775: Make Your Brain Work Better with John Assaraf

by | Jun 29, 2020 | Blog

Hi friends, I’m excited to share with you all another helpful episode of Primal Potential! Primal Potential is a podcast all about you — your ability to change is not defined by yesterday and doesn’t need to wait until tomorrow. Your transformation is now, no matter what stage you find yourself in life! 

Have you ever wanted to access the full potential of your brain? Do you feel like your inner voice convinces you that you’re not good enough to achieve your goals? Negative thoughts and feelings can often overwhelm and hinder us from taking necessary action in our lives. 

Thankfully, there is a way for us to combat these debilitating negative feelings through the helpful advice of behavioral expert John Assaraf. John specializes in tackling the unhelpful neurological responses that keep us in a state of anxiety and inactivity.

Even though our brains’ neurological survival responses help us avoid harm, our automatic responses can often be detrimental to our emotional health and sense of well-being. These feelings of self-doubt and anxiety prevent us from moving forward towards what we want. John’s methods of overcoming our negative automatic responses will significantly increase your brain’s productivity and help you finally step out of your comfort zone. I am incredibly happy to share with you this useful and practical advice from John that will change your life! 


Who Is John Assaraf? 


John Assaraf is an acclaimed author with two books on the New York Times Bestseller list. Additionally, he built five multimillion-dollar companies, including NeuroGym, which helps individuals increase their mental and emotional strength through exercises geared toward shifting their habits and mindset. 

His background in mindset and behavioral research enables him to effectively help individuals retrain their brains and behaviors to become more successful in every area of their lives. His most recent book Innercise: The New Science to Unlock Your Brain’s Hidden Power masterfully informs readers on practical tips and exercises to help individuals tap into their brain’s full potential. 

I know you guys are going to love this episode. Get ready to learn some mind-blowing tips on how to make your brain work better!


Overcoming Your Brain’s Survival Instinct 


At the start of our conversation, we dove right into the main subject of his expertise — the different neurological functions and how they affect us. He explained how the survival instinct has two primary functions:

“… we’ve got this brain and nervous system that is functioning based on a hierarchy that goes like this: any incoming information or any information that’s swirling around in your own thought processes that involves survival is going to raise this high alert. Any threat real or imagined activates this nervous system like nothing else because we want to survive. Right below that, the second hierarchy of how our brains work is avoidance of pain or discomfort. And our brain doesn’t care whether it’s financial pain or discomfort, mental pain or discomfort, physical pain or discomfort, emotional pain or discomfort. Anything that potentially can cause this danger for our lives or discomfort … our brain releases cortisol and epinephrine, norepinephrine the stress hormones that cause us to feel anxiety and causes us to not feel great.” – John Assaraf

It’s painfully ironic that the functions of our nervous system designed for our survival can leave a negative impact on our lives. But thankfully, we are not stuck with these detrimental chemicals bogging us down. John developed a method of exercising your mental and emotional functions in order to control your automatic response better. He calls the technique “innercise.” 

“We think … [of] exercise to strengthen our bodies, muscles, and organs, tissues, ligaments, et cetera … With a little bit of practice, we strengthen the muscles. Well, why not consider that our brain has got neuro muscles? So what if, let’s say, self-confidence was a neuro muscle. What if focus was a neuro muscle? What if your beliefs were neuro muscles? What if your habits were neural muscles, and some were strong and some were weak and some were constructive and others were destructive. Some empowered you and some didn’t. That is the first framework that we need to understand.” – John Assaraf

If we train ourselves to exercise these “neuro muscles,” we can shift our mindset and habits to strengthen ourselves emotionally and mentally to develop a better sense of well-being and pursue the things in life we want. 


Calming Your Survival Instinct and Activating Your Thinking Brain


John went on to explain the function of the sympathetic nervous system — which he calls the “Frankenstein”:

“Frankenstein is searching your environment to see if there’s anything that could kill you or anything that could cause you real or imagined pain or discomfort … Frankenstein’s on high alert, 24/7 for your entire life. And if anything triggers Frankenstein, Frankenstein releases these neurochemicals … when the Frankenstein part of the brain is active, then we feel stress and anxiety, self-doubt … negative self-talk, disempowering thought patterns … Frankenstein just says … put on the brakes and don’t do it. Just stay in your comfort zone and forget about that goal. – John Assaraf 

That “Frankenstein” part of the nervous system keeps us from accomplishing what we want because of all the defeatism wrapped in our anxieties and negative self-talk. Thankfully, in addition to the “Frankenstein,” we also have the parasympathetic nervous system, which activates the “Einstein” part of the brain:

“So on the very other side of this is the parasympathetic — the calm and respond part of your system, which activates what I call is the Einstein brain. And when Einstein is active … [it] thinks about, ‘Well, what can I do about this? Is this a real threat? Or is it imagined, is there anybody that knows how to navigate through this?’ And [Einstein] uses his imagination to see his way to the result, to the goal, to the vision, to the health, to the finances, to the relationship that he wants to have. He’s always looking for possibilities of how he can while Frankenstein’s always coming up with reasons why it may not work.” – John Assaraf

John’s explanation of the different parts of the nervous system perfectly reflects the kind of mentality we need to adopt. We need to shift our mindset from “Frankenstein” and toward “Einstein” and not let our unconscious neurological response of internal negativity doom us to inaction. We have to push ourselves and train our mindset to get out of our fearful comfort zones. 

John perfectly described the negative loop that people find themselves in when the “Frankenstein” takes over: 

“The emotion of anxiety … is nothing more than a runaway train in our brain around negativity. What if … I hurt myself? What if I lose? What if I die? … That’s a self-fulfilling doom loop if we keep thinking about it and feeling it and not interrupting that pattern. So what most people do is they feel then they think … about what they feel … And they keep perpetuating the constant release of these neurochemicals that takes away blood flow from the genius part of the brain.” – John Assaraf

The cycle of negativity brought on by the “Frankenstein” empowers itself to persist. That vicious self-fulfilling prophecy keeps us in the emotional gutter, making it harder to pull ourselves out of the toxic loop. If you tell yourself that you’re incapable of growing your business this year, then inevitably you will never reach your yearly goals. You feel that self-doubt that haunts everyone, but rather than using your brain to figure out what you need to do,  you say to yourself, “I can’t do this.” 

You waste your brainpower thinking about your inability to accomplish what you want rather than face the problem head-on. Then you continue this loop by saying, “I wasn’t able to expand last year, so I won’t be able to this year.” The only thing stopping you from accomplishing your goals is telling yourself that you lack the ability to make positive changes. 

John’s signature Innercises help combat this vicious negative cycle. He explained an exceptional breathing exercise designed to retrain your brain so that the “Einstein” can come out:

“What if at any moment, whether when you’re stressed or because you just decided to do this every hour, which I recommend, and you … just stopped and you just took six breaths slowly … in through your nose. And as you exhale through your mouth, imagine that there’s a straw in your mouth, and you have to get all the air flow slowly and gently out through the straw, and you pay all of your attention on getting that air flow slowly out through the straw until there’s no more air in your lungs or your diaphragm. And then what if on the next inhale, you simply said this: ‘I breathe in calmness.’ I breathe out stress or worry or fear or uncertainty. You could breathe in courage and breathe out stress … Now, as simple as that sounds a calm brain does not release adrenaline, epinephrine or cortisol — the stress hormones. A calm brain deactivates Frankenstein because Frankenstein now feels safe because you have just overridden this automatic part of your brain called the amygdala … Now you override that system so you can get blood flow back to Einstein, the left prefrontal cortex.” – John Assaraf

John’s methods of overriding that “Frankenstein” part of our nervous system is incredibly essential because then we can train ourselves to focus on the things that we want to accomplish. It is all about shifting our unconscious behavior to overcome our negative thought patterns. 


Committing to Retraining Your Brain 


John stressed the importance of not limiting yourself. When we master our “Frankenstein” and “Einstein,” we can push ourselves to accomplish our dreams and rewire our brains. 

“… we’re not hard wired. We don’t have to keep living our lives with limiting beliefs like we’re not good enough and not smart enough and not worthy enough … We don’t have to live with … limiting beliefs … that cause us to stay in the state of scarcity or even just security when there’s success and significance available to us. And all it takes is a shift in our awareness of how to use our brain better … we already have all of the how to … for just about anything that anybody who is listening to this wants to achieve … all of the stuff you want to do all the how to already exists. But if you have fears in your way and you don’t know how to move them aside, you won’t take action. If you have limiting beliefs in your way, and you don’t know how to release limiting beliefs, which is nothing more than a neural pattern, your brain, you will be stuck.” – John Assaraf

John is right, friends — we can retrain our brains to its fullest capacity and accomplish whatever we want. We don’t need to limit our careers or our relationships or our fitness goals. We have what it takes to overcome habitual negative thinking and take control of our lives. 

But there is a catch — retraining our brains takes hard work, and like mastering anything, we need to work on it continuously. 

“We practiced walking, we practiced talking … We practiced everything consciously where it took effort. And then with enough repetition and immersion, it became an unconscious competence … Your beliefs formulate the lens by which you see the world and your brain deletes or distorts everything else that doesn’t line up with your current beliefs. Your habits are automatic. They’re part of your automatic self. Whether they serve you or don’t whether they’re empowering or not. So if you’re not achieving your goal or goals … it’s not because you can’t. It’s because your habits won’t allow you to … And so the key is … how do I interrupt my habitual thought and emotional and behavioral patterns?” – John Assaraf 

It takes a great deal of energy and persistence to rewire ourselves to fully overcome “Frankenstein.” It can seem like a daunting task, but you are more than capable of doing it. You can overcome that cycle and accomplish your goals and achieve what you want. 

One great tool to help you along the way is John Assaraf’s most recent book Innercise: The New Science to Unlock Your Brain’s Hidden Power. It’s full of helpful, applicable advice and calming innercises to shift your mindset into becoming proactive in your life rather than letting yourself succumb to unhelpful patterns of inaction and self-doubt. 

If you need additional assistance in taking action in your life, I encourage you to get on the waitlist for our next 12 Weeks of Transformation! This program is all about you and getting you to overcome what’s holding you back. The program consists of a more personal and structured approach to beat day-to-day obstacles and realize your full potential! If you think this may be right for you, don’t hesitate to check out the 12 Weeks of Transformation.

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During these trying times, I also recommend that you sign up for our daily mindset upgrades. I send out daily texts of encouragement to help calm your “Frankenstein” and motivate your “Einstein.” 

Friends, I hope this episode inspires you to get out of your way of success. Don’t let negative thinking stop you. You are enough, and you can achieve your dreams!


Elizabeth Benton

The Primal Potential Podcast

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