EBT BASICS WIRED FOR FREEDOM
W I RE D F OR JOY ______________________________
Website Support: www.ebt.org Check In Line: 877-765-4JOY Freedom Line: 855-422-FREE Author: Laurel Mellin Contributors: Igor Mitrovic, Lindsey Fish De Pena, Katherine MorningstarSimon, Lynda Frassetto, Judy Zehr, Rod MacRae, Earl Stoner, Tammy Thornton, Lisa McCoy, Melissa Swartz, Paula Ernst, Bea Williams, Arinn Testa, Elissa Epel, Nancy Adler, Barbara Laraia, Charles Irwin, Molly Harding, Anna Spielvogel, Patricia Robertson, Mary Creigh Houts, Deanne Hamilton, Josephine Soliz, Joe Mellin, Haley Mellin, John Rosenthal, Kelly McGrath, Justin Ludwig, Dede Taylor, Kathleen Wilson, John Simon, Rob McCoy, Charlie Thornton, Randy Swartz, Linda Worden, Cathy Weaver and Dave Ingibritsen. EBT Basics: Wired for Freedom Pocket Journal Copyright 2011 by Laurel Mellin. Patent Pending. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. Graphic Design: Joe Mellin Graphic Production: Stu Listug / Daniela Lien Contributing Editor: Katherine Morningstar Text Editor: Jane Blinka ISBN: 978-1-893265-34-9 Distributed by: The Institute for Health Solutions Published by: EBT, Inc. 77 Mark Drive, Suite 5, San Rafael, CA 94903 4%, s &!8
Welcome! Congratulations! You are starting a course that will give you the power to create more freedom in your life. Many people feel that freedom is lifeâ€™s ultimate reward. The drives to disconnect from ourselves and plug into a particular excess have faded. Sure we have them now and then, but they have lost their power over us. The techniques you will learn are based on emotional brain training (EBT) and the latest brain science that suggests that we can use our own mind to rewire the elusive emotional brain, the seat of stress, emotions, spirituality and pleasure drives. The emotional brain is a social brain. To achieve the best results, you will create a small Wired for Freedom social system â€” a tribe of your own. Youâ€™ll give and receive support, as you and others become wired for freedom.
JOY! The EBT Team
The Root Cause: STRESS The root cause of addictions is stress. It starts early in life, as the wiring of how to self-regulate is transmitted from one generation to the next during the first three years of life. If that wiring is a little off, it tends to ramp up stress, and when a few upsets, changes, or losses come our way, we are set up for addictions. Then the addictions add more stress, and pretty soon the brain is wired for stress, and that addiction seems like our only way out. We lose our freedom.
I was hooked on sugar from the age of 9 when my parents divorced. I was always the anxious kid and started using overexercise to deal with life when I was in high school. We had a happy family, laughing a lot but with 6 kids, it was pretty chaotic. Most of us have one excess or another.
The Stress Epidemic We share an environment that is at odds with our genes. Consequently, it has become easier and easier to have a brain that is wired for stress. Our genes evolved to promote survival in a world of tribal closeness, slow change and access to natural rewards, and the brain can process that way of living with relative ease, even if our self-regulatory wiring is not right on target. Our genes have not changed significantly in the 1 million years of human existence, but life today is incompatible with our genes. This makes us more vulnerable to stress and to laying down wires that attach us to various artificial rewards. This is why addictions are on the rise. Life At Odds with Our Genes 1% of human existence social isolation, rapid change & artificial rewards
1 million years ago
99% of human existence tribal closeness, slow change & natural rewards
The Goal The goal of this course is to adjust our lifestyle so that our brain has optimal fitness for the world in which we live. EBT provides skills that empower us to do this.
Stress erodes the brainâ€™s capacity to process daily life, and trains the brain to attach to artificial rewards rather than natural ones. The circuits in the brain that enable effective processing stop communicating effectively as stress increases. The role of the top part of the brain (the thinking brain) is to oversee the emotional brain, to tune into the lower brain and bring to consciousness its messages about what we need. 6
In stress, the thinking brain and the lower part of the brain, the emotional brain, split. This disconnection happens spontaneously and without our awareness or permission. In stress, not only does the thinking brain falter, but also, the emotional brain takes over. It becomes the controller of our drives and, in that stressed state, it is prone to extremes of thoughts, emotions and behaviors. Without a thinking brain to oversee our responses, making small but important adjustments as needed, the stress buzzer gets stuck on. That chronic and unnecessary cascade of stress hormones can diminish our brainâ€™s functioning so that we are increasingly prone to stress and addictions. The same lifestyle that is gene-compatible for reducing stress is also best for restoring the brain to optimal functioning. In EBT, we draw upon the power of those lifestyle changes to decrease the stress that flows into the brain and to improve brain fitness.
The Freedom Brain The Thinking Brain (prefrontal cortex) is able to stay tuned into the emotional brain and effectively orchestrate our responses. The Worry Center (amygdala) is effective, not overor under-reacting to daily stress. The Calming Center (hippocampus) is more effective, putting stresses into perspective. The Reward Centers are effective at accessing sustainable joy from natural pleasures, free of the imbalances in brain chemicals caused by artificial rewards. The Emotional Pipeline (vagal nerve) becomes more effective in sending emotional messages to the brain, especially compassion and love. The Habit Center (basal ganglia) learns how to process stress and how to get pleasure in healthy ways. It becomes natural and easy more of the time.
My Freedom Goal Choose one stress-fueled external solution to focus on rewiring in this course. I want freedom from: The drive to overeat. Cravings for sugar. The desire to smoke. The drive to drink too much. Chemical dependency. Misuse of medications. Other: ___________________ What this freedom looks like for me: Thinking Thoughts of it do not control me. I have few thoughts about it. I only think about it if stressed. Other: ___________________
Emotions The love affair is over. Iâ€™m done. My highs and lows arenâ€™t about it. I do not use it to numb out. Other: ___________________ Behavior I have decreased using my external solution in this way: ___________________ I abstain from using my external solution. Other: ___________________ Body My body heals. My health improves. My weight changes: ___________________ Other: ___________________
I want to turn off the drive to overeat and lose 10 pounds during this course. My goal is to stop smoking and not take up another substitute addiction. I want to abstain from using, and change my life to heal my brain. 10
My Reward The drive for artificial reward increases stress and blocks our access to the higher order natural rewards of life. In EBT, we refer to these rewards as eudonic rewards. Training the brain to access the higher order natural rewards is part of this course, and the motivation to complete this course can come from your desire for one or more of these sources of sustainable joy: The reward that I most want: Sanctuary – peace and power from within Authenticity – genuine and feeling whole Vibrancy – healthy with a zest for life Integrity – doing the right thing Intimacy – giving and receiving love Spirituality – aware of the beauty of life Freedom – drives for excesses fade
I want all of them, but I want vibrancy the most. My motivators are sanctuary and freedom.
The Strategy Most of us start EBT with a brain that is wired for stress, with a set point in stress. Think of the gearshift on your car being stuck in neutral so that the engine is burning up lots of gas, but you aren’t going anywhere. You want to get the car out of neutral and into drive, which means moving the set point. The chronic secretion of cortisol that occurs when the brain’s set point is locked into stress negatively impacts every organ in the body, so why not move it up? That can result in improvements in every aspect of life. Training the thinking brain to be consciously aware of our emotional state (staying “plugged in” to the emotional brain) is the first priority. Just doing that can bring forth a natural shot of neurotransmitters, resulting in a natural high. The brain craves rewards, so that can begin to turn off the drive for external solutions. Also, it’s vital that imbalances in the body and brain are addressed, by getting really good medical care and by aligning our lifestyle with our genes. Last, even if we are plugged in, stress can come along and cause circuits to activate. Rewiring circuits is essential. 12
The Brain Changes When a stressor hits the brain, circuits open up and vie to be activated. The brain chooses the circuit that the same signal has activated before and is most dominant. The wire is activated and it becomes stronger (“neurons that fire together wire together and become stronger”) and the ones that are not activated become weaker (“neurons that fire apart wire apart and become weaker”). The more you use your thinking brain to fire a wire, the stronger it becomes and the weaker the opposing ones become. We rewire our brains by experiences, not by insight, knowledge, planning or decision making. The brain changes when we’re actually walking the talk and practicing the techniques throughout the day. As we walk our talk, the brain begins to transform, day by day . . .
A Joy Circuit All thoughts, emotions and behaviors are wires: patterns of neurons with the tendency (potentiation) to come together and fire in the same way. The most important wires are those of self-regulation, how we spontaneously respond to daily life. They come in two forms: homeostatic and allostatic. The homeostatic ones are highly effective and keep us in a relative state of balance, much like when you are in a room that has settings for both air conditioning and heating. There are limits. You can trust that the temperature will range from 65 to 80. A Joy Circuit
(Homeostatic Circuit) Surge of Joy!
A stimulus enters the mammalian brain and triggers an effective emotional response, not overreacting to the stressor.
Neocortical Processing The neocortex functions effectively, accurately identifying feelings and needs. 3
Response The responsive to the stimulus is is effective, turning the individual to a state of well-being.
These Joy Circuits (homeostatic circuits) work like that, and take us through stress back to a state of well-being. You know they are operating when you are resilient and rebound from stress back to feeling great. The brain is reward driven, and when we are running these circuits, we access natural pleasures. Our prefrontal cortex is flexible, so we can think magnificent thoughts and be aware of the higher order rewards of life. We are completely satisfied by eating a crisp red apple when hungry and easing into a deep, cozy slumber when sleepy. We are rewarded by playing, laughing, singing, running, loving, hugging and all the natural pleasures of life.
A Stress Circuit A Stress Circuit is another scenario entirely. Itâ€™s not balanced, because it is encoded during a time of high stress. As stress mounts, the brain refers control to the faster, powerful emotional brain. The homeostatic process is not enough to keep us from perishing, so the brain pulls out all the stops. The emotional brain initiates an â€œallostatic responseâ€?, causing widespread dysregulation in the body and brain. These circuits have several disadvantages:
1. Allostatic Stress Circuits are Unproductive The stress we experience is not productive, as it is often activated by worry or unhealthy lifestyles. If enduring that stress resulted in a positive outcome, like building a bridge, then it might be worth it. But usually, these circuits amount to building a bridge to nowhere. A Stress Circuit (Allostatic Circuit)
Emotional Processing A stimulus enters the limbic (mammalian) brain and sparks an ineffective emotional response: “getting triggered”.
Neocortical Processing The neocortex functions ineffectively due to the “fight or flight”response. The primitive reptilian brain is in charge. 3
The response to the stimulus is ineffective, creating a spiral of changes that promote heightened and prolonged stress.
2. They Have No Shut-off Valves Another problem with these circuits is they have no nice shut-off valves, and their emotional blaring excites other equally unproductive circuits. Their sirens echo through the hallways of our mind. One stress circuit triggers another and another, so they are the chief cause of chronic stress. 3. They Promote Artificial Rewards When the brain pulls out all the stops, it triggers unhealthy highs and lows throughout the body and brain. The thinking brain isnâ€™t functioning well enough to bring to mind any higher purposes or to appreciate natural pleasures. Instead, all we have left for rewards is the artificial ones. Artificial rewards work well in the moment, but rapidly become repetitive, deleterious and compulsive or addictive. Continued use of them blocks the brain from remembering the joys of natural rewards. 4. They Encode Faulty Instructions The brain wires these circuits in strongly, because they give instructions about how to respond to life-threatening situations. The problem is that the instructions are faulty, and cause even more stress.
Positive Plasticity The brain is highly plastic and open to change.However, both circuits are emotional circuits, and they require emotional tools to break old ones and build new ones. Overall, the plan is to appreciate that the problem is not us. It’s our wiring. Wiring triggers brain states and over time, brain states get stuck. The brain gets into the habit. All we’re going to do is to change the brain’s habit so that it moves through stress back to joy. As you do that the effective circuits become stronger and more dominant and ineffective ones become weaker. It’s a wiring job. A Joy Circuit
(Homeostatic Circuit) Surge of Joy!
A Stress Circuit
Brain States Itâ€™s easier to rewire the brain because of state-specific memory. The brain stores experiences so that we can have ready access to them when a similar experience occurs again. That is called â€œstate-specific memory.â€? The brain changes the area that is in charge based on our level of stress. The more stressed we are, the more it downshifts to the more extreme and quicker areas.
We call those brain states, and there are 5 of them, ranging from Brain State 1, when we feel balanced and great to Brain State 5 when we are totally overwhelmed with stress. In a way, the brain is like a set of drawers, with 5 different drawers, one for each of the 5 brain states. 20
When we are in any brain state, the brain area that is in charge is “hot” and we can more easily retrieve memories from past experiences in that state. The other areas are “cold” and less likely to be activated. This is why each experience is informed by the past and no current experience is completely new. Without knowing it, the brain activates memories of past experiences, which is why we keep repeating the past even though we think we are in complete control of the present moment. Each experience is encoded in the brain, altering our wiring. This is particularly evident in times of stress. The wires that are left behind AFTER a stressful event are very thick, with strong connections within the gaps between neurons (“synaptic connections”). The 5 Brain States Brain State
1 2 3 4 5
Great! Good A little stressed Definitely stressed Stressed Out!
The brain wants to remember experiences of stress really well, because if we survived, what we did must be very important. So it locks those circuits into the least plastic (less open to change) areas of our brain. They are relegated to unconscious memory, so that they can be quickly activated, and when they are activated, we have no “source attribution” — no sense of remembering why or when they were implanted. In essence, they run our lives without our ever being conscious that they are! These circuits come in two forms, each has a different impact on us, and for each we use different techniques to rewire.
4 Circuits Some circuits are encoded when we are in Brain State 4, definitely stressed. We call them Stress Circuits or 4 Circuits. The thinking brain takes in only about 40 pieces of information every second, whereas the emotional brain takes in 20,000,000 pieces! As information flows into the brain, the brain extracts “truths” and distills these truths into generalizations and expectations. Then the subconscious stores them in circuits— but these circuits are based on whatever generalizations the stressed brain has figured is true. False Generalizations
These circuits are stored in the “4th drawer” of the brain. They’re activated when we are definitely stressed. However, they can also be a silent source of chronic stress because the false generalizations they encode are both hidden and hurtful to us. 23
During stress, the prefrontal cortex is not functioning well, so these unconscious unreasonable generalizations do not have the benefit of careful evaluation. We donâ€™t even know they are there. Instead, we notice that we are chronically stressed. The 7 Stress Circuits that block emotional evolution and access to the natural rewards of life are: I do not exist. I am bad. I have no power. I cannot do good. I cannot love. I am not worthy. I cannot have joy. Weâ€™ll rewire these into circuits that promote joy and freedom.
5 Circuits In addition to 4 Circuits, there are circuits that are encoded when we are in Brain State 5, in a full-blown stress response. We call them Survival Circuits or 5 Circuits. These are the most powerful circuits because the brain STRONGLY encodes them, thinking they are our lifeline. Also, they are stored in the least plastic area of the brain. We cannot use self-directed plasticity, our own brain to rewire itself, unless our prefrontal cortex is operating well. False Associations
In Brain State 5, the PFC has a difficult time warmly observing the circuit, opening those synapses and reconsolidating them in a different form. The reptilian brain is in charge and it’s so quick that as soon as we open that circuit, we’ve activated it and we’re using our external solution. 25
We’re either dissociating or hyperaroused; neither state promotes the clarity and sustained attention required for rewiring of that circuit. They are formed during times of such intense stress and overwhelm that we had to grab something, and whatever we turned to became locked into a wire of a false association with survival. The most common addiction is to food. The circuit says to us: “I get my safety from . . . food.” These circuits do not encode comfort or kindness or what’s fun to do. They encode a drive for safety. Since we want safety and we want it quickly, we usually choose rewards that deliver a quick and extreme “hit” in the reward pathways, such as sugar, nicotine, alcohol or drugs. Emotions, thoughts and relationships can provide quick, strong delivery of a neurotransmitter high in the brain’s reward centers, which is why nearly any natural pleasure, given enough stress, can turn into an addiction. Examples are: exercise addiction, gambling, spending, hoarding and clutter, affairs, rescuing, people pleasing . . . the list goes on. You may be wondering if you have more than one of these 5 Circuits, and you probably do, however, they 26
are rewired one at a time, because the process takes focused attention. Also, you probably don’t have huge numbers of them, because the brain generalizes to a very few circuits. That’s why these are so important, because they are “used” a lot, and each time they are, they cause widespread stress n the body and brain. In addition, they fire up 4 circuits and make them strong. This is why in the advanced training in EBT, we focus early in the process on nabbing and rewiring those Survival Circuits. For now, we will focus on just one.
Freedom We do two things to create freedom from the drive for your external solution: Get Hooked on Joy You are using mental tools and a lifestyle of natural pleasure to create peace and power from within. You are creating surges of feel-good neurotransmitters in your brain’s reward centers, so that your brain gets hooked on joy. With less stress, the brain activates the 5 circuits less often, and you “break the circuit” and return to connecting to the sanctuary within more quickly. Erase the Circuit That crossed wire of an expectation that we get our safety need from an external solution is a remnant of a past experience. The emotional brain (unconscious memory) is not creative. Until we use our thinking brain (prefrontal cortex) to activate and re-encode a more accurate message, it keeps tripping the old circuit. We’ll start that process of frying the wire and creating a new one this week.
The Survival Circuit Technique Hereâ€™s how it works. We experience a moment at Brain State 5 which the brain interprets as feeling lost, overwhelmed, terrified, obliterated. Since thatâ€™s an allostatic circuit, there are no internal shut off valves. We reach for food, a cigarette, a drug, a drink or anything that will activate the reward centers and stop that pain. That emotional state we are in (5 State) forms an emotional wire; the brain encodes a false link between survival and that external solution. To rewire that circuit, we need to give ourselves what we needed at the time that it was encoded: we needed to be really seen, to be comforted, to be loved. The nature of 5 circuits is this: they are evidence that we did not get the love and connection we needed. They are strong, aggressive circuits. Until we give ourselves the love we missed back then, they will abuse and neglect us, and they will go after the external solution as if our life depends upon it. So, with the Survival Circuit Technique, we defuse that wire in three stages. Stage 1: See the Circuit. Begin by becoming emotionally aware of the circuit, appreciating that this entire drive is emotional.
The circuit formed because you were in a moment of intense need, without anyone there to emotionally connect with you. Become aware that in that moment you really did get your safety (the word that you use for IT OR YOUR h8v FROM YOUR EXTERNAL SOLUTION YOUR h9v Weâ€™ll focus on this stage during weeks 1 and 2 of this course. Stage 2: Negate the Circuit. At some point, the emotional activation of the first phase fades. Your brain naturally yearns to heal, so your attention turns to the second stage. In that stage you have that sinking feeling, that moment of clarity that even if you used your external solution constantly, it would not give you the emotional safety that you really needed. It might give you a distraction or a false high, but meeting your genetically-determined true need? It doesnâ€™t. In this phase, you will grieve the loss of your external solution. You may be angry that it duped you, sad about the years of wasted energy, and fully aware that it does not meet your true needs. From a neuroscience standpoint, you have just accomplished an extremely important thing. You have made your prefrontal cortex aware of two CONTRADICTORY EXPECTATIONS h) GET MY 8 FROM 9v AND h) CANNOT GET THE 8 ) REALLY NEED FROM 9 4HAT FORCES 30
the PFC to erase one of them. It simply cannot handle contradictions. So it weakens or extinguishes the old one. The drive begins to fade. We’ll focus on this stage in week 3 of this course . . . Stage 3: Transform the Circuit. All along we have been building a new circuit, one that gives us an internal solution, connecting within and becoming hooked on the natural pleasures of life. This is our “Z”; it is what gives us MORE rewards, and more sustainable joy than the external solution. We wire that in strongly into the brain’s habit center (“basal ganglia”). We convert a 5 Circuit into a 1 Circuit. We build this circuit throughout the course, starting now, and strengthen it in weeks 4 to 7 of this course. Let’s begin with Stage 1 of the Survival Circuit Technique. Your success in using this depends upon taking it one step at a time. Focus on the ONE CIRCUIT you identify now, and focus only on Stage 1.
Stage 1. See the Circuit In a moment of stress â€” often early in life â€” we were in such stress that we had nowhere to turn, and reached for our external solution. Find words for that strong emotional drive and for whatever gave you safety in that moment. ) GET MY h8v SAFETY FROM h9v EXTERNAL SOLUTION What is your X? Safety Protection Love Other: ___________ What is your Y? Food Sugar My Body Size Cigarettes Alcohol Drugs Other: ___________ 32
I get my safety from food. That’s it. I reach for it so I don’t have to feel my feelings. They would overwhelm me. I get my love from wine. I connect with the alcohol instead of with people. I miss out on the love. Fortunately, it’s just a wire. I learned to keep extra weight on to protect myself. If I lost that weight, I would lose my protection. I would have to feel my feelings and be vulnerable. My wire is: I get my protection from staying fat. My early life was so chaotic that I needed something to feel secure. I started with stealing food, then used alcohol, so it’s definitely an emotional circuit of wanting that loving connection and some sense of safety. My circuit is: I get my safety from sugar. The 5 Circuit that is rattling around inside me is I get my safety from drugs. My survival circuit was encoded in adolescence. It’s that I get my safety from being thin. I connected the concept of being rail thin with safety, and so I purge and over-restrict food. My best friend is my cigarette. It balances out my highs and lows, and helps me avoid being present in the moment and feeling my feelings. My 5 circuit is: I get my safety from smoking. 33
Freedom from My Survival Circuit Stage 1. See the Circuit I get my “X” ___________________________ from “Y” ___________________________. Great! Now that you have identified your 5 Circuit, become aware that it is an emotional experience leftover from the past, and it lives inside of you as a string of neurons, a wire. As you walk through your day, see that wire. Appreciate that it is real and it is still with you. Even though it was encoded long ago, it lives inside you. See that wire. It’s just a wire! Thank goodness that wire was encoded; in that moment of stress, the warmth, the loving connection you needed was not available to you. So that external solution filled in the gap in that moment . . . long, long ago — before you had the skills to deeply and lovingly connect with the sanctuary within.
The Program The emotional brain only changes with focused attention and action. The rest of the program will focus on action: completing this pocket journal, utilizing the associated multi-media course and forming a circle of support, in essence a Wired for Freedom Tribe. Some people in your tribe will be from your EBT Group and others will be personal connections, 2 to 3 people who are family members or friends. You cannot have too much support with this training, for we are rewiring the least plastic areas of the brain. Each day you will count up your points, with a maximum of 8. Each point is important to get and each one creates a physiologic effect. None of them is easy.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Wired for Freedom Create My Day: â€œI am creating joy in my life!â€? Check Ins: 10 Joy Points: 10 Exercise: 60 minutes Joy Foods: 90% Sanctuary Time: 10 minutes Balancing Sleep: 8 hours Awaken feeling light and slightly hungry 35
Connections: One Per Day Addictions are conditions of isolation. One of the most challenging parts of this program is forcing ourselves to get our needs met for intimate connection. As mammals, our #1 way to relieve stress is emotional connection with other mammals. That’s why pets are so popular. But a pet can’t really see us, hear us, and love us — or confront us and make us grow — the same way that other people can. Ask 2 or 3 people to be your Personal Connections during this course (see the Family and Friends booklet and give it to them). Talk with them about what role they would like to play. Tell them your feelings and needs, and listen to theirs. By including family and friends, you create a “systems change” which is more powerful than an individual change. Also, each week you will have a Connection Buddy from your Wired for Freedom Tribe, and spend 3 minutes on the phone with them daily.
To make a connection, one person telephones the other and asks: Is this a good time? If it is, then they each share the following about their EBT Progress the previous day: Total Points for the Day Accomplishments: What points they made. Challenge: What points they will focus on today to get the best results. Share ONE Joy Point they had.
Point #1. Create My Day An ancient practice is to honor the sanctity of the day with “bookends.” You start your day fully aware that you have the power to create your day. If you look forward to the day as time to endure, then that’s what you’ll do. You’ll interpret each difficulty or stress as evidence that life is to be endured. You’ll be successful in being miserable, miserable enough to justify using external solutions. In EBT, we take a different approach. You will be learning how to process stress so effectively that you will have the option to be in balance and joy much or most of the time. The more moments of the day you spend being present and aware, the more you are strengthening the Joy Circuits and weakening the Stress Circuits. Start your day by reminding yourself:
“I am creating joy in my life.” Remind yourself of that throughout the day. When you prepare for sleep at night, bring to mind 3 moments of joy that you created that day. The glow from that will help you sleep well. 38
Point #2. Check In Hourly Take 2-minute vacations from your normal way of processing stress, and relax, warmly observe your emotions, and use the various techniques of the method. Get a watch, alarm, vibrating message or find some way that is structured to give yourself these vacations... or to remind yourself to check in. Consistency requires external reminders. Check in 10 times daily, once each hour. Check-Ins empower you to turn down the cortisol cascade and promote brain fitness. Your thinking brain can reconnect with your feeling brain, so that you are functioning more efficiently. When your brain reconnects, you will be aware of a feeling of peace and power from within. We call that experience Sanctuary. Because the brain does not experience feelings, it is experienced in the body as a feeling of relaxation and a slight sense of pleasure.
Point #3. Create 10 Joy Points The human brain can create joy regardless of circumstance. When we are not in stress, the PFC can bring to mind any natural pleasure and the deep projections into the brain’s reward centers create a surge of neurotransmitters. We feel a relaxation response in our bodies, and the activation of the stress response (“sympathetic nervous system”) quiets and the relaxation response (“parasympathetic nervous system”) is activated. Create 10 moments of joy daily to swamp stress and regulate your brain’s reward centers. Any positive memory, any bringing to mind of connection — compassion for another — or any natural sensual pleasure will activate a surge of joy. You can create a Joy Point “bank” (see page 264 in this pocket journal), a storehouse of ideas for “bankable” Joy Points. This way you can always give yourself a surge of pleasure if you want one.
Point #4. Gene-friendly Exercise for 60 Minutes Our bodies are designed to move throughout the day, not for the excessive intensity or prolonged exercise that promotes high wear and tear and stress. The plan is to move for about 1 hour per day, in a way that is consistent with our genes. Our ancestors engaged in low intensity movement frequently throughout the day. Also, they engaged in brief intensive workouts. Contrary to popular belief, longer intense exercise duration can actually increase appetite, fatigue and stress and take energy away from what impacts weight most: food. With this plan, move your body often, and when possible: 1) do something fun, and 2) couple it with another natural pleasure to amplify the neurotransmitter surge (e.g., walking with a friend, listening to music, being outside, shooting hoops, dancing to music, stretching when outdoors).
What a relief. Iâ€™ve been exercising at the gym and I am not losing fat. Plus, Iâ€™m so hungry! Great. I donâ€™t want to turn a food addiction off and become an exercise junkie.
Move for a total of about 60 minutes per day or 4 10to 15-minute mini-vacations. Morning Moves – Awake to the day with 15 minutes of yoga or do a Quick 10 (10 stretches - 10 jumping jacks – 10 squats – 10 push-ups – 10 more stretches. Running around doing Crazy Housework, doing it all quickly and with JOY. Go outside and greet the day, walk around neighborhood for 15 minutes. Walk or bike part or all the way to work or school. Afternoon Moves – Get away from digital stimulation, customers, clients, lectures and the grind. 42
Take small breaks throughout the afternoon. Up for something more active? Take an active break around noon or do a Walk ‘n Cycle (walk and use the tools), run up and down the stairs, do a Connection as you stroll, find a nearby inspiring spot and walk to it – soak in the natural pleasure and walk back to work, go to the restroom and wash your hands (water play!) and go into the stall and do stretches! Do whatever it takes to MOVE! Evening Moves – Be gentle. This is NOT exercise. It’s play. Take a stroll before going home. Everyone tense at home? Come in, connect with them and turn on the music. Dance for 10 minutes and get them to join you. Your vibrancy is contagious! Start your evening with a quick shower and a few yoga moves or fun stuff: digging in the garden, shooting hoops, or running around your home cleaning up! Power Bursts – We all need a little intensity to ramp up dopamine and get the blood flowing and the muscles contracting. Try one of the following: Endurance Burst: walk, bike, dance, run, swim, hike, ski, row or other sustained activities that use major muscle groups and keeps your heart rate at 55 to 75 percent of maximum (you are breathing more deeply but still can carry on a conversation). 43
Strength Burst: 20 jumping jacks, 20 push ups, 10 pull ups (get a pull up bar for an inside door), 10 squats. Stretch for 3 minutes before and after. Be gene-friendly in your exercise. Roam around your work area or home. Sprint here and there. Dance like crazy for 2 minutes! Collect a few Joy Points. Notice how EASY it is to feel great by moving the way our bodies were designed to move . . . peacefully with a few survival bursts here and there!
Point #5. Eat Joy Foods We need to decrease stress so that we aren’t always triggering the 4 and 5 circuits. Food is one of the main ways that people ramp up metabolic stress and inflammation in their bodies. Even if food is your addiction, it’s important to appreciate that what you eat triggers that Survival Circuit. Our genes are compatible with the foods our ancestors ate; this means foods available before husbandry and agriculture. Eat lean protein (poultry, fish, lean meats, eggs, egg substitute), healthy fats (nuts and oils), vegetables and fruits. They are Joy Foods. These are anti-inflammatory foods, and they decrease appetite, promote balance in the brain’s reward centers and promote balance in all body systems.
Veggies Fruit Add Stress Foods if you need them. Eat them without guilt.
The other foods — grains, beans, legumes, milk, sodas, and other refined foods are Stress Foods. Have them if you really need them, but more of the time, choose Joy Foods that you like. Eat on a plate that has an 8 -inch diameter. The graphic above shows the plan for lunch and dinner. For breakfast, choose ½ plate of lean protein foods. Otherwise, high cortisol in the morning makes us sensitive to insulin rush and blood sugar low 2 hours after breakfast and throughout the day. Also, our ancestors ate to satisfy the hunger drive. They did not eat addictively to promote abnormal highs in their brain’s reward centers.
Start eating when hungry or very hungry. Stop eating when satisfied. Wait 10 minutes and you will feel full.
Make it a policy that you only eat if you are hungry. If you are NOT hungry, do not eat. You wouldnâ€™t go to the rest room if you didnâ€™t need to relieve yourself. Do not go to the kitchen unless you have body hunger. Want to lose weight? Each pound of extra body fat pours stress into the brain. We decrease brain stress by releasing extra weight, and this requires switching your body into weight loss mode. Hunger, especially feeling a little hungry during the night or upon awakening, is a sign that you have successfully switched to that releasing extra weight mode. Want a quick way to flip that switch? Plan an evening full of Joy Points (music, hugs, a hot bath, a starlit walk). Feast only on vegetables and protein foods for dinner, with no food after 7 p.m. and awaken the next morning feeling a little hungry. Success! 47
Point #6. Sanctuary Time for Ten Minutes Take 10 minutes of solo time to train your brain to connect more effectively to the safe place within. Some people like to take time to focus on their breathing and be present, meditating. Others prefer guided imagery, and we have special â€œImaginesâ€? â€” visualizations that are part of this method. The emotional brain is the seat of connection, including spiritual connection, however you define it, so this time for meditation can be time for inspirational reading or prayer as well. Take 10 minutes of solo time in which you can more deeply connect with the sanctuary within.
Point #7 Balancing Sleep for 8 or More Hours Sleep is hard to come by when we are stressed, however, getting into a pattern of going to bed at 10 and getting up at 6 am, or something similar, eases stress and restores the brainâ€™s functioning. Although some people need only 8 hours, some need 9. Making it a priority to develop an effective â€œputting myself to sleepâ€? routine is very primitive, and very important. Just as we are learning to emotionally connect with ourselves so that we have access to the wealth of emotional messages within, it is also important to get plenty of sleep, and to take really good care of our health and our happiness in that way.
Point #8 Awaken Feeling Light and Slightly Hungry An easy way to determine if your body is in balance is to notice if you awaken in the morning with that slight hunger, a feeling of lightness. That slight lightness in the morning is a sign that the body is in balance. It is a sign that an excessive intake of Stress Foods the evening before has not overloaded our liver throughout the night. If your goal is to release weight, then this is a sign that you may be beginning to do that. However, even if your weight is precisely where you want it to be, this is an overall sign that our physiology is in balance. This slight high from hunger can be so gratifying (success in body balance!) that many people start looking forward to feeling that feeling. They purposely eat veggies, healthy fat and lean protein in the evening and do not eat after 7 pm so that they can get that validation of the body balance. What about awakening in the night slightly hungry? Unless your physician recommends otherwise, simply drink a glass of water or a cup of caffeine-free tea, and reach for the tools to return to Brain State 1. Then drift off to sleep again. 50
What if you are underweight or recovering from anorexia? The body feel of awakening hungry is a slight hunger. More than a slight hunger is not desirable, as once “feeling hungry” becomes extreme, it’s easy to become addicted to it. Look for that “slight hunger high” and not more.