We loved this TEDx video from Paul Whelan, a psychologist from Dartmouth and his encouragement that we all need strategies for managing stress and anxiety, but also strategies for overcoming a natural tendency towards the negative. We need strategies for helping ourselves be happy.
Whelan says in all of us there is a mixture of the good and bad. The bad can represent the challenges we’re overcoming, perhaps our history, or negative thoughts that we battle. At times, we all have shadowy thoughts reminding us of feelings or moments we’d rather not remember. Whelan describes in further detail why this sometimes feels like a battle. Our brain (the amygdala specifically) is hardwired to hold on to these memories. These initial emotional responses come faster than our conscious brain can control. The thoughts come literally before we can stop them. It’s automatic.
Rather than despair that our brain’s “first response” is not always what we’d like it to be, we can understand what helps our brain regain perspective quickly. Like building the 250 foot snow fence, we can learn to accept that the north wind is going to blow, but that it doesn’t have to keep us stuck in our driveway. We can develop strategies and habits that help us keep moving. Meditation
are two of these strategies that surface over and over again, quite literally, as brain changers.
Later in the video, Whelan references a “cable” - the diameter of which is tied to anxiety differences in individuals. Research still has more to investigate about this, but it appears that this also is not a fixed biological reality. It’s quite likely that meditation may positively influence this cortical thickness (associated with decreased anxiety) as well. We do know that research draws positive correlations between meditation the shrinking of the amygdala.
This is good news.
So next time the north wind blows, don’t despair. Have a strategy.
For more info on how to build a stronger life strategy read here :
My Definition of Resilience
Self Care Handout
Self-Care and Lifestyle balance inventory