what thoughts and feelings really are

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The brain is a remarkable organ.

The evolution of the human brain reveals itself in the layered structures that give rise to reflexive action, learning, memory, and eventually self awareness. These components help to explain our often conflicting responses to life events. Under stress we experience physiological changes and emotional reactions that can overpower cognitive reflection. Complicating things further, our brains have a negativity bias that predisposes us to give greater priority to threatening or frightening stimuli and downplay positive events. The good news is

that, thanks to its neuroplasticity, our brains can be “rewired” through new experiences, empowering us to intentionally influence our neural circuitry, free ourselves from the limitations of learned patterns of behaviour and improve our lives.

How does this knowledge help my clients who feel anxious or overwhelmed? Understanding how the brain and body are connected can normalize stressful events. It is fascinating to consider that what we experience through our five senses is actually an electrical translation that allows us to build an internal model of reality. This insight frees us from conditioning and opens the door to a choice, providing an opportunity to shift from ‘auto’ to a revised pathway. Observing experiences with an open mind helps us with brain rewiring. This is the benefit of mindfulness.

Mindfulness is paying attention, non-judgmentally, with curiosity and compassion. Where attention goes, neurons are firing and new connections are being made. The next step is to retrain the brain with positive emotions. Express gratitude, acknowledge joyful moments and honour the ‘home’ within us. This supports self efficacy and develops resilience. This does not eliminate stressful events in our lives but it goes a long way to help us cope effectively and turn down the volume on unproductive thinking.

If you are looking for interesting books to read on neuroscience and mindfulness, tap into the work of neuroscientist Richard Davidson and psychologist Rick Hanson.
Want to start decluttering your life by incorporating mindfulness now? Send me a message (links below) and we can discuss how coaching can support you in your journey.
Jo

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2 thoughts on “what thoughts and feelings really are

  1. I’ve never heard mindfulness described as “paying attention, non-judgmentally, with curiosity and compassion” – very interesting! It does remind me of what my yoga teacher said about thoughts arising during meditation. I just may catch on one of these days!

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    • Hi Janet!
      Well, Kabat-Zinn and others classically tell us about the awareness that comes from paying attention, non judgmentally. That awareness allows us to just ‘be’ with whatever is happening, be curious about the thoughts and feelings that arise at any given time (“Hmm, that’s interesting..”). Also, in that awareness, some people chastise themselves for the content or volume of these events. They are invited to express self-compassion and give themselves permission to let go.
      The cool thing about neuroplasticity is that we can go beyond this level of coping and retrain our brains to tap into positiveness more readily, changing old stories we have about ourselves that may contribute to stress and anxiety.
      For me, viewing life through the lens of minimalism is a very mindful practice, consciously curating my objects, habits, expectations… My brain is still busy interpreting my emotions, but the kaleidoscope patterns are presenting themselves in a more peaceful manner.

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