Does your brain produce a lot of negative internal chatter? If so, it may be because the part of our brain that is the center for emotions, the amygdala, uses about two-thirds of its neurons to detect negative experiences or threats. This can result in our focusing more on the negative, even if we are experiencing as many – or more – positive things. This tendency is part of the human condition. While it still has usefulness in modern life, for many of us this system is over-active.
Our inner critic is looking for problems. However, we don’t need to listen to it. Being nicer to ourselves is a good strategy to improve our well-being and reduce stress. We can learn how to do this even if it is not our natural tendency.
Dr. Kristin Neff, a researcher who specializes in self-compassion, says it has three parts:
- Self-kindness: “Self-compassionate people recognize that being imperfect, failing, and experiencing life difficulties is inevitable, so they tend to be gentle with themselves when confronted with painful experiences rather than getting angry when life falls short of set ideals.”
- Recognizing our experiences are part of the shared human experience
- Being mindful or non-judgemental
Learn more tips, watch videos and find additional resources at Dr. Neff’s Self Compassion website.
Negativity also has an impact on the people around us. For tips on how to counter this in the workplace, see this blog post from Psychology Today: Are We Hardwired to be Positive or Negative?
Wanting to achieve a goal can be useful to get us motivated. However, “keeping your eye on the prize” does not give any clues about how to get to that goal. Whether it’s completing all 10 sessions of structural integration, walking 10,000 steps per day, or accomplishing results on a project, the path to success is often a more gradual process rather than one eureka moment.
Making a plan is an effective way to get to the eventual goal. Identifying steps needed to get to the goal and some milestones along the way is a good start. Thinking ahead about how to get around roadblocks that might come up and establishing routines for your project can be really helpful.
Obviously, things will occasionally come up that put us off track. No need to give up, just return to the process. Some advice I received is to follow the plan 80% of the time and ask for support or assistance when needed. I try to keep that in mind, be patient, and enjoy the moments on my way to the eventual goal.
A client asked recently about people unexpectedly experiencing strong emotions while receiving bodywork.
Why would strong emotions occur during a session of bodywork? One explanation is because of how your skin and brain are connected. When an embryo develops, it has three layers. The skin, brain and nerves all develop from the same layer – the ectoderm. These systems remain interconnected throughout life. Manual therapy such as SI affects your neuromuscular system. Nerves in your skin, muscles and connective tissue carry information to your brain. The limbic system in your brain contains the structures that regulate your emotions and form memories. It’s a back-and-forth conversation in the body.
In addition to manual therapy such as SI, exercise like running, yoga or lifting weights can also trigger such emotional releases. Ideas on why emotional releases occur during exercise include how brain chemicals like brain-derived neurotrophic factor are affected by a workout, or how amino acids called peptides flow through your body.
To learn more:
The Endless Web: Fascial Anatomy and Physical Reality by R. Louis Schultz and Rosemary Feitis
Experience Life article: Laugh, Cry Lift
Kale and other leafy greens have been popular for a while because they are nutritional powerhouses. They are tasty, high in fiber and contain many beneficial vitamins and minerals (for details, see WebMD Top 10 Leafy Green Vegetables). They are also low in calories. One way I get my daily greens is in a green smoothie, as I wrote about previously.
A recent study from the University of Illinois provides even more incentive to keep leafy greens – along with other green vegetables – on your menu routinely.
Farm share photo by my share partner.
A study of older adults links consumption of a pigment found in leafy greens to the preservation of “crystallized intelligence,” the ability to use the skills and knowledge one has acquired over a lifetime.
Have you ever hit your head or been in a car crash? Bodywork can help you feel better. I recently completed a workshop on improving the symptoms of concussion and whiplash with craniosacral therapy. This gentle technique offers powerful relief! Once cleared by your doctor (generally, at least a month after a head injury), come in for a session.
After a head injury, it’s important to be evaluated for concussion and allow time for your brain to heal properly. Symptoms after a concussion range from obvious to subtle. A person with a concussion may black out or may only feel “off.” For some people, even a minor-seeming accident can result in longer-term issues like sensitivity to light and noise or brain fog.
To learn more about concussion and its treatment, visit the US Centers for Disease Control’s Heads Up program which contains good information about concussions for parents and coaches.
I was sifting through a stack of articles when I rediscovered one from Yoga Journal, called Begin Again by Mirka Scalco Kraftsow. It covers several strategies to help guide one to new beginnings.
One section of the article brings a yoga perspective to cognitive reframing. This is a tool that can help us change unhealthy behaviors or thoughts to a different, more positive path. The exercise is based on a practice mentioned in the Yoga Sutras called Pratipaksha Bhavana.
Sutra 2.33 is a translated here by Nischala Joy Devi:”When presented with disquieting thoughts or feelings, cultivate an opposite, elevated attitude. This is Pratipaksha Bhavana.”
Here is a summary of the four steps from the article:
“1. Take a deep breath. Name the problem … Only when you are aware of your unconscious patterns can you choose a different thought or course of action.
2. Remind yourself that it’s OK to make mistakes. … [Adopt] an attitude of loving-kindness toward yourself.
3. Express gratitude toward yourself for noticing the behavior and for being aware of its unpleasant effect … Be grateful that you want to make a positive change and that you are choosing to be more caring toward yourself and others.
4. Finally, let your desire to create better habits direct your vital force toward thoughts and actions that truly serve you—and choose your next steps consciously.”
In a recent article, Gretchen Reynolds of the New York Times summarized some important research. A new study confirms that children think better if they move more. The trend for many schools to reduce the time allowed for recess or cut PT is counterproductive. Play that includes running, chasing and jumping improved children’s ability to think.
This study evaluated 8- and 9-year old students. One group romped as guided by the researchers and a control group did only usual after-school activities. Children in the exercise group not only improved their fitness but also improved in tests of executive function. The executive function in the brain is what allows us to plan and achieve goals, focus on a task or curb undesirable behavior. The more exercise the children did, the more their cognitive tests improved.
I’ve written in other posts about the benefits of staying active. We need to start moving early and keep it up throughout our lives.
For more inspiration see this photo essay of children playing, from Bored Panda