Change Your Brain with Mindfulness

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1791143844_c9ef684ff8_zHave you ever felt so stressed out or frozen from fear that you that you couldn’t think or move or make any decision? This kind of flight or fight stress helps us when our very survival feels threatened. This can be because of too heavy a work load too much of the time, from being afraid day in and day out from a real or imagine threat. Sometimes something that happens now rubber bands us back to a scary experience of when we were younger (post-tramautic stress disorder) and it can feel like it is happening again.

Michelle Rosenthal writes in her blog about trauma and PTSD that “The fact is, the brain makes structural changes according to how you use your mind. Take your amygdala, for example. An almond shaped mass deep within your brain, the amygdala is the seat of your survival emotions and response. Studies have proven that the amygdala can actually enlarge in people with PTSD. It’s almost as if it’s a muscle; the more you work it the bigger it gets.

However, studies have also proven that the amygdala can shrink back to it’s original size when PTSD reduces. Want to know how to help that happen? In PTSD your amygdala gets sensitized to pain, fear, anxiety, panic, terror, etc. Starting today, however, you can start sensitizing it to something else, say, joy, delight, happiness, contentment, gratitude, etc.”

Rick Hanson’s work on mindfulness teaches strategies to help shrink the amygdala. Here at Green Mountain, we practice mindful eating to reconnect with the pleasure  food offers us as well as  reconnect with our hunger and satiety signals. A fun formula for practicing shrinking your amygdala that Michelle Rosenthal suggests is:

Positive experience + mindfulness = neuronal change

Experiment:

1. Choose a food you really, really love.

2. Eat it slower than you ever have before and really be aware of how it tastes in your mouth, how it smells, how it feels sliding down your throat, how it rests in your stomach and makes your whole body feel.

3. Focus on that good feeling for a solid 10-20 seconds. For best results: do this over and over and over again.

Mindfulness practice allows us to create new neurons. Delicious focused experiences actually change our brains.

What food would you choose to focus on for 10-20 seconds to connect with its yumminess?

Photo by Greencolander

3 Responses (Add Yours)

  • Harriet Krivit says:

    Anything I comment on is just my own lifelong overeating disorder experience. Re: Michelle Rosenthal’s suggestions..
    “Positive experience + mindfulness = neuronal change” All great but still assumes that my conscious mind is staying in charge of thoughts. Not when my subconscious is driven and overrides it.

  • [...] psychologist and behavioral leader at Green Mountain at Fox Run, shared some thoughts on how we can change our brain with mindfulness.  The overall thrust of the post was that how we repeatedly react to emotional situations causes [...]

  • Deb says:

    Chocolate!

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