Dare To Say Yes

Daring to say yes is very powerful on many different levels: psychologically, mentally, emotionally, and – few people are aware of this fact – neurologically.

Robert Hill is a psychologist who specialises in neurobiology. Robert is a member of an international research group as well as an international trainer. He is engaged in the field of Interpersonal Neurobiology – IPBN. In one of his seminars on IPBN he highlights the power and the importance of saying yes.

According to Robert Hill, saying YES opens up an entire neurophysiological state of being that is very different from saying No:

Daring to say yes is like turning the light-switch on:  the current flows, paving the way for relaxation, good digestion, smooth functioning of the various body systems

*  Saying yes actives the beneficial part of the nervous system: the parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS)  – its main job is relaxation and digestion, in other words: the antidote to stress

*  Saying yes actives our social engagement system

Our social engagement system is biologically hardwired – that means it is a fundamental, quintessential part of being human. We are biologically and neurologically meant to relate to others. More on that in later posts.


By contrast, saying no:

*  Activates the sympathetic nervous system. Its main job is to set off our fight or flight response, which has also been called the     acute stress response.

*  This stress response entails a whole range of negative effects on the human body such as physiological responses:

–       acceleration of the heart beat

–       Inhibition of stomach action to the point where digestion stops

–       Constriction of the blood supply to the major organs

–       Loss of hearing or peripheral vision (tunnel vision) to name but a few


        Emotional and mental responses to acute stress such as

–       aggression

–       anger

–       withdrawal

–       substance abuse and

–       addictions

Robert Hill points out that saying no actually sounds rigid, it indicates stopping and opposing. It actually has physical effects in the body of the listener. Take note next time someone says a vehement NO. Observe your reaction – you might find that your shoulders are hunched or your stomach tightened. This means emotional healing and wellbeing cannot take place when you are stressed.

The Mind Science Institute 

In prehistoric times, the fight or flight response served as an important strategy for survival. Nowadays, a wide range of triggers set off the fight or flight response with dire consequences for our physical and internal wellbeing. The fight or flight response was not designed for the stresses of modern times.


It is clear then that learning to say yes is an important life skill and state of mind.  

So what am I asking you to say yes to? Your wellbeing. Thriving in life. Emotional freedom. I’m suggesting that you might dare to say yes to YOU. I believe that it is crucial in life to be authentic. Society teaches us that selfishness is bad. And what is considered as ‘selfish’ ranges from not sharing lollies to refusing to act out of obligation. There is a large grey area regarding what is selfish and what is not.

I am, however,  talking about SELF-CARE. Because that is what saying yes to you, to a life filled with contentment and joy, is all about. It is caring for your self. And from this place of caring for and about yourself you also open the gateway for others to do the same: to care for themselves. Self-care feels good and does not harm others in any way. Classical ‘selfishness’ does not feel good.

And here we are right back at our emotions: your emotions will definitely be able to tell you unwaveringly if you are caring for the self: because it feels good! It gives you juice. You are inspired. Time flies by.

By contrast, being selfish might make you feel guilty and angry with yourself. It doesn’t foster self-esteem. Or if you acted out of mere obligation you’ll end up feeling bad for abandoning your self.


We have a lot of no’s in our world. We need more ‘yes’ in our lives and in our world.

What might you dare to say yes to?

Katrin Den Elzen

Recovery, Renewal & Reflection

Making sense of change


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