RESPONSIVE 🧠 overcome stress with mindful know-how
Day 17 of 30 Days of Adventure
Today, let's cultivate a responsive mindset to unexpected challenges so that we can navigate life's twists and turns with grace and resilience.
Our brain's adaptability is a transformative superpower (when applied appropriately). In a world filled with constant change, our emotional and psychological well-being depends on how well we respond, not just react. The beauty of our brain's ability to adapt and change is awe-inspiring! And we can literally rewire our minds for resilience—let's explore how!
- 🧠 Know thy brain: Understand your amygdala and prefrontal cortex.
- 🎯 Notice triggers: When you feel reactive, pause.
- 💡 Be responsive: Cultivate practices to enhance your adaptability.
💬 ADVENTUROUS WISDOM
“There is nothing more important to true growth than realizing that you are not the voice of the mind—you are the one who hears it.”— Michael A. Singer
Best-selling author, spiritual teacher, journalist, motivational speaker who once lived in solitude in the woods in a tinyhouse he build to commit to meditation.
🥠 TRAIL SNACK
We have the power to choose how we respond. We can control the brain's irrational emotional reactions by slowing down, taking deep breaths, and refocusing our thoughts. This allows our rational prefrontal cortex to take over the irrational amygdala.
Being in the driver's seat of your mind doesn't mean suppressing your emotions. It means you don't let them dictate your actions. When you recognize you're reacting, pause. Take a deep breath. Then choose how you wish to respond.
Noticing when our lizard brain (the amygdala) triggers a fight-or-flight response gives us the power to respond more healthfully. By mindfully noticing an irrational reaction and making the shift to operate more from our rational mind, we reap massive health benefits.
🔭 LAW OF NATURE
In the case of strong perceived threats, the amygdala triggers the fight-or-flight response.
This trigger releases stress hormones, including epinephrine (also known as adrenaline) and cortisol. Constant exaggerated responses can trigger heightened anxiety levels and a constant state of stress. This leads to maladaptive learning, constantly drains our energy, and creates much of the disease modern humans face today.
Fear not! The brain can change and learn new behavior patterns.
For early humans, the fight-or-flight response was vital. The threat of physical harm was very real. Nowadays, we rarely need to actually fight or run away. Which is why our more recently developed frontal lobes, in the prefrontal cortex of the brain, can override the amygdala so we can approach situations more rationally.
📿 TRAIL MANTRA
Embrace the pause, choose your response.
In the quiet moments between stimuli and reaction lies an ocean of choices. The mantra “Embrace the pause, choose your response.” serves as a gentle reminder that we hold the reins to our emotional chariots. We don't have to be slaves to immediate reactions and the tidal waves of feelings that come with them. When we allow ourselves the gift of a pause, we carve out the space to choose a reaction aligned with our intentions, values, and desires.
Today, let this mantra echo in the corridors of your mind. Whenever you find yourself at the crossroads of emotional upheaval, recite it. Let it guide you to choose responses that serve not just the moment, but your greater journey.
🧘 MINDFUL MOMENT
Take a deep, soothing breath in through your nose, filling your lungs fully. Hold it for a moment, sensing the pause at the top of the inhalation—the space of potential and choices.
Slowly exhale through your mouth, releasing any tension or preconceived reactions that might have built up.
Imagine a calm and serene landscape. It could be a forest, a beach, or any place that embodies tranquility for you. See yourself standing there, strong and grounded. In this space, you are not just a spectator; you are a conscious creator.
Now, visualize a situation that typically provokes a stressful response from you. See it clearly, but place it at a distance, as if it were a scene in a movie. Watch as your amygdala fires up, wanting to pull you into its spiral of immediate reaction. But you are wiser now, and instead, you simply observe. You pause, and in this pause, you take back your power.
Feel the presence of your prefrontal cortex, the seat of rational thinking, glowing gently in the front of your brain. Send the chaotic energy from your amygdala towards this glowing region. Watch as it transforms from erratic sparks into a calm, steady flame.
Breathe in deeply again and choose your response to the situation, one that aligns with your true intentions and higher self. Feel the alignment like a golden thread connecting your choice to your heart and your rational mind. This is you—choosing, creating, living intentionally.
Exhale fully, releasing your constructed response into the universe, confident that it will shape your reality in a way that serves you. Slowly open your eyes, bringing your attention back to the present moment.
Feel free to linger in the feelings of empowerment and alignment. You have just practiced the essence of today's intention—to be responsive rather than reactive. Hold onto this empowered state as you go through your day, knowing that you have the ability to choose your life, one intentional response at a time.
✍🏼 JOURNAL PROMPT
- When did you last feel reactive? What triggered it?
- How could you have responded differently?
- What practices can you cultivate for better responsiveness?
🚀 INSPIRED ACTION
7 Ways to Strengthen the Prefrontal Cortex
Below are some creative ways to strengthen our rational mind. Notice which one resonates with you the most and make a point to put it into action today!
1. Resist Instant Gratification
Instant gratification rewires the brain to seek rewards immediately, with little or no time in between the initial action performed and the feedback. This decreases our level of patience over time and willpower to stick with it when the going gets tough.
2. Go Beyond Your Comfort Zone
Willpower originates from the prefrontal cortex and can be strengthened like a muscle. Due to the malleable nature of the brain, we can strengthen our willpower by doing something that’s just a bit outside your comfort zone.
3. Learn New Material
Like exercising willpower to go beyond the comfort zone, learning or doing anything new makes new neural connections in the prefrontal cortex.
4. Practice Positive Imagination
Exercising the ability to imagine the “best-case scenario” is a prime function of the prefrontal cortex. It takes willpower and conscious thought of what could go right rather than what could go wrong. And where the focus goes, energy flows! It's no wonder optimists live longer on average than pessimists.
5. Get Enough Sleep
Sleep is key in revitalizing our body’s health. Lack of sleep decreases decision-making and makes it harder to concentrate and focus, especially on what matters most.
6. Cultivate a Meditation Practice
Meditation is a great way to strengthen the prefrontal cortex because it trains us to notice what is happening, refocus our concentration, and be present in the moment. The intention is to focus the mind and bring awareness to a laser-sharp point, shutting out all other considerations.
7. Eat Quality Foods
We truly are what we eat! We eat to obtain the essential nutrients our body (especially the brain) utilizes to function properly. Certain foods make it harder for us to think in a logical and coherent manner due to the “brain fog” they give us. Whereas eating healthy, unprocessed, whole foods provides our body and mind with higher-quality clean-burning energy.
I acknowledge my primitive nature that strives to keep me safe.
I greet irrational emotions with a deep breath.
I recognize my evolved nature that seeks freedom, joy, and growth.
I healthfully repattern my behaviors by responding mindfully.
Bravo for embarking on this transformative journey! You've delved deep into understanding the power of adaptability, and you're on your way to mastering your responses.
Stay curious. Stay inspired. See you tomorrow for another uplifting session as we explore more ways to stay staying calm amidst the storm.
💬 COMMUNITY CONVERSATION
What is one way you're inspired to practice responding to stressful situations?
We'd love to hear from you in the comments!