‘Your brain is always recreating reality’ (Picture: Getty/Metro.co.uk)

‘Your brain is playing tricks on you,’ says neuroscientist and psychologist Albert Moukheiber.

In this week’s episode of our mental health podcast, Mentally Yours, Albert tells us how our brain ‘recreates reality’ in strange ways – all as an attempt to make sense of a strange and confusing world.

This, he says, can result in biases, anxiety, and unhelpful thinking patterns, all of which don’t do great things for our mental health.

The good news: simply being aware of how our brain works – and knowing that our thoughts and feelings aren’t as straightforward and correct as we might assume – can make a positive difference.

And even better news: We can use this knowledge of our brain’s strange tricks to our advantage.

‘This is the subject of my book, Your Brain Is Playing Tricks On You,’ Albert shares with Yvette and Ellen on this week’s episode. ‘It’s an introduction to how our brain recreates reality, because, for example, our listeners are hearing us not through their ears, but their brains, and readers aren’t reading us through their eyes, but their brains as well.

‘Our senses are just receptors to information from the inside or outside, which trigger an electrical signal created by the brain.

‘During these mechanisms of perception, there are a few things that can happen, that can sometimes trick us in a good way, and sometimes trick us in a bad way.’

One ‘bad’ trick our brain plays on us is the way feelings of stress and anxiety shape the way we perceive the world.

‘Our brain is always recreating reality,’ Albert notes. ‘But the way we recreate reality can be different depending on for example, our state of our body.

‘For example, when we’re stressed, our brain is goes into a pattern that we call hypervigilance and catastrophisation – our brain thinks there’s a danger, everything is equally as important, and we’re not able to weigh things up correctly.

Anxiety changes the way we see the world (Picture: Getty/Metro.co.uk)

‘For example, if I’m stressed because of a presentation I have to give at work, I might spend 10 minutes changing the size of the font of a word from 10 to 11 to 12. And then back to 11. I become extremely bogged down by details. This is the first thing that’s going to change in the way we’re going to recreate and interpret the world.

‘The second part is catastrophistion. Our brain is a predictive organ, constantly trying to predict what’s going to happen so that we can prepare ourselves.

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‘When we’re stressed, we’re going to predict that the future is going to be not so great. We imagine that we are going to fail, that the presentation is not going to go well, that my boss is not gonna be satisfied with my work, or that the date I’m going on, I’m going to be rejected, or that my friends are talking behind my back, etc.

‘All of these predictions are being shaped by stress.’

Starting to doubt those automatic thoughts and question their relevance to reality can be a game-changer. We start to realise that perhaps our anxious or depressed view of things isn’t true – that we can be hopeful, and positive, and that things might just work out.

Albert explains more tricks our brains play on us – and offers some advice for handling this – in this week’s episode, which you can listen to on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and Audioboom.

To chat about mental health in an open, non-judgmental space, join our Mentally Yours Facebook group.

Follow us on Twitter at @MentallyYrs.

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