headspace

REWIRING YOUR BRAIN

REWIRING YOUR BRAIN

Fundamentally I believe humans would rather not get angry, impatient or be in a negative headspace. Unfortunately in everyday life this can happen often throughout the day. With some determination and a great deal of self-awareness, we have the capacity to change. 

NEURAL PATHWAYS

When certain thoughts and behaviours are repeated neurons fire together creating a ‘neural pathway’. If you’re on the tube and it’s jam packed and you’re hot and people are pushing you, and your reaction is anger, that fires a series of neurons together. The first time you have a reaction to something you are laying down the foundation for that neural pathway. Each time you have the same reaction you are reinforcing the neural pathway and eventually it becomes very easy to have the same angry or negative response. In fact, the response is no longer a unique reaction to a unique stimulus, it is a habit. A well known phrase to describe this is ‘neurons that fire together wire together’. 

The below explanation explains it clearly for us:

“Just think of your brain as a dynamic, connected power grid, with billions of roads and pathways lighting up every time you think, feel or do something. Some of these roads are well travelled. These are your habits; your established ways of thinking, feeling and doing. Every time you think in a certain way, practice a particular task, or feel a specific emotion, you strengthen this road, and it becomes easier for your brain to travel this pathway.”

Scientific research has now proven that we’re able to change the way we think. Where as previously it was thought that the adult mind was fixed and hard to change. Now it has been proven that we can alter our mind patterns by rewiring our neural pathways that regulate our emotions, thoughts, and reactions. This means we can create new neural pathways that lead us to compassion, gratitude, and joy instead of anxiety, fear and anger. With a great deal of awareness, mindfulness and acknowledgement of the present we can begin to reprogram our brain. But this is no easy task!

This process of rewiring your brain by forming new connections and weakening old ones is called “neuroplasticity”. 

The brain is constantly adapting and rewiring itself. Our thoughts and behaviours influence this process. If we consciously change and adapt our thoughts and behaviours we can begin to rewire our brain to a more positive state. SO…..

How can we begin to change our neural pathways?

  1. INTENTION SETTING - think of a situation where your emotions are triggered and set an intention to change the way you react. Set positively phrased intentions (click here for more on intentions). 
  2. VISUALISE - visualise the situation that triggers a negative reaction and then visualise yourself reacting different in that situation. 
  3. PAUSE - when you feel your emotion bubbling. Stop. Pause. Connect To Breath. If we can find a moments pause before we react we can then consciously react to the situation, rather then habitually. 
  4. COMPASSION - once you’ve paused put yourself in their shoes. If it is a person imagine what kind of day they could of had. You never know what someone else has gone through. Dig deep and practice compassion and find kindness for the situation and see how that changes your perspective. 

HOW & WHY MEDITATION WORKS?

I started meditation about 4 years ago. I committed to the Headspace app intro, 10 minutes for 10 days, and I immediately felt the affects of slowing down the mind. I loved it! The first 10 days were a real eye opener but I know for some clients and friends it has been a tough hurdle to overcome.

Over the past 4 years I have tried to be disciplined and meditate everyday but haven't always succeeded. The last 2 years I have been particularly diligent and I more or less meditate daily and have slowly increased the time I meditate. Some days it flybys and other days it's a real slog. In London, in my flat, I am slightly guilty of ticking meditation off my list but when doing meditation in nature it's a whole new experience. Regardless of where you are, who you are, how happy you are, the benefits of meditation are tenfold. 

I wanted to share this article by Ashley Tuner on the How & Why Meditation Works. 


HOW & WHY MEDITATION WORKS by Ashley Turner 

Meditation is one of the most crucial aspects to cultivate more peace and happiness in life. It is literally the first thing I recommend to all my students and clients to build self- esteem and intuition, hear your truth, make wise, skillful choices, improve communication, increase creativity and productivity and let go.

We can be in one of two states - either the mind is running us or we are running our mind.

My mentor, Dr. Ron Alexander, speaks of MIND STRENGTH and the changes that can occur as we begin the process of training the mind. Mind strength is one of the most empowering tools we can employ to impact and improve all aspects of life.

Here's the breakdown of how meditation works.

There are five major categories of brain waves, each corresponding to different activities we do. Meditation enables us to move from higher frequency brain waves to lower frequency and calm the mind.

Slower wavelengths = more time between thoughts = more opportunity to skillfully choose which thoughts you invest in.

5 Categories of Brain Waves: Why Meditation Works

1. Gamma State - In the Gamma state, the brain waves are at frequencies ranging from approximately 30 – 100Hz. This is the state of hyperactivity in the brain and active learning. Gamma state is the most opportune time to retain information. This is why Tony Robbins and other educators have audiences jumping up and down or dancing around - to increase the likelihood of permanent assimilation of information and lasting change in one's "state".

If overstimulated, it can lead to anxiety.

2. Beta State - The Beta state, which is where we function for most of the day, is associated with the alert mind state of the prefrontal cortex. Brain wave frequencies in this state range from 13 – 30Hz and this is a state of the "working" or 'thinking mind': analytical, planning, assessing and categorising.

3. Alpha State - Brain waves in the Alpha state range from 9 – 13Hz. This is the state where brain waves start to slow down out of thinking mind. We become more calm, peaceful and anchored. We often find ourselves in an "alpha state" after a thorough yoga class, a walk in the woods, a pleasurable sexual encounter or during any activity that helps relax the body and mind. We are lucid, reflective, have a slightly diffused awareness and at peace. This is often accompanied by an inner and/or outer glow - sometimes felt as "spacey". The hemispheres of the brain are more balanced (neural integration).

4. Theta State - When brain waves range from 4 – 8Hz in the Theta state, we are able to begin meditation. This is the point where the verbal/thinking mind transitions to the meditative/visual mind. We begin to move from the planning mind to a deeper state of awareness (often felt as drowsy), with stronger intuition, more capacity for wholeness and complicated problem solving. The Theta state is associated with the 6th Chakra (3rd eye), so in this state we are able to practice visualisation.

5. Delta State - The final state is the Delta state, where brain waves range from 1 – 3 Hz. Tibetan monks that have been meditating for decades can reach this in an alert, wakened phase but most of us reach this final state during deep, dreamless sleep.

A Simple Meditation: How to Meditate

A simple meditation to use to begin the transition from Beta or Alpha to the Theta State is to focus on the breath. The breath and mind work in tandem, so as breath begins to lengthen, brain waves begin to calm and slow down.

1. To begin the meditation, sit comfortably in your chair with your shoulders relaxed and spine tall. Place your hands mindfully on your lap, close your eyes and as much as possible eliminate any stimulus that may distract you.

2. Watch your breath. Simply notice your breath flowing in. Flowing out. Don't try to change it in any way. Just notice.

3. Silently repeat the mantra: "Breathing In. Breathing Out." As your mind begins to wander, draw it back to your breath. Notice that as your breath begins to lengthen and fill your body, your mind begins to calm.

4. Consistency is Key. Try to do this breath meditation for 10 – 15 minutes first thing in the morning and/or at night. Be consistent with your meditation practice, particularly if it is difficult to sit still as you begin. Shorter meditation sessions on a regular basis are more productive than long sessions every few weeks.

Meditation is the #1 Tool I recommend to ALL my clients + students!