Contributer: Dr. Kristen Race
The pressures, pulls, and distractions of our lives have made the idea of attaining “balance”, an urban myth that, while desirable, seems unattainable for most of us. We spend our lives inundated 24/7 by information, our careers demand constant accessibility, and our time spent with our own children seems more harried than ever. Drawing from cutting edge research on the brain, combined with simple mindfulness practices, I’ve spent the last decade of my career creating practices to balance our brains so we can feel more balance in our lives.
What’s happening in our brain?
Speaking very simply, we have two parts of our brain that are directly impacted by mindfulness. The prefrontal cortex, or what I refer to as the Smart part of our brain, and the limbic system, or what I refer to as the Alarm part of the brain. The Smart part of the brain helps us respond thoughtfully to stressful situations, think positively, and helps us make choices that are aligned with our values. Our Alarm brain is an older part of the brain that is responsible for our survival. It is also known as the fight, flight or freeze part of the brain. Our hectic lives are constantly stimulating the Alarm part of the brain.
Due to the constant stimulation, the Alarm brain often dominates our reactions. When triggered, the Alarm part of the brain essentially hijacks the Smart part of the brain, inhibiting the function of the prefrontal cortex. As described in detail in The Beauty Construct podcast, this is why our tipping point might simply be a long line at the Starbucks drive through! Our constant stimulation of the Alarm part of our brain leaves us vulnerable to all sorts of triggers that send us over the proverbial edge. Consequently, all of these triggers we encounter over the course of a day create an imbalance in the ways in which our brains function, the ways in which our reactions don’t match our intentions, and in our lives in general.
The good news is that by engaging in short, frequent, mindfulness practices, we can strengthen key areas in the Smart part of our brain to offset the imbalance. As we engage in simple brain-based practices and activities, such as those described in the podcast, our prefrontal cortex becomes stronger, more efficient and easier to use. We become more resilient to the stressors, and we feel happier and more satisfied with our lives. We are able to handle that long line at Starbucks without screaming at our kids when they ask for a venti instead of a grande! Over time, we create a balance in our brains that gives us a sense of balance in our lives.
In this episode of The Beauty Construct we unpack dozens of tips and tools to create more balance in our brains and our lives. Enjoy!