Shifting Mindset Shifts Our Mood
Photo credit: olegkrugllyak /DepositPhotos.com
by Briana Bragg
Eva Selhub, M.D., says, “How we think affects how we feel, and how we feel affects how we think. In mind-body medicine, the mind and body are not seen as separately functioning entities, but as one functioning unit. The mind and emotions are viewed as influencing the body, as the body, in turn, influences the mind and emotions.”
During challenging and difficult times, it is common for the brain to operate in survival-based thinking, allowing fear to shut down the logical mind. When the amygdala, the part of the brain that interprets and processes emotions and other reactions to stimuli, perceives a threat, it immediately responds by alerting the hippocampus, which then releases the hormones cortisol and adrenaline. They stimulate the body to react when fight, flight or freeze has been activated from the interpretation that outside stimuli is a threat.
During times of stress, worry and extreme change such as the COVID-19 crisis, the brain immediately signals a threat and the body responds by enacting the threat response. When the body is in survival mode, it automatically starts responding by protecting against the threat, thus creating negative thought loops in the mind. Overthinking and overextending negative thought loops taxes our minds and sends our bodies into cortisol shock.
Constriction is the physical manifestation of fear, but the paradox is that fear creates an effective biofeedback loop that ensures our survival. There are many types of fear, but the deepest is the fear of death. Good emotional health maintains awareness of thoughts, feelings and behaviors, learning to cope with stress and problems in a healthy way for the mind and body. When the brain is in survival mode, it is not thinking clearly. It is during this time that the mind both consciously and subconsciously creates negative scenarios that feed the body’s fight, flight or freeze response system.
Becoming aware of those negative thought patterns is the first step to managing them, which ultimately impacts the body’s response, allowing it to calm and relax. Mindfulness practices bring awareness to how we are feeling and the thoughts that are flooding the mind’s or body’s reactions to specific situations. We are capable of shifting from negative patterns into new, more positive ones.
Meditation is a mental exercise that trains the brain to think, process and react differently. Once a person is aware of how their thoughts and emotions are affecting them, meditative techniques can be practiced to both manage thought patterns and create new emotions within the body.
Research shows that meditation balances the brain. Through MRI imaging, science is able to see that the practice of meditation shrinks the hippocampus, while also harmonizing the left and right hemispheres on the brain, thus enhancing mental health, mental clarity, focus and memory.
Three Meditation Techniques to Shift Mindset and Mood Conscious Breathing - Inhaling and exhaling through the nose speaks directly to the body’s central nervous system, calming the fight, fight or freeze response system. Inhaling for a count of four and exhaling for a count of four tells the brain, mind and body to relax, thus reducing the production of cortisol and adrenaline enacting a calming effect and reducing mind chatter.
Observing Thoughts - A meditation technique that teaches us to become the witness to our thoughts, distancing from the emotional attachments and judgements that many of us have to thought patterns which allows them to manage and influence our behaviors rather than us managing them. This technique retrains the body to not become emotionally charged by thoughts, rather simply observing the thoughts inside our mind, thus reducing mind chatter and calming emotions.
Affirmations - Using affirmations or mantras is a meditation technique that shifts mindset by repetitively repeating a phrase to redirect the mind’s thought patterns. Shifting thought patterns by saying an affirmation repeatedly stops a negative thought pattern and replaces it with something positive. Each time a negative thought pattern is stopped, a new neural pathway is formed in the brain, thus creating a new pattern.
We possess power over our thoughts, we do not have to fall victim to them. By practicing mindfulness and meditation daily, we have the power to shift our mindset, thus shifting our emotions and mood into a happier, healthier state of existence. It is during challenging and difficult times that we need the practice of mindfulness and meditation even more to create calm in the mind/body connection.
Briana Bragg is a speaker, author and coach specializing in meditation and mindfulness. She is the founder of Vacation of the Mind, a guided meditation company. For more information, email [email protected] or visit VacationOfTheMind.com.