We all know that feeling stressed, unhappy or anxious is bad for us, but why? In this article, we will explain:
- How thoughts in your brain (both good and bad) fire off a pattern in your body
- How the body and brain work to mirror each other to create strong responses
- Why it’s so difficult to change long held habits or beliefs
- How only 5% of your brain is actually conscious and capable to drive change
- What this means for your health and experience for life
- How the body-brain connection is affected by Chiropractic adjustments
The thinking and feeling loop
Imagine you are faced with the person who is frustrating you most in your life right now. You sit here thinking back on the last thing they did that really riled you up and dive into that moment experiencing it all over again in your mind. Now, take a minute to notice what is going on in your body: the muscles in your shoulders and jaw clench, you start to get increasingly angry and feel frustrated even though that situation is not actually happening to you right now. What you maybe don’t also realise is that your heart rate has also increased, your digestive system is shutting down and if you happen to be lying in bed when you think like this, you’ll struggle to shut off to sleep. Welcome to your fight or flight response!
As you think different thoughts, the circuits in your brain begin to send messages in particular patterns to create the mindset of the situation you are imagining. You go from imagining that situation to feeling like you are actually in it. This can be great when they are joyous or loving thoughts, thinking of these can lift you up when you’re feeling down but when you are going through a negative thought cycle (and thought cycles get stronger and easier to get into the more we use them and reinforce the loop) this can have a serious impact on your health as the fight or flight response shuts down your healing. To find out more about this, read our article on it here.
The body and brain are designed to work as one, so as your body begins to feel the way you were just thinking, your brain picks up this change and you will also start to think how you were just feeling. This is the thinking and feeling loop – the brain will cause the body to create more thoughts that produce chemicals that match what you are feeling and the cycle reinforces itself.
The loop makes it hard to change
Since the brain and body constantly work to mirror each other, breaking well patterned loops can be a real challenge. Sometimes we carry these deeply held beliefs and patterns of thoughts and feelings throughout our whole lives. In fact, according to researchers by the time we are in our mid-thirties about 95% of our personalities, habits and behaviours are a series of unconscious programmes that have become as automatic as driving home from the shops without realising we had done. In essence, our minds and bodies run on automatic pilot.
That is, unless you use the remaining 5% of your brain to consciously change something.
In his book which inspired this article “Breaking the Habit of being yourself,” Dr Joe Dispenza tells us that the body is actually the servant of the mind. Ultimately what happens in the mind, the body will follow if you take action to consciously change. However, it’s not easy. He explains that the automatic pilot part of your body doesn’t actually give into your conscious mind every easily. Even if the habits you hold are no longer useful to your life, or even damaging to you (think about overeating, smoking and other addictions), you don’t just get to decide to stop and manage it just like that.
Instead, the body sends signals to the brain to start talking us out of new goals. Our internal voices come up with all sorts of reasons why its not the right time, you shouldn’t do it and makes it feel hard. When to try to break that internal chemical order that is so easy and comes naturally to you, the body goes into chaos and that’s when so often, we give up on the goal.
Your chemical self
Cells in your body have special receptors on them to pick up the chemical signals that come with particular feelings from anger, frustration and guilt to happiness, joy and pleasure. Imagine you constantly feel frustrated in your life, your cell receptors actually adapt to become more in tune with this feeling the more you experience it so that they can help you experience it more acutely. Over time however, this huge amount of frustration begins to feel normal to you because it’s no longer new and when that cell eventually dies and creates a new daughter cell, this new cells begins its life with a higher threshold for the feeling – therefore you need a SHEDLOAD of frustration to happen for you to actually acknowledge in your conscious brain that you are feeling frustrated. So often in our practice people’s bodies are showing all the hallmarks of stress but they won’t consider themselves stressed for this reason.
The even scarier part is that over time it is actually pleasurable to feel stressed or frustrated because it is how you have conditioned your body to respond. When you do try to change the chemistry in your body by reducing your levels of frustration or stress in some way, your “chemical self” panics because the brain and body are no longer in sync as they were designed to be. This makes trying to move away from this feeling feel unsettling or even scary.
How is this relevant for Chiropractic?
Understanding the body brain – connection is a hugely important tool for getting the most out of your Chiropractic care and also understanding why you might find yourself experiencing an emotional response to your care here. A Chiropractic adjustment works by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system – put simply, it is designed to put your body into a relaxed state. This is why patients find themselves feeling much more relaxed in themselves and their own minds when they have been under care for a few months and we believe, why Chiropractic is a great way to help people to make more positive changes in their lifestyle as their chemical selves do not seem to fight as strongly. The neuro-science included in this article may also throw light on why a few patients can feel overwhelmed by emotion after their adjustments as this body-brain connection is altered and the chemical self is desperately fighting this shift.
Every month we offer a free “Build your Health Workshop” to anyone who is interested in finding more about their body-brain connection and discovering tools to help them make big changes in their lives and their health. You can check the date of our next one here.