Do you know what’s just way too easy? Making the wrong choice. Though it would be incredibly convenient if we all automatically did the right thing all the time, made the right decision no matter what, unfortunately that’s just not the case. The idea that it’s near-impossible to avoid bad decisions may get you down, but there’s really no need to beat yourself up. Because it turns out it’s not your fault after all! In fact, there is a scientific reason we make bad decisions.
And, we have the power to change that.
You may feel like the process of decision-making originates from the heart, but our ability to make choices (good or bad) actually relies heavily on the prefrontal cortex of the brain. When this area of the brain is running smoothly and at top speed, we are more inclined to make good decisions. But when lifestyle factors get in the way of this smooth operation, we tend to make rash or ill-thought-out decisions. In short, poor decision-making and impulsivity are caused by a disconnect between the prefrontal cortex and the rest of your brain.
So now you know what’s going on inside that skull of yours you’re probably wondering what’s causing it, right? Since this isn’t a permanent state, we can actually control how good or bad our decisions are. But we’ve got to know what we can do to shift it first.
Once you can control and manage these three things, you can control your decisions.
1. The corporeal villain strikes again! And this time, it’s not just chronic inflammation that is causing trouble. Any inflammation – whether acute or chronic – can cause a strain on the prefrontal cortex. It changes the way we think right away; it doesn’t need years to build up in the body. Unfortunately, it’s also a bit of a vicious cycle. The more inflammation you have, the more poor decisions you make. The more poor decisions you make that lead to unhealthy behaviours, the more inflammation increases. While it all sounds very scary, you can reduce or eliminate inflammation in the body. First, find out what’s causing yours. Is it food? Is it stress? Is it lack of exercise? Once you determine that, you can begin to mitigate its effects. And, no matter what the cause, eating an anti-inflammatory diet (think fresh juices, bright salads and healing soups), will help you keep inflammation at bay.
2. So not only does stress cause inflammation but it can also be the root of issues with the prefrontal cortex’s disconnect from the amygdala (that’s what’s causing your poor decision-making). Long periods of stress can actually cause the prefrontal cortex to be smaller, so the terrors of stress extend beyond just mental health to physical brain health. Scary stuff! Telling someone not to stress is probably only going to cause more stress, so instead, we’ve got some great ideas for how to naturally manage and mitigate stress in our lives. Check them out here!
3. Sleep itself does not wreak havoc on our prefrontal cortices (thank god because we love sleep!), but lack of it can really cause us to make more careless decisions. Just think about how often you skip your workout or reach for something unhealthy when you’re exhausted. The more sleep you get, the more active your prefrontal cortex will be and the more integrated it will be with the amygdala. So here we are again, telling you to GET SOME SLEEP!