"Understanding how your mind can heal your brain."

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mind can heal your ... brain also decides whether you will move into fight .... power rather then impulsivity can guide your life. Will power is intrinisic to agency  ...
"Understanding how your mind can heal your brain." Hope for brain injury.

What is "brain?" -Chemicals and electrical signals in that lump of meat that sits in our skulls. -A part of the nervous system that is distributed throughout the body.

What is "Mind?" An embodied relational process that regulates the flow of information and energy. -Dan Seigel Mindfulness is the mind's ability to be gently aware of this process.

Two key ways the mind can help the brain rewire Neuroplasticity Neurogenesis

What is neuroplasticity? "Neuro" Greek for nervous system "Plasticity" means plastic or malleable (like clay, it can be shaped). Thus neuroplasticity is having a malleable nervous system (brain) - for better or worse (eg kindling vs the dalai lama).

What is neurogenesis? "Neuro" = Brain/Nervous system "Genesis" = to be born Neurogenesis is the birth of new brain cells. Yes it's possible!

Brain Overview Image Triune Brain

What is the job of the reptilian brain? "The reptilian brain was the first part of the modern brain to develop in evolution. It operates behind the scenes, regulating our survival needs: food, oxygen, heart rate, blood pressure and reproduction, among many others. The brainstem is like a bodyguard who's always watching your back, constantly scanning the environment for potential threats. The reptilian brain also decides whether you will move into fight or flight." Source: http://www.myshrink.com/counseling-theory.php?t_id=86

What is the limbic brain? The emotional brain or the "seat of the unconscious" holds the amygdala and the hippocampus. The amygdala (size and shape of an almond) can often be overactive in MTBI and PTSD. It plays a role in emotional learning as well as procedural memory.

The Hippocampus The hippocampus regulates cortisol, a hormone that is elevated by stress and fear/anxiety. Too much stress leads to imbalances in cortisol that can be related to the shrinking or lessoning of the hippocampus (atrophy).

The Unhappy Hippocampus and the Overactive Amygdala The hippocampus is responsible for memory to have a sense of past, present and future. It is the seat of declarative/explicit memory (factual information). It is important in filtering what information is important and what is irrelevant.

The Hippocampus and Neurogenesis We once thought that the brain cells one is born with were all that you had to work with and that they died off as one aged. By tagging thymadine with a dye we have discovered that the hippocampus is where new brain cells are first born. Even in 90 years olds and even with brain injury.

The Power of the Mind By using our mind (spirit/will) to effort calming ourselves the new cells born in the hippocamus can help the brain forge new pathways (neuroplasticity).

How to help new cells not do the same old thing. One way in which the mind can help heal the brain can be found in developing a strong skill set of mindful based tools. Mindfulness is one powerful way to help the brain (part of the nervous system) to regulate cortisol levels and acheive homeostasis.

The Mindful Brain: A Key Having mastery over ways to be calm is one way to help new brain cells being born in the hippocampus not be drenched in cortisol so that they do the same ole thing. Mindfulness is a key to reverse atrophy in the hippocampus so it can be robust and an ally.

Mindfulness assists the emotional brain in regulating A happy hippocampus: -helps with working memory, -differentiation between the past and present -filtering important vs ineffective information -keeps the amygdala from going bonkers -constructs a resilient narrative

How to develop a mind that can help heal the brain: 1. Research shows changes in the brain after ten hours of focusing on the breath in short sittings (fifteen minutes). 2. Being successful does not require being focused. Rewiring happens each time we bring the wandering mind back to the breath. PT for the brain!

When your mind wanders come back to the breath. Inhale 1 2 3 4 5 Exhale 1 2 3 4 5

Being with the Breath Inhale (count), hold, exhale (count).

Don't feel defeated everytime you catch your mind wandering. That's the important part. When you catch yourself and come BACK to the breath you strengthen the brain muscle.

Brain muscle? Mindfulness exercises help strengthen muscles for positive neuroplasticity like the insula which is part of the prefrontal cortex. The dalai lama has Arnold Shwartzeneger muscles in the insula.

The neocortex embraces the emotional and reptilian brain. When the limbic brain is flooded then the neocortex cannot be accessed. When this happens guess what we lose? Executive function.

Executive Function tasks include: Planning Working Memory Attention Problem Solving Verbal Reasoning Inhibition Mental Flexibility Task Switching

Executive function is sometimes called a non-cognitive skill This is because emotional regulation (noncognitive skill) is the balance between a happy hippocampus and a hearty prefrontal cortex.

Multiple variables that can make executive function difficult to use. 1. Developmental obstacles (eg SES factors) 2. Attachment (e.g. caregivers with depression, substance abuse, a hx of trauma) 3. PTSD/dissociation 4. MTBI/TBI These are all ways the brain can be injured

Indeed MTBI and PTSD symptoms are often the same Common examples of PTSD include: AVOIDANCE -Avoiding things that bring up memory such as movies or tv that have images that remind you of something -Avoiding peole with red beards or hamburger joints if something distressing happened

The dark side of neuroplasticity The limbic system can kindle. Or one fear based or avoidant thought re-enforces another. This can lead to isolation because men with red beards and hamburger joints can lead to avoiding all men with facical hair and all public eaterys.

Thus fear and anger can wire our brains in a way that is a disservice to our well being. Thankfully our mind does not only exist in the brain but just as much in the heart. And there is a lot of of science to this statement specific to the vagal nerve and to neuropeptides such as oxytocin and vassopresin but let me cut to the chase.

The Heart is an Intelligence Processing Center It's electromagnetic field is measured at five times greater then that of the brain! http://www.youtube.com/watch? v=1XqPhoRKPWw

One amazing tool of mindfulness practice is cultivating heart intelligence. For example, the heart may have a habit of racing when introduced to a stressor. (Low heart rate variance [HRV]). By working with the breath and slowing down a frantic brain the heart's intelligence can be accessed (High HRV).

Mindfulness repatterns the heart. Research finds the more steady and even your attention can make the heart the more willpower rather then impulsivity can guide your life. Will power is intrinisic to agency (person-hood), volition (choice). These "non-cognitive skills" are at the "heart" of executive function.

The Reflective Self Becoming heart centered means we are able to feel with others in a way science calls "Flow" that is at the heart of healthy relationships. The mind is responsbile for flow. The brain and heart are the minds "helpers."

Lovingkindness Another major way the mind can heal the brain with the heart's help is through a practice called loving kindness.

What is lovingkindness? Lovingkindness is a practice in which we wish others and ourselves well being. Practiced by the dalai lama.

You don't have to be the dalai lama to know this kind of happiness. Research (Richard Davidson) shows that eight minutes a day of loving kindness practice rewires the brain. Let's practice together now.

Sharing my experience of rewiring I was first introduced to the ways the mind can heal the brain through a neuroscientist named Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz. Dr. Schwartz discovered, with brain imaging, the ways in which 21 days of mindfulness based behavioral therapy and his own process called "The Four Steps" could rewire the brain.

The seed was planted I was so impacted by Dr. Schwartz I gave up a successful career in the film industry to study psychology, particularly the field of trauma.

Thus I came into my experience with a deep certainty that I was not stuck. This is the first step to share with you: To believe in your own potential to transform and to perservere in trying and trying and trying. Here are are some keys tools that helped me rewire.

Somatic Experiencing Created by Peter Levine, this is a form of therapy that helps the nervous system calm and heal. It is not talk therapy. It is a subtle and powerful tool.

The person I worked with: There are different styles and ways to offer S.E. My experience was lying on a massage table and being well nurtured by someone named Sally Thomas, an OT who was trained in a four year program by Peter Levine. I asked Sally to be available today so that, if you are interested you can connect with her. Sally, will you stand up?

Neurofeedback Neurofeedback is a kind of therapy in which electrodes are put on your head. They do not stimulate you, they read your brainwaves. Then you listen to tones and watch a computer screen for feedback This feedback teaches your brain when it's in it's optimal zone.

The qEEG controversy There are lots of ways to do neurofeedback but if you have TBI you know your brain is not typical. Thus it is important to take great care before you start altering the electromagnetic field of your brain.

It's important to have your brain imaged with a qEEG Although many wonderful programs exist that are automatic, when using neurofeedback with TBI, though it is an expense, it is not safe or wise to work with a practitioner who is not reviewing your qEEG and tailoring treatment to your own unique brain's needs.

Crystal Bowl Meditation I also utilzyed a form of sound therapy in which someone played large bowls for one hour each week to help me repattern my nervous system. Crystal bowls are not just sound therapy. Being lined with crushed quartz they have a strong electromagnetic vibration. Not for the faint of heart but very powerful.

Crystal Bowl Resource I asked Kelly Maccinnis to be here today so that you can find him as a resource. Kelly plays weekly at Om Time and Body Dynanmics. He has a table out in the resource area.

So, as we conclude let's revisit where we began. We began by taking a moment to connect with one another. We then talked about the ways the brain can wire/connect in new and constructive ways you can direct with your mind.

Revisiting Mind Mind REGULATES information and energy. This is a Relational Embodied Process. -Dan Siegel

MINDFULNESS By following the guidelines of mindfulness practice (slowing down, focusing on the breath), the brain can learn to make new CONNECTIONS.

LOVING KINDNESS By becoming heart centered we get out of our miserable egos and learn how to be more fully and vitally connected to the world around us.

Having a "broken brain" does not mean having a diminished heart If anything, those who have been through the hardship of TBI have a much bigger and more generous heart. Loving kindness helps us CONNECT to the world around us in constructive and meaningful ways.

As you can see, it is all about CONNECTION. Suffering comes from a sense of isolation. As we conclude, look around you. Think back to the beginning of this presentation when you connected with a neighbor. As you go into your day, connect with one another with a generous spirit. See what new connections might be possible.

CONNECT WITH: ELENORE SNOW [email protected] 720 443 2732 Slides available upon request.

Let's talk questions!