In this episode of Brain Games, we learn that evolution has outfitted the human brain and sensory systems with some characteristics that enable people to survive stressful and dangerous situations. We also learn that some people have psychological attributes that make them more adept at survival, and that research indicates that one of the most important attributes for making it through difficult situations may be your brain’s social intelligence and ability to cooperate with others. Here are a few tips from experts on how to optimize your brain’s survival equipment.
• Learn how not to feel sorry for yourself. Author Laurence Gonzales, who studied the attributes of disaster survivors, found that they tended not to see themselves as victims and didn’t complain about the bad things that were happening to them. That sort of thinking could be a distraction from focusing on what you need to do to survive. But you don’t need to wait until a disaster comes to adopt a more positive mode of thinking. In a Psychology Today article, Russell Grieger suggests this exercise: Think of three circumstances in life that interfere with your happiness, and make a list of what you could do to eliminate or at least reduce them. Then commit to doing at least two of the things on the list. That effort will help you to establish a pattern of taking responsibility for yourself, rather than blaming things on the actions of others or bad luck.
• Don’t be too proud to listen to others’ wisdom. You might think that because Laird Hamilton rides monster waves, he’s an utterly fearless guy. But as he explained in a 2013 Men’s Journal article, when he goes into an unfamiliar situation, “I find somebody who knows what he’s doing, and I hang next to him.” Watching, listening to, and studying the experience of someone who’s done it before can help you to make it through a big challenge.
• Learn to S.T.O.P. You’re more likely to make it through a difficult situation if you have a methodical plan, as opposed to just thrashing around in a panic. Hunting and outdoor safety experts recommend an easy to remember system. Stop when you realize that you have a problem, and admit that you’re in trouble. Think about what you need to do to make it to safety. Observe the area, and look for things such as shelter or food sources that will help you to survive. Plan how you’re going to use your available resources, such as, tools, food rations or fuel, and then stick to that approach.