Why Feelings are Smarter than Thoughts & 3 Tips to Translate Them

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Have you ever had a feeling about something but couldn’t explain why you knew it was right? A gut instinct? A hunch?

And have you ever chosen not to listen to that gut instinct simply because you couldn’t give a logical explanation for it, but then regretted ignoring it later?

I know I have! Too many times have I looked back on a situation and thought, “Man, I knew I shouldn’t have done that.” But in the moment mentally convinced myself otherwise.

Why do we ignore our intuition?

I believe it’s because we’ve lost sight of recognising our feelings and sensations as highly intelligent rapid messages coming from our body and greater awareness, and instead emphasised thoughts and mind as the ultimate intelligence.

But really, what’s faster our thoughts or our feelings?

Imagine someone you’re very attracted to has just walked into the room and flashed a big smile and sexy wink at you. What happens first:
a) Your heart rate goes up, you blush, you feel little butterflies etc.
b) You think, ‘He/She is so hot/awesome/amazing/sexy, wow, what does that smile and wink mean? That made me feel good.’

I don’t need a scientific study to tell me that most of us will pick a) . We FEEL the stimulus from our environment first and then our thoughts catch up to categorise, analyse and compartmentalise the experience.

To be fair, the mind does this generally quite rapidly, but the truth is that our sensations are always the first responders to our experience, sending us information about how that environmental stimulus does and will effect us.

How about with our health?

If you’ve ever had any kind of illness what was the first thing that led you to know something wasn’t right? I’d wager quite a big bet that is was a feeling. Maybe simply a physical feeling like pain or fatigue, or sometimes a feeling that’s harder to pin point.

If you think about any of your health issues, how long did you feel that feeling before checking it out further? How often have you ignored it or written it off until it was unbearable to ignore?

And have you ever wished you’d explored that pain or feeling earlier because then it would have been easier to heal, or at least you would have healed sooner and not suffered as long?

I hear people tell me stories like this all the time. And I know that I have regretted ignoring the signs of my body calling out for help far too often. And when I’ve done that they never go quiet they just start yelling louder.

Our feelings are messages from the body.

Sensations and feelings are not arbitrary or mystical, they are simply the way our body communicates to us how environmental influences are impacting us.

The environmental influences could be something we eat or drink, breath, touch, listen to or even see. And bazaar enough, biologically our own thoughts are considered environmental influences.

The science of epigenetic research shows that even our genes respond to environmental stimuli, and the type of thoughts we continually think create a physiological response that actually impacts how genes express.

Not to mentions our state of mind also influence our nervous system, how we digest, breath, our heart rate and so much more.

Feelings are a language and we need to learn how to read them.

Our physical sensations or feelings are the language of the body giving us feedback about how the environment is influencing us as well as how our thoughts our influencing us, and we’d be wise to pay attention and start learning this language.

Doing breath body mindfulness practices like yoga and meditation are one of the greatest ways to become more fluent in the language of feelings and sensations.

Emotions are defined as “strong feelings deriving from one’s circumstances, mood, or relationships with others.” So our emotions too are messages conveying the intelligence of the body that we can listen to and be guided by.

[infobox]3 Tips to Translate Your Feelings

1. Moving and scan your body every morning.

Approach each morning with movement and use it as a question to the self, checking in and seeing how you feel. Once you’ve noticed the dominant sensations arising simply ask, “What is this telling me about my health, life or mind set? What do I need today, right now to feel balanced?”

2. Use Feelings as a GPS Sat Nav System.

I like to think of my sensations in this way, as if they are constantly giving me directions. When I get a bad feeling I take it as a little warning sign saying, “Wrong direction! Wrong direction! Please proceed in the in the other direction.”

Then I simply ask myself, “What is the right direction?” I know it’s the right direction because when I imagine it or start going in that direction is feels good. That simple.

3. Voice Dialogue with Parts of Your Body. 

Voice dialogue is a technique that came from Dr. Hal and Dr. Sidra Stone, psychologists who developed a method of speaking to the different aspects of yourself. Traditionally it is used to speak to the different aspect of your psyche by giving each a voice, but you can also give a voice to various parts of your body.

I’ve work with people who’ve given a voice to their eyes, injured knee that wouldn’t heal, colon and immune system that was having an autoimmune response.

The basic idea is simple to have a conversation with this part of your self. You can do this in your head, while meditating or through journaling.

Begin by asking questions to it. For example, if you’re having digestive issues you could ask your stomach and intestines, “How are you feeling today? What makes you feel that way? What makes you feel good? What makes you feel bad? What would you like to tell me?

Simply allow the response to be natural and as if the stomach were speaking. For example, “I’m feeling a bit bloated today. I couldn’t really process all those almonds. I’d like to tell you just to relax, no need to rush around so much.” Just have a conversations as if it were a friend…after all, we want to befriend our bodies, care for them and love, not put demands on them as if they were lifeless machines. Every single cell in your body carries your soul and inner light, we are far from machine like![/infobox]

Trust your feelings and yourself!

Sadly, most of us weren’t taught these basic skills so we have a lot of doubt or numbness around our feelings and sensations.

Remember this is how we are designed to be and there is so much evolutionary and biological intelligence and validity to our feelings — even if we can’t logically explain them.

Just like learning any language it can be quite overwhelming at first and hard to understand, but the more you practice the easier it becomes until one day you realise you’re fluent and having a fantastic conversation without second guessing.

What are you’re favourite ways to understand the language of feelings and sensations?

Resources:

http://www.sci-news.com/othersciences/psychology/science-positive-psychology-gene-expression-humans-01305.html

http://www.nature.com/scitable/topicpage/epigenetic-influences-and-disease-895

http://www.voicedialogueinternational.com/index-intro.htm

3 Tips to Use Your Brain Better

Unknown-1Last week on my blog we learned about some fantastic neuroscience findings regarding the mind and body that remind us of our tremendous potential for self healing and creating the life we desire:

  1. We continue to develop new brain cells all through adulthood, meaning we can change patterns, learn new skills and even heal brain damage throughout life.
  2. Our heart and digestive tract have independent nervous systems to the brain, often sending more signals to the brain than the other way around, meaning the body is not just the puppet of the brain, but is in a dynamic dialogue.
  3. Our genes are triggered to express by environmental stimuli, so even if we have a genetic predisposition we can reduce the likelihood of that gene expressing by being mindful about environmental stimuli (like food, thoughts, exercise and exposure to toxins).

This week I want to look at a few practical ways to put that knowledge to use.

  1. Keep Trying New Things & Learning 

Staying in the same old routine dulls the brain and can keep us stuck in undesirable patterns. When ever we learn something new the brain is forced to fire differently, creating new and different neurological connections.

Dr. Joe Dispenza explains, learning is forging new synaptic connections, and every time you learn something new your brain physically changes. Nerve cells that fire together wire together, and as you begin to learn new information you biologically wire that into your brain architecture.

The mind is the brain in action. When ever we make the brain work differently, we’re changing our mind. Changing our mind means changing our experience of life, but if we stay stuck in the same old routines this is unlikely to happen.

So get out there and try something new! Next time you’re in a new yoga pose and feel silly or frustrated remember the effect it will have on shifting other mental patterns, generating new synaptic connections and cognitive ability could be life changing!

  1. Relax, The Saber Tooth Tiger is Extinct  

Stress is one of the biggest causes of disease in our modern world mostly because people do not know how to turn off the stress response in their body.  Over time this leads to adrenal fatigue, poor sleep, bad digestion, clouded thinking, reduced functioning of all bodily systems and ultimately disease.

Evolutionarily the stress response, also known as fight, flight or freeze response, saved us from things like sabre tooth tigers. When we’re in danger this response triggers blood to rushed into our limbs, eyes and our cerebellum or primitive brain, and away from our organs, frontal lobe and neocortex, the areas of logic, creativity and self awareness.

When we’re stressed out about work or life, or overstimulate ourselves with caffeine, the brain receives the same chemical messages as if we were in a life threatening situation, like being chased by a sabre tooth tiger.

The truth is, rarely are we in such danger, but the brain and body don’t know the difference between real danger or perceived danger. It errs on the side of caution and sends the adrenals into overdrive.

So what to do? Recognise that stress is a choice. As mentioned in my previous blog, we can observe our own thoughts, neuroscience calls this meta-cognition. Next time you find yourself in a stressful situation and getting all worked up, heart racing, can’t think clearly try to catch yourself and ask, is this really life threatening? Do I really need to stress out about this so much?

An easy way to diffuse stress and shift into the relaxation response is to take a few deep breaths and calm the heart rate. The Heart Math Institute calls the coherence. When the heart rate lowers it’s telling the brain, “Don’t worry, we’re safe, the tiger is gone, no need to trigger stress chemicals.” Moving the breath and body in a mindful way as well as meditation also turn off the stress response.

  1. Imagine, Visualise & Meditate on What you Want 

The fascinating thing about the body-brain connection is that it can’t tell the difference between real or imagined experiences. Simply thinking about the thing that stresses us out can send us into  a stress response. Or, simply imagining falling in love with someone can create a whole cascade of chemical reactions from the Limbic system generating emotions.

The point is, our body responds to our thoughts, even if they are imagined. Now this can be very very useful, or very very detrimental. If we’re constantly thinking negative stressful thoughts, this is how we’re going to feel. On the other hand, if we choose to think more positively, we’ll feel more positive.

Remember, nerves that fire together wire together. So if we’ve had a negative thought pattern for a long time it means we’ve neurologically wired together strong networks for this thought pattern and it’s much easier to keep using those connections than forge new ones. But we can forge new connections! And the more we think in the way we want to the stronger those connections become. The less we repeat an old pattern, the weaker those connections become.

Dr. Joe Dispenza says that learning is creating new connections, and remembering is maintaining them. You can choose which patterns you want to maintain, and which you want to let deteriorate.

Great ways to shift thought patterns include visualisation or imaging the new way you want to react to a situation before it happens. This is sometimes called mental rehearsal and a common practice among elite athletes because it’s been show to greatly improve performance. Apply this to any new way you want to act or feel and you’ll literally be rewiring your brain so that it becomes easier to act, think and feel the way you want.

Practical Ayurveda for Yoga Teacher with Morgan Webert

30 hour Continuing Education

17 April – 15 May, Fridays 12-6pm

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Debunking 3 Myths About Brain & Body That Can Change Your Life 

051227_synapse_02Last weekend I went to an incredible workshop about the neuroscience of the mind body connection. Something I’ve been fascinated with for years, but this weekend seriously re-inspired my passion for exploring the unbelievable potential of our mind-body and how important it is to work with it on a regular basis.

Before we dive into how to work with mind-body connection let’s start by busting a few myths.

Myth Busting: 

1) Adult brain cells don’t regenerate — total BS!  While it is true that the majority of our brain development occurs in our early years, neuroscientists have now documented that adult brain cells do keep growing and changing. In other words, you can teach an old dog new tricks!

Nerve cells grow, change and develop networks of connections based on environmental stimuli and repetition throughout our whole life. As Dr. Joe Dispenza explains, learning is forging new connections, and every time you learn something new your brain physically changes. Nerve cells that fire together wire together, and as you begin to learn new information you biologically wire that into your brain architecture.

So even if you feel super stuck in an old pattern, know that you have the power to change it! If you’re starting yoga, meditation or any other practice stick to it, you’re brain will develop new synaptic connections each time you practice and eventually it will become easier and automatic.

2) The brain is the command centre — not quite. Our brain is amazingly powerful, but scientists are beginning to discover that it’s not the penultimate control centre of our existence. For example, the heart has it’s own independent complex nervous system often referred to as the “heart-brain” composed of about 40,000 neurons that can sense, feel, learn, remember and communicate messages back to the brain. In fact, studies show that the heart sends more neurological commands to the brain than the brain does to the heart.

“One important way the heart can speak to and influence the brain is when the heart is coherent – generating a stable, sine-wavelike pattern in its rhythms. When the heart rhythm is coherent, the body, including the brain, begins to experience all sorts of benefits, among them greater mental clarity and intuitive ability, including better decision-making,” says Deborah Rozman, Ph.D. and president of HeartMath Institute.

heart-brain-coaching-image-Scientists are also making great discoveries about the independent nervous system in our digestive tract, called the enteric nervous system, or the “gut-brain” and how it not only controls digestion but has a massive influence on our moods.

So remember, there’s a lot more behind trusting your heart and gut feeling that you may realise! The yoga system actually recognises that we have 5 bodies, the mind being just one of them (read my last blog for more details on that).

On top of that, something yogi’s have been exploring for thousands of years, and what scientists called “meta-cognition,” is the ability to observe the mind. If we can observer our mind it implies there is a cognitive part of ourselves separate from our mind. What is that? Our higher self or consciousness according to the yogi’s of yore.

3) Everything is genetically determined and we can’t change our genes — wrong! It’s commonly thought that we’re stuck with what we’re born with genetically and that familial patterns of health and disease are passed down generation to generation. The new field of epigenetics however, has made groundbreaking discoveries on how environmental factors actually control our gene activity and proving we are not prisoners to genetic heredity.

“Bottom line: While each of us inherits our own unique, hardwired, unchangeable version of the genetic code, epigenetic factors such as lifestyle and diet can radically change what our genes do,” says Dr. Frank Lipman. “There are thousands of genes that render you susceptible to the classic, chronic diseases so many people are experiencing today, such as heart disease, obesity, diabetes and cancer. But whether or not these genes are expressed, and blossom into disease, may be determined by how you live your life, how you eat, the toxins you’re exposed to, the supplements you take, your beliefs and how you handle stress. This means that though you may be susceptible to heart disease or diabetes, you do not necessarily have to succumb to them. That is, your genes are a predisposition, not a fate, and the expression of your genes is much more dynamic and modifiable than previously realised.”

Further research shows that what we think and believe is itself an environmental influence on how genes express themselves. So remember, that you have choice and power even with regards to genetic predisposition.

Stay tuned for next week’s blog where I’ll discuss five simple ways to use your brain, and mind-body connection to live a healthier, happier life!

I love hearing back from you! What experience or thoughts do you have about these topics?