how to achieve zen

How To Achieve A Zen Attitude To Cope With Every Day Problems

People usually have trouble responding and coping with every day problems. For a long time, I, myself, had trouble with my daily “problems”….

Why? Because we tend to react the same way every time. Our brain is lazy when it comes to problem solving. It has a “tried” response, that is usually easy to implement, and fast, you don´t even need to think, you just react to a stimulus.

For a lot of people this “tried and easy response” is anger. They react with anger to everything and everyone, and the reaction is an impulsive reaction, because there is no thought involved, just an emotions.

But, there is another type of response, a “more elaborate and custom response” to each  situation that we have, we could  create a new reaction in that instant. A response that requires our brain to take action “thinking”, and not just reacting.

Our brain is very complex. If we could simplify it in order to understand its functions towards problems, we could say that our brain has various types of responses. It has a double response, which is the fastest, and a triple response (this are my words, just to simplify things. A note of caution, I´m not a neuropsychologist, nor a neuro-something…I´m just a psychotherpist, trying to explain in simple words, so please bare with me, and if I´m mixing something please clarify in a comment.)

This double response process takes place in our brain and nervous system. It is caused by a  division in our brain in which our brain is divided into different reactive and thinking parts. According to neuroscience, we have three brains merged into one. Neoroscientist Paul D. MacLean (1913-2007) proposed that the human brain is really three brains in one, a “Triune brain”. A Reptilian Complex (Or sometimes called Croc Brain), a Limbic System (Central Area), and The Neocortex (The rugged part of our brain).

If we just react impulsively to a problem, we are actually using an Action-Reaction loop. For instance, I used to react with anger towards my daughter (She is seven now), every time she walked without shoes, and her socks ended black with soil. It happened every day, various times each day. She took her socks off – out came an angry  shout, from my mouth, towards her. My brain just reacted without thinking.

What I needed was a tripple phase loop, or action-PAUSE-reaction. The double loop is used by our reptilian brain, or croc brain, and it usually helps to protect us. It is why you take away your hand from fire. You react without thinking, BAM! But the triple reaction I needed, takes time, because it needs thinking. It takes our neo-cortex of our brain to carry out the action, so we can have an action-PAUSE-reaction setting for a problem, or in other words, your brain receives the stimulus through the senses, it processes the stimulus, sends it to the Neo-cortex, and the neo-cortex decides what to do ( Hence the PAUSE time), you decide what to do with your neo-cortex, and then you DO it…

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

-Viktor E. Frankl

The important part is when Victor Frankl mentions SPACE. It is a PAUSE between the action and reaction. That pause is what keeps you from reacting impulsively to the problem.

According to  a problem is:

  1. A difficulty that has to be resolved or dealt with.
  2. A question to be answered, schoolwork exercise.
  3. A puzzling circumstance.


In order for you to master ZEN, you need to master the moment. Be mindful of it…

1. Observe the problem with an objective mind. Evaluate the situation in a third person point of view.

2. Let Go – Let go of everything you can´t control. This is very important…you need to let go of everything that is not in your control. This will take care of any negative thought you might have.

3. Don´t give up, before you try… VARIOUS TIMES.

4. Think before you react. Take a moment. -If you are very Angry… You could try this simple breathing technique: Breathe in through your mouth, counting in your head up to 4. Keep the breath in, don´t exhale, for a 4 count. Exhale through your mouth, counting in your head, form 1 to 4. This is called the 4 x4 breathing technique. After that, react.

5. If you are having an issue or problem, try putting things into perspective by thinking: “What´s the worst that can happen?” If the answer is very negative, like death, or going crazy, put things into perspective by thinking in terms of Percentages. What is the actual percentage that you might become crazy, because of the problem?

What will happen is that your brain has trouble understanding percentages, and when you try to be real with percentages you get a better perspective. Before you thought that you would die, but a real percentage of dying would be 5%. Try it out. This is great for working with negative thoughts. I use it when doing work with Panic Attacks.

Well I hope I have help you with these Zen Like strategies.

Carlos is a Psychology Professor in a local university in El Salvador, a psychotherapist, creator of HandLink Technique (Energy Psychology), blogger, musician, and host of Sight For Sore Eyes Blog. At his blog you may get free information to learn HandLink Technique, or get simple yet profound content so you may “Learn the art of living a meaningful life.”