Adapting to a Changing World by Vija Rogozina
We live in a paradox: change is the only constant yet human psyche resists change. Ability to adapt to new circumstances has always been a powerful driving force of human evolution. Yet human brain finds comfort in the sense of predictability, perceiving the unknown as a threat. We tend to cling to the known undesirable circumstances to the absurd degree, especially when our mode of operation isn’t optimal, e.g. running on chronic stress. In cross-cultural psychology, a society’s tolerance for uncertainty and ambiguity is referred to as uncertainty avoidance.
Stress caused by change can also be a motivating force, propelling us to tap into the hidden resources. However, excessive amount of cortisol that isn’t dissipated leads to the disturbance of the HPA axis (the hypothalamic — pituitary — adrenal) — a major neuroendocrine system regulating stress response and many body processes, including digestion, the immune system, mood and emotions, sexuality and energy storage.
Unmitigated chronic stress may eventually result in the burnout. Herbert J Freudenberger, psychologist who coined the term “burnout” defines it as follows: “A state of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion caused by long-term involvement in emotionally demanding situations.”
Biologically speaking we are cavemen with laptops, cell phones and deadlines, facing overly fast pace of life without the tools of self-regulation. We are almost expected to perform against our biology.
“Burnout is considered a process, not an event. A build-up of symptoms slowly takes us out of our prefrontal cortex, which is the executive thinking center, our natural resources for coping with pressure and strain”. (Neurosculpting® Journal Vol. 1, Jan 2016)
Everyone is aware of the importance of training the body, eating healthy, getting sufficient rest and sleep. However, how do we train our mind? We posses tremendous inner resources and innate wisdom but oftentimes have no access to them. We can benefit from mind tools that consider our biology, that that are simple, practical and efficient. Modality of Neurosculpting® offers such tools. We can harness and grow our resilience like a muscle! Resilience is in our own biology and we can harness biology with neuroplasticity training.
One of the most powerful skills we can master is mindfulness. Neuroscientists had measured that our default network mode (DMN) is the opposite the state of flow. It is the state of wandering mind, which is opposite of present. As we start practising the art of presence we start changing our biology.
“Brain neurochemistry changes when we start minding our thinking process. Besides, it is now widely accepted and empirically proven, that our brains are elastic and regenerative. We have the ability to generate new brain cells — a process known as neurogenesis.” (How to grow your gray matter, Seattle Yoga News 2016).
Understanding how human brain became so easily hijacked by alarm, is the first step toward gaining more control over that ancient circuitry. Then, by bringing mindful awareness to how the brain reacts to feeling threatened we can develop sense of inner strength. A mind that sees real threats more clearly, acts more effectively in dealing with them. Rick Hanson uses term “negativity bias”, offering findings in neuroscience to explain this phenomena:
“Negative stimuli produce more neural activity than do equally intense (e.g., loud, bright) positive ones. They are also perceived more easily and quickly. For example, people in studies can identify angry faces faster than happy ones; even if they are shown these images so quickly (just a tenth of a second , or so) that they cannot have any conscious recognition of them, the ancient fight-or-flight limbic system of the brain will still get activated by the angry faces. The alarm bell of your brain — the amygdala — uses about two-thirds of its neurons to look for bad news: it’s primed to go negative. Once it sounds the alarm, negative events and experiences get quickly stored in memory — in contrast to positive events and experiences, which usually need to be held in awareness for a dozen or more seconds to transfer from short-term memory buffers to long-term storage.”
Neuroplasticity training aims to overcome negativity bias and resistance to change. After all, “your brain is the most important organ in your body, and what happens in it determines what you think and feel, say and do…” (Hardwiring Happiness, Rick Hanson)