Gaining Influence Over My Mood – Post 2 of 3

In the previous post, ‘Why am I so anxious and stressed? we considered the negative bias of our brain and how, when this natural tendency goes unchecked, it may be detrimental to our well-being in a post-predator modern life. In this post we will look at the process of taking some control of our seemingly, automatic negative response.

The first step towards achieving some influence over our built-in circuitry is to understand how our brain tends to be overly cautious and distrustful and therefore becomes easily ambushed by unease and trepidation.

The second step is to develop a more mindful awareness of when our brain develops a sense of being under threat; to notice patterns and tendencies of what seems to trigger our Amygdalin panic button.  It is also important to learn to be less hard on ourselves for having a reasonable response to a potentially difficult, unreasonable or confusing situation.  Some symbolic (verbal) threats are serious and need dedicated attention and possibly adrenaline fuelled action. Learning to tell the difference between when to calmly observe, and when to let rip, is a critical task.

There is an important relationship between our ability to remain calm and the area in our brain called the neocortex. The neocortex is newest part of our brain and is known as the ‘thinking brain’ where rational thought is processed. The capacity to remain calm despite noticing a stress response, will help us create the space to allow our neocortex to assess whether a pattern of anxiety is real or a false alarm, to be ignored for now.

As our understanding of our brain functioning and our ability to notice patterns of response increases, so our insight is improved. As a result of this, the third step becomes more possible. By being mindful of the brain’s automatic tendency to focus on negative information, it is possible to learn how to manually find and focus on positive aspects, long enough to establish and expand positive neural pathways. The more frequently these positive experiences are noticed, captured and integrated into the brain, the more likely it becomes for the thinking habits to shift towards a less obviously negative bias. This developing of a calmer brain, one with some sense of inner strength, makes us more able to identify actual threats. It then becomes possible to deal more effectively with such threats because the brain is less panicked and distracted by mundane or fictitious alarms.

In the next post we will look at what it means to learn how to manually find and focus on positive aspects long enough to establish and expand some positive neural pathways.

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