate variability biofeedback program called Heartmath, which trains me toestablish a coherent heart rate variability heart beat by heart beat. It turns out that our hearts havea nervous system all of their own, which is an affiliative and cooperative brain in the heart, if youwill.So the biofeedback about the time between heart beats (coherent of incoherent variability) isimpacted by my breathing and my thinking.In other words with 5 to 10 hours of practice, I can train my heart to respond to a cognitive andbreathing exercise with a very pleasant physiology of cooperation and affiliation, and if I happento drift off to incoherence or automatic negative thoughts, I simply do my Heartmath cognitiveexercise to return to coherence.So it turns out that cognitive exercises can be attended to quickly, and with enough practice I amsteering my thinking like I steer my automobile, with many thousands of small adjustments.

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