HOW TO HACK YOUR BRAIN FOR NEW YEARS RESOLUTION SUCCESS

Are you a person that sets a New Year’s resolution every year, but doesn’t quite follow through with it? Maybe you know a lot of friends and family members that set goals, but by the end of the year, you ask them if they’ve done them and they haven’t. Whether you’ve been successful in the past or not, this is a new year, and you absolutely can hack your brain through cognitive-behavioral processes to achieve success in your New Year’s resolutions. You can do this in three easy ways. 

Setting SMART Goals.

SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Action-Oriented, Realistic, and Time-Oriented.

Specific: You want to be specific about your goal and map out how you’re going to be able to do that. For example, I want to learn steel mace this year. I know the basics, but this year I’m going to dedicate some time towards getting better and more proficient at steel mace. At the end of the year, I want to certify in that, so I have a very specific goal. 

Measurable: How can you measure your goals? So my measure is going to be when I complete the certification. If that doesn’t happen this year that’s okay, but I’m going to work towards that, so that is my precise measurement. 

Action-Oriented: Next is action-oriented, how exactly are you going to achieve that goal? So, I’m working with a coach and I’m going to practice two to three days a week on steel mace. I’ve signed up for the certification so that each month I’ll be working towards a specific goal. Essentially, how are you going to map out achieving that goal? If you don’t do that, you are not setting yourself up for success. For example, if you want to lose weight, but you don’t like to grocery shop, then that is not going to work out so well. You have to figure out how you can meal prep or maybe you need to hire a professional to help guide you because you’ve been doing the same thing over and over again. 

Realistic: Is it realistic, is this possible, or is it too farfetched? For example, saying I’m going to lose 40 pounds in a month or I’m going to go to the gym five to seven days a week are not realistic goals. You need to give yourself time to adapt and work into a new habit as opposed to just going all in and then crashing come February. 

Time: Lastly is the building in the time. So what are you measuring and then what is your timeline to achive it? For example, by June or sooner I am going to begin to work out three days a week or by February or sooner I am going to eat six servings of vegetables a day.

Take your time and go through this process. Make sure your goals are strong, realistic, and measurable so that you can be successful. 

2. Hacking that habit loop, and rewarding yourself. 

When you are setting a new goal, you want to try to reward yourself immediately after you’ve done something. For example, you wake up in the morning and exercise, right after you are done exercising you want to reward yourself. That could be something as simple as taking a hot shower or eating a piece of chocolate. Whatever is rewarding to you. Research shows that you should do it immediately after the activity to help reinforce that process and reprogram your subconscious mind.

3. Consistency.

You have to be consistent when trying to gain new habits. Even when it’s hard, you have to commit, perhaps for two minutes or five minutes. You have to be consistent and once you do, it becomes easier and easier. Sometimes you have to break through a lot of barriers and a lot of subconscious behaviors that have been working against you for so long. Remember your subconscious mind always likes what’s easy and likes to follow the path of least resistance so you have to work hard to break out of that. 

This year, change things up. Don’t be the norm. Happy New Year!

If you’d like to schedule a free 15 minute virtual discovery session, please email drarianne@themovementparadigm.com or text 302-373-2394 to schdule. We’d love to help you get healthy again!

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The Science of Resilience | 5 ways to become more resilient

Did you ever wonder why some people seem to be so resilient despite what life has thrown their way, where others seem to have great difficulty dealing with even small obstacles? It is absolutely dependent on the environment that we are in as a child and as an adult. However, it is not innate within us, it is something that can be developed and refined as our lives go on. It allows us to deal with adversity, overcome adversity, and be able to live the life that we want to live regardless of our experiences.

Let’s talk about the science of resilience. What are some of the studies and research showing and how can we become more resilient?

1. Changing the narrative. There is something that we all tend to do when something negative happens to us is we replay it over and over again in our minds. This is a concept called rumination, where we just keep reliving whatever experience we have had. We can begin to shift the language that we speak and we can do that through journaling, writing, and speaking.

2. Expressive writing. This has been shown to be very effective in changing and shifting our perspective. You can begin to write and share your deepest thoughts on paper for 20 minutes or so, as opposed to having some kind of structure or writing about something very superficial. This allows you to reflect and shift your thinking about this experience that you have faced. This has been shown to improve overall outlooks on life and helps you become more engaged in life. Even for some of the pessimists that participated in the study, it allowed them to become less depressed and pessimistic.

3. Practicing self-compassion. This is something that we all have such a hard time with but allowing yourself grace and compassion for the deep human emotions that we all experience especially during suffering.

4. Meditation. The practice of mindfulness can be so powerful. The process of rumination causes us to continuously focus and dwell on our past experience, whereas mindfulness, conversely, is focusing on the present moment. It helps you to be truly in the present, knowing what’s happening in your body, and around you. Being able to cultivate a practice of meditation can be so powerful in giving you clarity in your life, allowing you to respond to situations rather than react to them.

5. Cultivating forgiveness. This can be profound in your mental and physical health. You can start by identifying someone that you may need to forgive, and recognizing that person, too, has suffered. That person has made the choice that they’ve made for some particular reason, and that they are human, as well. This practice through research has been profound in once again impacting your overall mental and physical health, and therefore resilience.

So, can resiliency be developed or is it something that you’re born with? I truly believe that our environment, past experiences, and circumstances play into our ability to overcome adversity. However, it is also something that we can consciously bring into our lives and work on and develop so that we can overcome life’s challenges and obstacles. We are always going to have obstacles and they are always going to be there. Expect the unexpected. We know that there’s always going to be change in our lives, so if we can expect that, then we may be more prepared to deal with what might come from it.

If you need help on your journey to better health, contact drarianne@themovementparadigm.com to schedule a FREE 15 minute virtual consultation.

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THE SCIENCE OF KNOWING WHAT TO DO BUT NOT DOING IT | 6 Mindset Hacks

Did you ever wonder why you know exactly what you should be doing to make your life better, happier, healthier, but you don’t do it? You keep saying next week, next year, in five years, but it never really becomes a reality. We have all been there but let’s talk about the science of why that happens and what you can do about it. To put it simply, we are humans and we all have emotion. With that, we are naturally going to gravitate towards pleasure and away from pain. Say for example, Friday night rolls around, and your spouse or significant other wants to order pizza. You’ve had a long week so even though you’re planning to have a salad, you go for the pizza. Another example is sleeping in versus working out in the morning. The reality is that we consistently overcomplicate things. We make them way too complex for what they need to be.

Your subconscious mind is 99 percent of your mind. This is the house of all of your past experiences. This includes your memories, beliefs, and unresolved emotions. This is the domain of your habits. Our conscious mind, however is one percent of our mind and is responsible for our thoughts, goals, awareness of self. For us to be able to set a goal and be able to succeed at it, we have to align the subconscious mind with the conscious mind. Even though we know what we should do i.e. our conscious mind, our subconscious mind is a million times faster and much more powerful. If those two are not aligned, then unfortunately we will not be able to meet our goals or set out to do what we said we were going to do. As it relates to habits, we run our day on approximately 45 percent to 95 percent on habits.  Our thoughts are actually part of our habits. We have about 50,000 to 70,000 thoughts a day. You can hopefully appreciate that if these conscious thoughts are overpowering our conscious mind, then we are going to default to whatever is easier. We are not necessarily going to move towards the pain, we are going to move towards pleasure, whatever is the easiest thing right now. Going back to that Friday night pizza, “I’ve had a long week and I’m tired,” so I’m just going to go back to what’s comfortable and what’s easy…pleasure.

Additionally, when we get out of our comfort zone, for example setting a goal to exercise every day, this signals fear to the body. Immediately we have chemicals released that are signaling fear and danger. So guess what happens? We also want to move towards what’s easy, what’s comfortable, and what’s pleasurable. We easily will revert back and not achieve our new year’s resolution to exercise every day.

So let’s talk about six ways that you can begin to align your subconscious mind with your conscious mind, you can begin to make your goals a reality.

1) Healthful habits

You want to develop healthful habits so that when your conscious mind gets tired from all those thoughts that are racing through your head, that your subconscious mind decides to take over and do the right thing.

2) Be aware

Be aware of your thoughts, inner voice, and most importantly the language that you are speaking to yourself. If you continue to say, “I’m never really going to get strong,” then you will not get strong. You will not necessarily work out like you’re supposed to in order to get strong. So, you want to make sure that you’re in tune with the language that you’re speaking and shift it to a productive language. “I am going to work out so that I am strong.”

3) Clarity

Have clarity about what you want, what are you striving to do, and the goal(s) that you are hoping to achieve. If you do not have clarity of your vision, dream, or goal, then it will be very challenging to allow that subconscious mind to be aligned with the conscious mind.

4) Take small action steps

This is extremely important to make sure that you are making small incremental changes, especially in your habits. Think of the first time that you were told you had to brush your teeth. Since you were a young child, you’ve been brushing your teeth every single day, at least we hope so. That’s a perfect example of how habits start.

5) Consistency

It is so crucial that for you to do what you want to do, to be consistent with your habits, day in and day out. Blocking time in your schedule, for example, to allow yourself the time to be able to perform whatever it is that you need to do. Whether that’s working out, meal prepping, or meditation. Be consistent with whatever you do so that it becomes a habit, just like brushing your teeth.

6) Celebrate

Celebrate your successes! This is where we can have serotonin and dopamine responses that can improve that feeling of happiness, as well as reward and motivation. It keeps you motivated to keep doing what you’re doing to keep this habit going to make sure that it’s truly part of your life.

There are six different ways to help you align your subconscious mind with your conscious mind, allow you to achieve your goals, and do what you say you are going to do.

If you need help on your journey to better health, contact drarianne@themovementparadigm.com to schedule a FREE 15 minute virtual consultation.

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GUT-BRAIN CONNECTION 101

The gut-brain connection is so powerful in your immune health, hormonal health, and nervous system. If you’ve ever had a gut feeling then you know exactly what the gut-brain connection is. The gut-brain connection is a bi-directional communication between the gut and the brain. The gut, meaning our second nervous system or our enteric nervous system, and our brain, our first nervous system. This bi-directional communication happens through multiple pathways, including hormonal, immune, and our nervous system.  The objective of the gut-brain connection is to maintain normal gut function, as well as appropriate behavior.

The first brain has 100 billion neurons and our second brain, our gut has about 500 million neurons. You can see how powerful this neural connection is, and this neural connection happens primarily through the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve originates in the brainstem and then wanders down to the gut. It signals in both directions. For example, if you are getting anxious about a presentation that you have to give you might feel that in your stomach, but if you are eating some kind of inflammatory foods, then that can cause you to potentially feel anxious.

Now, the next connection is hormonal, and this is based on the neurotransmitters or the chemical messengers that we have that communicate between the gut and the brain. Ninety percent of our serotonin is located in the gut that is produced by the gut bacteria. Serotonin is provides us with a sense of happiness. We also produce 50 percent of our dopamine, our feel-good hormone, in our gut. Another hormone we produce is called GABA (Gamma-aminobutyric acid), which decreases feelings of stress and anxiety.

Last but not least, our gut-brain in connected via immune pathways. Seventy percent of our immune system is in our gut. So, when we have any kind of gut issue, we typically have an immune or inflammatory issue. In the case of leaky gut, for example, when you begin to have pathogens and toxins that are crossing the epithelial lining and moving into the bloodstream, this is going to cause an immune reaction. If this continues, this can cause a leaky brain because those pathogens and potentially undigested food can cross the blood-brain barrier causing inflammation in the brain feeling things like brain fog. So, as you can see there is a very strong immune system connection as well.

You may be asking, what can I do to optimize my gut-brain connection? The first thing you can do is try to eat an anti-inflammatory diet, which simply means a whole food, natural, clean diet. Make sure that there are lean proteins, healthy fats, and lots of vegetables and fruits. If you are experiencing any specific gut or health issues, please make sure to reach out to us we’d be more than happy to help you.  We can see you virtually or in person.

The next thing is to manage stress. Stress is one of the biggest things that can impact the gut-brain connection on both levels. You can help to decrease your stress through mindfulness, meditation, breath work, yoga, journaling, reading, or whatever is helpful for you, perhaps even speaking with someone.

Next, is making sure you’re getting enough sleep. Also make sure that you’re getting an optimal amount of sleep as well as quality sleep.

Lastly is movement. Instead of thinking of exercising 30 minutes a day, try to just move as frequently as you can throughout the day. This will help to optimize your immune system, nervous system, as well as your hormonal system by getting in regular quality movement.

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 a FREE 15 minute virtual consultation.

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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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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.

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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.

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HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR VAGAL TONE | 9 ways to stimulate your vagus nerve

Did you ever wonder how you can consciously tap into the power of your vagus nerve to trigger your sense of inner calm and reduce inflammation in your body?  The vagus nerve is also referred to as the “wandering nerve” in Latin because it begins in the brainstem and it has multiple branches to the heart, viscera, and many other organs. It is one of the longest nerves in the body and it is 80 percent of our parasympathetic nervous system, also referred to as our ‘rest and digest’ system. In 1921 a German physiologist named Otto Loewi discovered that when you stimulate the vagus nerve it triggers the release of acetylcholine. Why is that important? Acetylcholine is like a tranquilizer that we have the power to tap into at any point through slow, long, deep breaths. When we have a high vagal tone or healthy vagal tone that is indicative that when you inhale, you have a slight increase in your heartbeat, and when you exhale, you have a slight decrease in your heartbeat. It is also associated with better physical and mental well-being. Conversely, if you have a low vagal tone, this is associated with inflammation, heart disease, stroke, poor psychological well-being, and much more.

Now let’s get into nine different ways that you can stimulate your vagus nerve to improve your vagal tone.

1) Cold exposure: Research shows that acute cold exposure will activate the cholinergic neurons that are part of the vagus nerve pathways, and it stimulates the vagus nerve. Cold showers are the easiest way to integrate this into your life. At the end of your shower, lower the temperature for 30 seconds of cold water and aim to do that consistently over time. That will,  in turn, decrease your fight or flight or your sympathetic pathways.

2) Deep, slow breathing: Diaphragmatic breathing, that is. You’ll want to make sure that as you’re inhaling, you’re getting full expansion of your abdomen 360 degrees. The key is a slow breath with a long exhale. You could start with a tempo of three seconds in and three seconds out. Over time, you want to begin to lengthen your exhalation as well as your inhalation. As you progress with your breath practice, the slower the exhale the more you will stimulate the vagus nerve and also create that relaxation response that we’re seeking. Especially in times of stress and anxiety, this should be a go-to. For some that have experienced trauma, however, this may not always be a safe place.

3) Chanting, singing, humming, and gargling: These are great ways to stimulate the vagus nerve because the muscles of the vocal cords are connected to the vagus nerve. This is a great way to improve vagal tone and increase heart rate variability, which is a sign of a healthy nervous system.

4) Probiotics: There are two specific strains, lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium,  that are directly related to the gut-brain connection as it relates to mood, anxiety, and depression. This is directly linked to the vagus nerve as well. It has been shown that by taking probiotics, you can improve the vagal tone and stimulation.

5) Meditation: This is a great way to improve vagal tone, decrease your stress response, and improve your mindfulness awareness over time. Register here for free weekly mindfulness sessions.

6) Omega-3’s: This comes from your fatty fish, flaxseeds, walnuts, etc. These are great foods that can help with improving vagal tone, overall mental health, and cognitive decline if there is any. Make sure to eat your fatty fish regularly to ensure you’ve got the appropriate amount of omega-3’s.

7) Massage: Make sure you get regular massage, or perform self-massage, to enhance the vagal activity and improve vagal tone. Things like foot reflexology is a great way to stimulate the vagus nerve. At the minimum, make sure to get your regular massage.

8) Exercise: Movement is such a powerful way to improve your vagal tone, to be more connected, and to enhance your sense of happiness. Making exercise and activities that you enjoy a big part of your life will help to improve your vagal tone and overall happiness.

9) Socializing and laughing: It’s such a great way to improve mood and enhance overall well-being. That of course is happening by enhancing the vagal activity and once again improving overall vagal tone. Make sure that despite the current circumstances in the world, you’re able to connect with people, socialize and laugh, and enjoy life as much as possible.

So there you have it, nine different ways that you can improve your vagal tone to make sure that you’re more connected to the world, you’re enhancing your physical and mental well-being, and you’re living life to the fullest.

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

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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!

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