The power of your mindHeidi Hadley
Neuroscience and psychology have long talked about the power of the mind and how our internal dialogue plays a huge role in our emotional, physical and mental health and well being. In line with this week’s Total Somatics: ‘Mindful in May’ Facebook video series (posted on Monday 15th May), we will look at the science behind our thoughts and emotions. We will see how the expression from the late Wayne Dyer, “It all begins with how we choose to think” is so true. What we think about becomes a reality for us, on both a physiological and emotional level.
This week I discussed three ways we can be mindful with our speech. The third point I highlighted was how we talk to ourself. We can be our own worst enemy with the self criticism and lack of kindness to ourself. We know that if we live in this cycle of negativity, our brain will think this is normal and the structure and actions of the neural connections will form and operate this way. This creates a negative impact to the SOMA (whole person- mind and body). But how? Let’s consider some neurophysiology to support these claims.
Our brain has been designed to protect us from danger, so we naturally respond and perceive negative events and stimuli more rapidly and easily than happy ones. Upsetting and painful experiences will overpower happy, pleasurable events. In actual fact, an unpleasant experience creates a greater intensity of brain power than a pleasant one.
Within the centre of your brain you possess three crucial components to cause this intensity and response. These three components are the amygdala, hippocampus and the hypothalamus. The amygdala doesn’t respond to positive events, but rather it is activated by negative ones. Let’s use an example to highlight how the amygdala and the other two operate in a stressful situation.
Let’s consider when a cruel person deeply hurts you with their personal comments about your appearance, personality or something else which cuts very deeply into your self worth. The bully was unpleasant and intimidating with his or her vicious words and actions. So what happened physiologically at the time?
Your fight or flight response kicked in. This involved the alarm bell signal from the amygdala to send a response to the hypothalamus, which then stimulated the sympathetic nervous system; originating from the brainstem.
Your hypothalamus sent an urgent call out for the release of adrenaline, cortisol, norepinephrine and other stress hormones. At this point your heart was pounding, your thoughts were racing and emotionally you were starting to feel upset, anxious, rattled or frustrated. Your hippocampus then got involved by creating an initial neural trace of the events. The hippocampus dealt with the sequential formation or noting what happened, who said what and how you felt. The purpose for this was to create a photocopy of the event to act as a memory, so you can learn from it.
But what often happens is that we allow the amygdala to be very dominant in our thought patterns. We allow it to be over active during our daily lives as we live high pressured lifestyles, trying to fit everything into our day. We live in a stressful, impulsive, highly strung, prone to over react head space. We leave little time to allow our mind and body to truly relax, we push the pain and sadness down by keeping busy. But by doing this we are delaying the inevitable. At some point we will crash and burn. This will affect our physical and emotional health. At some point it may make us reassess our daily habits and thought processes. We may have to face the fact that we are living in a figurative hamster’s wheel, wearing ourselves out but getting nothing achieved personally. We then come to the realisation that our self worth has to be addressed to break this cycle of ‘pushing the pain away’ by keeping busy. We identify that our self worth has to be addressed due to constantly re living the comments and actions the bully made towards. Otherwise similar triggers in life will continue to affect our emotional, mental and physical health. When we identify this, it is a turning point in our somatic awareness; we start to become mindful.
When we live mindlessly, we allow the amygdala to be constantly activated and ensure this event is prioritised by the hippocampus to keep in the storage bank. It creates a whole new neural circuit, allowing the amygdala to provide a dominant role in our actions and behaviour, we will live in a cycle of fear and anxiety, re living negative experiences and ‘beating ourselves up’ internally with negative thoughts, words, behaviours and actions.
We know from my previous blogs, videos and the Total Somatics online programs that Thomas Hanna the creator of the modality Somatics, states that the mind and body cannot be separated. The one influences the other. Thomas Hanna said that when we repeat the same thought of disappointment over and over again, we are repeatedly stamping its motor power into the tissues of our body until they sag in forlornness. When we repeatedly think thoughts or memories of hurt, despair, anger or fear, we are physically injuring ourselves; we are engaging in self destruction.
In Thomas Hanna’s book “The body of Life” he goes on to say,
“A somatic awareness of ourselves allows us to understand, to a large degree what is happening to us. Why our thoughts, culture and our individual ways of living affect us in the thoroughly physiological and emotional ways that they do…..We may be able to do nothing about our culture and perhaps little about our job, but we can do much about ourselves and the way we process our experience.”
So as we can see, when we start exploring Mindfulness with Total Somatics, we have many new layers to uncover about our health and wellbeing. The more we become somatically aware and mindful, the more we can become a healthier version of ourself.
To learn more about Mindfulness with Total Somatics, visit www.TotalSomatics.com. The online program consists of tutorials and instructional videos to help you learn how to practice somatic movements. There are sections devoted to mindset and how we can change our thoughts and internal dialogue to help improve our somatic practice on a daily basis and break the old habits or behaviours which ‘flick the switch and winds up the actions of the amygdala.’
Take care and I look forward to teaching you these amazing life skills with the online Total Somatics program which can be practised in the comfort of your own home.