Did you know that your brain is constantly rewiring itself? According to an article featured on Mindful, “Google changes the brain. Playing computer games changes the brain. Conversing in a compassionate way changes the brain.”
While we might be becoming well versed in the research that has proven the ability for the adult brain to change, this article takes an even deeper look at what the brain is really capable of.
Author of the article, Sharon Begley writes “The promise of tapping neuroplasticity to relieve suffering is genuine. From physical therapy that changes part of the brain so it can do the job of another part of the brain that has been devastated by a stroke, to mindfulness-based therapy that quiets the circuit responsible for obsessive-compulsive disorder, techniques using the principle of neuroplasticity are already in use by physicians and therapists. But how far can neuroplasticity go? Perhaps as far as an emotional reset— harnessing neuroplasticity to change how you respond emotionally to the ups and downs of life.”
While researchers like Neurobiologist Richard Davidson have just begun delving into the notion of an entire “emotional reset” there are many indications that the brain actually is capable of such extraordinary feats. Dr. Davidson calls it “neurally inspired behavioral therapy”. This type of brain alteration works by understanding the brain activity which leads to an unfavorable emotional pattern and then eliminating this unwanted emotion through mental exercises.
One of the most important discoveries that has been revealed about the brain is that its “emotional circuits are actually connected to its thinking circuits… Davidson discovered that people who are resilient have strong connections between the left prefrontal cortex (PFC) and the amygdalae. The left PFC sends inhibitory signals to the amygdalae, basically telling them to quiet down. As a result, the negative feelings generated by the amygdalae peter out, and you’re not mired in unhappiness or resentment. In contrast, people with little emotional resilience (including those with depression, who may be shattered by every disappointment) have fewer or weaker signals between the PFC and the amygdalae, due to either low activity in the PFC or poor connections between it and the amygdalae.”
But just like any other muscle in our body that we want to become stronger, we can exercise the brain to create improvements in our lives.
According to TRACOM’s Dr. Casey Mulqueen, “Just like physical exercise, repetition is the key to building strength and resilience. If you want to develop your biceps, you curl weights over and over again. To strengthen your PFC, focus on one exercise, such as cognitive reappraisal, and do it every day. Over time you’ll notice a change in your thinking and in your ability to withstand life’s adversities. The key is to practice consistently, and this is mostly just a matter of remembering to do it.”
Neural behavioral therapy provides us with the exercises to change the wiring of our brain. It supplements the brain with exercises that strengthen the PFC so that the connections which combat unproductive emotions triggered in the amygdalae are stronger and longer-lasting. There are many different practices which strengthen these neural pathways which include cognitive reappraisal training; “in which you challenge the accuracy of catastrophizing thoughts”, and mindfulness meditation; which according to Dr. Davidson gives you “the wherewithal to pause, observe how easily the mind can exaggerate the severity of a setback, note that it as an interesting mental process, and resist getting drawn into the abyss.”
In TRACOM’s Resiliency program we supplement participants with the exercises needed to enhance the brain’s wiring. We include both cognitive reappraisal training and mindfulness practices giving our participants the tools needed for optimal success.
Learn more about TRACOM’s Adaptive Mindset Model here.
Click here to read the full Mindful article, “Rewiring Your Emotions“