QUOTES & WISDOM
TOP OF THE MIND
QUOTES & WISDOMfrom the Top of the Mind
QUOTES & WISDOM
Top of the Mind
Nancy Perovic, RN, BSN
University Of Chicago Hospitals, Chicago, IL
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Using Neuroscience to Strengthen Your Immune System
In the past, you may have heard me allude to how our mental state affects our immune system. However, given the state of affairs these days, I thought it would be a good idea to dive a little deeper into this phenomenon in order to give you as many tools as possible to maximize your body’s ability to fight off disease.
So, here is how all of this works. When all is well, or when we purposefully create a sense of joy, gratitude, love, meaning, etc., our immune system works at its peak, fighting off illness and keeping us as healthy as possible. However, when our middle brain (the limbic system) perceives any situation or thought as negative, worrisome, depressing, or frightening, it engages the lower brain (the brainstem) which then triggers a fight-or-flight response.
Because this response has been so vital to keeping us safe from danger in the past, the body attempts to maximize the intensity of this response by shutting down all non-essential systems, such as, the immune system. That’s the bad news.
The good news is just as a negative mindset will engage the lower brain and potentially compromise our body’s ability to fight off disease, a positive state of mind (joy, gratitude, optimism, love, etc.) will engage the upper 80% of the brain (the neocortex or what I call the “Top of the Mind”) and trigger chemicals, such as, serotonin and endorphins that support our well-being and allow our immune system to work unencumbered.
Now, to be clear, I’m not suggesting that our illness is “our fault,” or that we should just put a big smile on our face and chant, “Don’t worry, be happy,” or that we should ignore the challenging reality around us. Creating a purposeful, more positive state of mind isn’t about tricking ourselves into happiness. It’s about choosing the qualities and characteristics that we want to use as guides for our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, and then practicing being this way until it becomes a habit… basically rewiring our brain to perceive life (especially the challenging aspects of life) in a way that results in more health and happiness versus worry and depression.
Here is one way of accessing this clarity, confidence, and creativity on a regular basis:
There are four questions that I call “The Four Criteria” that will require the upper brain to regain control and point us in the right direction. When we are feeling stressed, frustrated, worried, angry, or depressed, we can ask:
1. Am I feeling this way on purpose, meaning have I chosen to feel this way or did it just happen?
2. How’s it working for me? Or, is this thought, emotion, or behavior producing the results I want?
3. Is this the way I want to be defined, or the statement I want to make about who I am?
And my favorite:
4. Would I teach or recommend this way of being to someone I love?
If the answers to these questions are no, no, no, and NO!, then we can use these same questions to shift from a focus on the problem to a focus on the solution (which shifts us from the problem-focused brain to the solution-focused brain).
In other words, if I were choosing thoughts, emotions and behaviors deliberately (or on purpose)…
In a way that I feel would help me create the experience of life I want…
In a way that does define me the way I want to be defined, or makes the statement I want to make about who I am…
And in a way I would teach or recommend to someone I love, what would that look like?
Of course, everyone will come up with a slightly different list, however, I’m guessing that the thoughts, emotions, and behaviors are much more likely to be positive, life-affirming, and therefore, supportive of a healthy immune system.
Easier said than done? Absolutely! And… isn’t everything?
The question is, how much influence do you want to have over your health and happiness, and how much time and effort are you willing to put into becoming skilled at this influence?
In other words, if you believe in the science behind how the brain can support a healthy immune system and want to become more skilled in this process, it will be important to devote time and energy into making it happen. For those of you who would like my support, my “Life from the Top of the Mind” book and videos are designed to give you a step-by-step guide. Plus, I’m available as a coach/counselor to help on an individual basis if you’d like.
The bottom line is, in order to maximize our body’s ability to fight off illness, we must learn to have as much influence as possible over our state of mind, and, therefore, our ability to direct our internal pharmacy (our brain) to trigger the sort of chemicals that support a healthy immune system.
Worth your time and effort? Something you would recommend to someone that you love? You decide.
~ All the best, Dr. Bill