UNLOCK THE POWER OF EXTREME FOCUS | Wake up your Reticular Activating System

Do you want to unlock the power of extreme focus and be able to use your mental energy to do whatever you want? Well, let’s start by waking up the reticular activating system of your brain.

Have you ever decided to buy a car, or if you’ve bought a car and you’ve picked a certain color and now you see that everywhere? When I decided that I wanted a jeep, I began to see jeeps everywhere. When I bought a jeep, I realized that the roads are inundated with Jeep’s. My Reticular Activating System has brought to my attention, to my consciousness, that all these Jeeps were around all along, but now, I am noticing them. The Reticular Activating System (RAS) is a bundle of neurons located inside of the Reticular Formation, which is in the brainstem. This is the most primitive part of our brain. The Reticular Formation is responsible for cardiovascular function, pain perception, sleep cycle, consciousness, and habituation, which is directly linked to the Reticular Activating System.

The Reticular Activating System is responsible for our wakefulness, our ability to focus, our fight-flight response, and how you ultimately perceive the world. It can control what we perceive in our consciousness, essentially a gatekeeper of information. When we are at a restaurant and we’re speaking to our friend or significant other, we can tune out all of the extra noise that’s happening, and be able to focus in on the conversation that we’re having. That is a perfect example of the RAS at work because otherwise our system would be overwhelmed and just inundated with constant sensory information. The RAS acts as this gatekeeper so that we can focus our attention on specific things, and remember… these specific things can help us meet the goals that we’ve set for ourselves.

How can you wake up your RAS so that you can have extreme focus, better sleep/wake cycles, and be able to have a deeper consciousness and intention throughout your life? Read on.

1) Evaluating the head and neck position. If you have had a concussion, some kind of traumatic brain injury, a sports injury, whiplash from a car accident, or just chronic overuse and repetitive stress injuries; you could have some type of misalignment in the cervical spine. This can cause compression on the brainstem and affect cranial nerve innervation.  As the head comes forward into this extended posture it can create compression, and therefore decrease blood flow around the brainstem for the cranial nerves and the reticular activating system to function at its optimal capacity. So, reach out to your physical therapist or movement expert to help you with this.

2) Vestibular/Visual Exercises: The RAS is connected to our vestibular system, so think of our inner ear, and the connection with our visual system. A great exercise to do is to hold your finger out in front of you, keeping your eyes focused on your fingertip, and then turning your head back and forth. As you’re continuing to gaze right at your fingertip, you can start to move your head side to side, then you can go up and down, and you can even go on a diagonal.

3) Meditation: Meditation is a fantastic way to be able to use your senses to hone in on your present experience and filter out whatever is unnecessary. Of course, just like anything meditation is a practice that needs to be cultivated over time, but probably one of the best ways to begin to tap into the power of the RAS. This can help bring you clarity and focus to allow you to reach your goals.

4) Turning your brain on the exact messages that you want:  If you want a silver Jeep, start thinking about the silver Jeep. It’s that simple. If you want to be confident in a dress that you want to wear, then start thinking about it. If you keep thinking that you can’t do that, you keep getting distracted from my goals, you keep thinking about all the things that you haven’t done or you can’t do, then unfortunately you will not be directing your attention, focus, or drive and activating this RAS to achieve what you want. So start thinking about what you want in your life, and use that as a way to really drive your conscious behavior and therefore your subconscious behaviors.

I hope this helps you become more successful and achieving what you want in your life and your health.

If you need help on your journey to better health, contact drarianne@themovementparadigm.com to schedule.

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MINDFUL EATING 101 | Having a healthy relationship with food

Did you ever wonder how mindful eating can help you have a healthier relationship with food? The first step in having a healthier relationship with food is really to begin to change your perspective about food. Food is amazing. It is a connection, it is a way to bring people, families, and cultures together. If we think of it from the perspective of medicine; food is medicine. It can be healing in so many ways. Not only can help with mot chronic and autoimmune diseases, but it can also be preventative for the majority of lifestyle-related diseases. Food is also information. This is so important! Food is constantly giving us information, it’s just whether or not we decide we want to listen to it or not. It gives us information about how it affects our energy levels, it may or may not contribute to digestive issues, or even aches and pains in our body.  Once again, we just have to listen to it and explore it. Food is a powerful. When we think of it as this powerful gift that we have in our lives that not only allows us to  survive in this world but to thrive; it seems that we can be more present in our eating and improve our relationship with food.

When you sit down to eat your meal, be aware of what’s happening in your body. Are you actually hungry, or are you full, bored, stressed, or even sad? Take inventory of what’s happening and a pause to tune in to see why you’re eating. Then, aim to eliminate all distractions. Try to clear your environment and make sure there’s no TV or phone. Try to limit all distractions so that you can be present with your meal, be in tune with the process of eating. Next, you want to think of non-judgment, one of the pillars of mindfulness. We tend as humans to judge ourselves and other people especially as it relates to food. We can tend to have a lot of rules and rigidity about what’s good and what’s not good. So, taking that moment to pause and allow yourself to be present, to be still, and to think about the food that you are putting in your mouth. Free yourself of all the rules and allow yourself to experience the process of eating.

Now, try to use your senses to experience the process of eating. What do you see, hear, feel, smell, and taste? Let’s say that you are going to have an apple. You can start by observing the apple. What shape is it? What color is it? What texture is it? You can even smell it. Smell it before and maybe after you take a bite of it. After you take a bite of it, chew the food thoroughly, 20 to 30 times.  The digestive enzymes in the saliva allow for the start of a healthy digestive process.  Actually taste the food in your mouth and assess all  the flavors.  Then as it goes down the esophagus into the stomach, try to sense what’s happening. How does that feel as it moves through your body, what does it feel like after you chew the food entirely? Assess your experience. It can be such a beautiful experience because it can shift your perspective on how you look at food. If we did this all the time, none of us would eat too much. We also wouldn’t eat foods that don’t make us feel good because we’re really in tune and completely present in the moment with our eating.

Try to introduce mindful eating into your life. It’s a way to begin practicing mindfulness. It is a way to begin to have a healthier relationship with food. It is a way to eat what your body is signaling you need to eat, as opposed to just eating because you’re stressed or bored and using emotional triggers as a driver. There are so many benefits to this. I encourage you to explore it and see how it is for you and how you can introduce more of it into your life.

If you need help on your journey to better health, contact drarianne@themovementparadigm.com to schedule.

For more content, make sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel here.

HOW TO ACHIEVE YOUR GOALS; Hacking your subconscious

Have you struggled with setting goals for yourself? Or maybe you have struggled with achieving your goals? Our conscious mind is one percent of our mind where our subconscious mind is 99 percent of our mind. To achieve whatever goals you set out  to do,  then you have to make sure that those two are aligned. The conscious goal could be, for example, “I am going to work out three days a week,” but the subconscious mind takes into account all of your past experiences with trying to work out either successfully or unsuccessfully, all of your thoughts, emotions, and day to day activities. We have to make sure that if your goal is to work out three days a week, that you are doing everything in your power to set yourself up for success so that you can achieve that goal. For example, if you do not necessarily block the time out, you don’t have enough time in your schedule, you don’t know where you’re going to work out, you don’t know what you’re going to work out with, or you don’t know what you’re going to do for your workout; then, the goal of working out three times a week will be highly unsuccessful. A good example of this is New Year’s resolutions. Many people set forth all of these New Year’s resolutions, and the majority are not successful because they are not aligning that subconscious mind with the conscious mind.

The second thing to consider when goal setting is using the different language of how you make your goals. “I would like to work out three times a week or more by January first or sooner is a good way to write your goal. That allows you to change the power of the subconscious mind. By changing how you set your goals and then also how you set yourself up for success to achieve your goals is a sure way to success.

I am 100 percent confident that you can achieve anything that you put your mind to, but make sure that you go through the process of setting a realistic goal, setting yourself up for success to achieve a goal, and then also using the right language and not limiting yourself by barriers or numbers. Instead, create an openness to do really amazing things.

If you need help on your journey to better health, contact drarianne@themovementparadigm.com to schedule.

For more content, make sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel here.

Are you in tune with your body? | INTEROCEPTION

Did you ever wonder why some people are so much more in tune with their emotions and their bodies than others? Did you ever wonder how in-tune you are with yourself? Interoception, otherwise known as your internal awareness is also referred to as the eighth sense, one that we’re a little less familiar with. It also tells us about our autonomic function, such as respiration, digestion, our heartbeat, and even our emotions. We have visceral receptors that are constantly giving us information about our internal senses, but often times we don’t listen to them. At the most basic level, interoception allows us to ask the question, how do I feel? Am I hungry? Am I safe? Am I full? Am I sad? Do I have to go to the bathroom? Being in tune with what is happening inside your body is an amazing skill to have and has been shown to improve emotional regulation.

Interoception helps us to be able to manage our bodies, listen to the signals,  and take action. Having this greater sense of internal awareness helps us to be able to manage our emotions as well. We often tend to stuff our emotions and push them away as if they don’t exist. When we can be in touch with our own body, emotions, feelings, and be able to learn how to express them; we can have a better quality of life. This also decreases our risk of chronic disease and illness that is associated with not being in tune with all of those things.

So you may be wondering, how can I test my interoception? A simple heart rate test:  You can do this by sitting in a chair with your arms down to your side.  Close your eyes or keep them open and without actually putting your hands on your body try to take your pulse. You want to attempt to sense your pulse, your heartbeat, for one minute. After you record your number, then you will actually take your pulse. To do this you will use your pointer finger and middle finger and put them on your wrist on the thumb side to feel your radial pulse. You can also use those two fingers and put them right behind your jawline to feel your carotid pulse. You want to use very gentle pressure, and you should not need to dig in. Take your pulse for one minute and record your findings. You’ll wait two minutes, and then you repeat the test. Then, average the results of both the actual pulse and the sensed pulse.

Now to complete the following calculation:

1-((Average heart rate- estimated heart rate)/ average heart rate) = _______

For your results: a result of .80 or higher indicates that you are very interoceptly aware. A score of .60 to .79 indicates you’re moderately self-aware. Lastly, a result of less than .59 indicates that you have poor interoception.

Although this is not the only way to measure your self-awareness, it is a good starting point. If you find that you have poor self-awareness that is okay, there are lots of ways that you can begin to improve your internal awareness. Mindfulness is one of the best ways to become more in tune and aware of your emotions, thoughts, physical sensations, surroundings, and become present in your own life. Many times we are anxious about the future or we may be depressed about the past, when in fact being present is actually a really wonderful place to be. Hopefully, you will appreciate how important it is to develop and integrate these interoceptive skills in your life so that you can be fully present and enjoy everything life has to offer.

If you need help on your journey to better health, contact drarianne@themovementparadigm.com to schedule.

For more content, make sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel here.

How to Map Your Own Nervous Sytem: The Polyvagal Theory

With anxiety, depression and stress on the climb, have you ever wondered how you can understand your reactions to life’s challenges and stressors? Or maybe you wondered how you can become more resilient? Did you know that you can map your own nervous system? This is such a powerful tool that can help you shift the state of your nervous system to help you feel more mindful, grounded, and joyful during the day, and more importantly during your life. Before we discuss how to map your nervous system, let’s break down the autonomic nervous system a bit more.

The terms “fight or flight” and “rest and digest” are typically what we refer to when discussing this autonomic nervous system. However, there are different aspects of the nervous system referred to as the polyvagal theory, developed by Dr. Stephen Porges. The vagus nerve, referred to as the wandering nerve in Latin, is one of the longest nerves and is a cranial nerve that originates in the brainstem and innervates the muscles of the throat, circulation, respiration, digestion and elimination. The vagus nerve is the major constituent of the parasympathetic nervous system and 80 percent of it’s nerve fibers are sensory, which means the feedback is critical for the body’s homeostasis. .Pretty amazing, wouldn’t you say?

When we are in this stressed state or potentially anxious state, then we cannot be curious, or be empathetic at the same time. In addition to not being able to be empathetic or curious, we are also not able to break the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for executive function,  communicating, guiding, and coordinating the functions of the different parts of the brain, back online. This essentially means that we are not able to regulate our attention and focus. Sound familiar?

Three nervous system states

  1. First, our “fight and flight” response is our survival strategy, a response from the sympathetic nervous system. If you were going to run from tiger, for example, you want this response to save your life. When we have a fight response, we can have anger, rage, irritation, and frustration. If we are having a flight response, we can have anxiety, worry, fear, and panic. Physiologically, our blood pressure, heart rate, and adrenaline increase and it decreases digestion, pain threshold, and immune responses.
  2. Second, we have a “freeze” state, our dorsal vagal state, which is our most primitive pattern, and this is also referred to as our emergency state. This means that we are completely shut down, we can feel hopeless and feel like there’s no way out. We tend to feel depressed, conserve energy, dissociate, feel overwhelmed, and feel like we can’t move forward. Physiologically, our fuel storage and insulin activity increases and our pain thresholds increase.
  3. Lastly, our “rest and digest” is a response of the parasympathetic system, also known as a ventral vagal state. It is our state of safety and homeostasis. If we are in our ventral vagal state, we are grounded, mindful, joyful, curious, empathetic, and compassionate. This is the state of social engagement, where we are connected to ourselves and the world. Physiologically, digestion, resistance to infection, circulation, immune responses, and our ability to connect is improved.

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Adapted by Dr Stephen Porges

As humans, we have and will continue to experience all of these states. We may be in a joyful, mindful state and then all of a sudden due to a trigger, be in a really frustrated, possibly angry state, worried about what may happen to then feeling completely shut down. This is human experience. We are going to naturally shift through the states. However, when we stay in this fight or flight or this shut down/freeze state, that is when we begin to have significant physiological effects and also mental/emotional effects. As I mentioned earlier, this could be an emergency state. This can also be a suicidal state, if we are in this shut down mode for too long. If we are in a fight or flight state, we can have constant activation of our stress pathway, also known as the HPA axis, and we can really impact our stress hormones, sex hormones, our thyroid, etc. This stress will have significant inflammation effects on the body as well. All of these states can have considerable effect on our overall health, positive or negative, of course. Also, you can not get well if you are not in your “safe” state. No treatment intervention or professional will help you if you are not safe. This is why it’s really important to identify the states for each of you.

How can you map your nervous system?

  1. Identify each state for you.

The first step is to think of one word that defines each one of these states for you. For example, if you are in your ventral vagal state, this is also called the rest and digest state, you could say that you feel happy, content, joyful. etc.

When you are in your fight or flight state you could use the words worried, stressed, overwhelmed, etc.

In the freeze state you could use the words shut down, numb, hopeless, etc.

The first step is identifying the word that you correlate with each of those three states. This is really important because then you’re able to recognize which state you are in and identify with it quickly. This will allow you to really tune into your body and understand how you feel in that state, so you can help yourself get out of it.

2. Identify your triggers and glimmers.

You’ll want to identify triggers for your fight/flight state as well as your freeze state. These could be things like a fight with your boss, an argument with your spouse, a death of a loved one, if someone cuts you off while driving, etc. It is whatever things that cause you to feel stressed. You want to eventually have at least one trigger, if not many, written down for each of those states.

Glimmers are the things that bring you to that optimal nervous system state. It could be something as simple as petting a dog or something bigger like going on a vacation.

Click here for Deb Dana’s Worksheet to Map Your Nervous System

Summary

Once you can identify what those states are for you, then you can recognize what your triggers and glimmers are for that state. You can really begin to make a profound difference in your nervous system state. You can take ownership of what’s happening to your body, you can tune in to what’s happening, and know how to regulate your emotions and your responses to stress. Ultimately, this is how we can begin to develop resilience. This means being able to have respond appropriately to life’s challenges, go to that fight or flight state for a short period, and then return back to your state of social engagement. That should happen a few times a year not multiple times a day, or every day for that matter. To truly enjoy life, returning to your state of safety where you are mindful, grounded, and joyful, is a practice. It can start with mapping your own nervous system.  

If you need help on your journey, please reach out!

For more content, make sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel here.

Beat anxiety with curiosity

We all know that anxiety and chronic stress is on the rise, especially with young adults, older adults, and even in children. This is why it is really important to understand this powerful concept that can be possibly life changing for someone. When we are in a stressed state, our limbic system, our emotional center of our brain is going to detect a threat, specifically the amygdala in the brain. When this happens, we activate  the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis (HPA axis). When this axis, i.e. stress pathway is activated, it induces the pituitary gland (located in the brain) and the adrenal gland (located above the kidney). This signals a cascade of stress hormones. A little of this here and there is normal, however it is commonly overactivated in may people.

When we are in this stressed state or potentially anxious state, then we cannot be curious, or be empathetic at the same time. In addition to not being able to be empathetic or curious, we are also not able to break the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for executive function,  communicating, guiding, and coordinating the functions of the different parts of the brain, back online. This essentially means that we are not able to regulate our attention and focus. Sound familiar?

How can you beat anxiety with curiosity?

So, how can we use curiosity to help decrease anxiety? When we are curious that means we are also able to be empathetic, turn the prefrontal cortex back online, and able to regulate our attention. We can accomplish this in a few different ways:

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1) Be curious about your anxiety

Ask yourself what sensations you feel in your body? Tension, warmth, coolness? Explore what you are feeling. You can totally flip the script by exploring how it feels in your body.

2) Seek out new knowledge

Become curious about something new. It can be finding a completely new skill, hobby, information,  that can make you curious about learning.

3) Mindfulness

This is one of the best ways to regulate attention, be aware, attentive, and present. Check out Three Informal Mindfulness Practices . Also, if you are already meditating, check out Three Tips to Improve your Meditation Practice. It’s a practice that needs to be cultivated, but that practice of being aware and being attentive can assist you in exploring your own body and your own needs. Practicing this on a regular basis can be profound in once again regulating attention, which means that you’re being curious, and you cannot be anxious.

4) Improve interoception, otherwise known as self-awareness

Remember Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs? The bottom of the pyramid is our basic physiological needs. For example, are you hungry or are you full? Do you need to go to the bathroom or did you hold it for too long?  Do you need to rest today or can you push it a little harder in your workout? Tune in to what’s happening from an internal standpoint, not necessarily just external. We want to think about what are we feeling on the inside.

Summary

Bonus! Curiosity can significantly enhance learning and retention of information over time!

Seeking out new knowledge, cultivating mindfulness, and tuning into to what is going on in your own body can have profound impact on decreasing anxiety and also preventing anxiety, and potential undue stress.

If you need help on your journey, please reach out!

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