Want to Control Your Mind? Your Body Has it Covered

Want to Control Your Mind? Your Body Has it Covered

We’ve known for a while the incredible power of the mind over the body, but there’s an abundance of scientific evidence that’s showing the mind isn’t always the one calling the shots. The relationship is a two way one, with the body also having a hefty influence over the mind.

Professor Sian Beilock is a leading expert on the brain science behind human performance. She highlights the importance of early movement for babies and young children as a way to support their cognitive development.

Beilock claims that for babies, there’s enormous benefit in providing them with plenty of opportunities to safely run around without clothes and baby walkers so they can freely explore their environment.

For young kids, it’s important to get them moving, not only for their physical health but also for their mental health and to support their academic performance. Beilock emhapsises the importance of the ‘4 R’s’ = reading, writing, arithmetic and recess. Recess may be particularly important for boys – running around may be particularly important for their academic performance.

 Let’s not leave out the grown ups. Physical activity is also important for the rest of us. Beilock stresses the importance of activity, particularly aerobic exercise, on the structure and working of the brain, particularly thinking, reasoning and memory. Swimming, running, cycling, brisk walking, or cleaning the house with a rocket in your step can all improve mental health.

Beilock offers these ideas to strengthen the mind-body connection. Little things can make a huge difference:

  • Reboot the brain during work by taking a break and going for a walk.
  • Walking away from a difficult problem for a few minutes can help to bring around a resolution.
  • Posture and expressions all influence mood. Standing tall can help you to feel powerful and confident and can communicate the same to others. Facial expressions cue the brain to feel certain emotions. Smiling, for example, can make you feel happier.
  • For an exam or performance, study or practice in the same conditions that you’ll be performing in. Try to face the same position, stand or sit the same way, if you chew gum while you study, try to do it during the exam too.
  • Journalling can be a way to ‘download’ worries from mind to paper. It can improve performance by reducing stress or the worries of daily life.
  • Spend time in the outdoors. Science has shown us that walking in nature can recharge your mind and improve attention and the capacity to focus.
  • Meditation, even for a few minutes a day, can help ease anxiety and pain, among other things. It can also add heft to self-control if there are habits that need breaking. 

Our minds were meant to be strong, wild and beautiful – free to roam and learn and make us the best version of human that we can be. Anything we can do to maximise it’s potential – or to maximise the control we have control over it’s potential – will see to it that we flourish.

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Hey Sigmund

Barbara I’m not sure but let’s see if I can help. There are two possibilities. You commented on Facebook about a book called ‘The Grief Recovery Handbook’. Is this it? otherwise, the closest I can find to the words you are typing in is ‘It’s Not You, It’s What Happened to You.’ Does this help? I haven’t read either of them but it looks like both are available on Amazon.

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Barbara

I am looking for a Book that was featured at the end of one of the articles. I noted it in my poor old brain and it slipped out. The cover of the book had a large tree on it. It was about personal trauma I believe.
But I keep typing ” you are what happened to you ” or something similar into search engines and do not get anything close. Anyone remember ?? I have read all your blogs for years but it was recent. Please Help ?

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Barbara

I learn everyday ! You are so important to me !

Please feel free to send me a bill, I owe you.

They keep trying to jam Big Pharma down my throat there’s not that much wrong, Widows hurt, it takes how long it takes. I have no doubt that I will succeed now.
The American Medical community won’t take the time to know what people are really going through.

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Louise Armoni

On Day 14 of your own 30 Days of Flight you suggested walking tall, with longer strides – and indeed it is weirdly effective. Thanks for all those great ideas!

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Anxiety is a sign that the brain has registered threat and is mobilising the body to get to safety. One of the ways it does this is by organising the body for movement - to fight the danger or flee the danger. 

If there is no need or no opportunity for movement, that fight or flight fuel will still be looking for expression. This can come out as wriggly, fidgety, hyperactive behaviour. This is why any of us might pace or struggle to sit still when we’re anxious. 

If kids or teens are bouncing around, wriggling in their chairs, or having trouble sitting still, it could be anxiety. Remember with anxiety, it’s not about what is actually safe but about what the brain perceives. New or challenging work, doing something unfamiliar, too much going on, a tired or hungry body, anything that comes with any chance of judgement, failure, humiliation can all throw the brain into fight or flight.

When this happens, the body might feel busy, activated, restless. This in itself can drive even more anxiety in kids or teens. Any of us can struggle when we don’t feel comfortable in our own bodies. 

Anxiety is energy with nowhere to go. To move through anxiety, give the energy somewhere to go - a fast walk, a run, a whole-body shake, hula hooping, kicking a ball - any movement that spends the energy will help bring the brain and body back to calm.♥️
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#parenting #anxietyinkids #childanxiety #parenting #parent
This is not bad behaviour. It’s big behaviour a from a brain that has registered threat and is working hard to feel safe again. 

‘Threat’ isn’t about what is actually safe or not, but about what the brain perceives. The brain can perceive threat when there is any chance missing out on or messing up something important, anything that feels unfamiliar, hard, or challenging, feeling misunderstood, thinking you might be angry or disappointed with them, being separated from you, being hungry or tired, anything that pushes against their sensory needs - so many things. 

During anxiety, the amygdala in the brain is switched to high volume, so other big feelings will be too. This might look like tears, sadness, or anger. 

Big feelings have a good reason for being there. The amygdala has the very important job of keeping us safe, and it does this beautifully, but not always with grace. One of the ways the amygdala keeps us safe is by calling on big feelings to recruit social support. When big feelings happen, people notice. They might not always notice the way we want to be noticed, but we are noticed. This increases our chances of safety. 

Of course, kids and teens still need our guidance and leadership and the conversations that grow them, but not during the emotional storm. They just won’t hear you anyway because their brain is too busy trying to get back to safety. In that moment, they don’t want to be fixed or ‘grown’. They want to feel seen, safe and heard. 

During the storm, preserve your connection with them as much as you can. You might not always be able to do this, and that’s okay. None of this is about perfection. If you have a rupture, repair it as soon as you can. Then, when their brains and bodies come back to calm, this is the time for the conversations that will grow them. 

Rather than, ‘What consequences do they need to do better?’, shift to, ‘What support do they need to do better?’ The greatest support will come from you in a way they can receive: ‘What happened?’ ‘What can you do differently next time?’ ‘You’re the most wonderful kid and I know you didn’t want this to happen. How can you put things right? Do you need my help with that?’♥️
Big behaviour is a sign of a nervous system in distress. Before anything, that vulnerable nervous system needs to be brought back home to felt safety. 

This will happen most powerfully with relationship and connection. Breathe and be with. Let them know you get it. This can happen with words or nonverbals. It’s about feeling what they feel, but staying regulated.

If they want space, give them space but stay in emotional proximity, ‘Ok I’m just going to stay over here. I’m right here if you need.’

If they’re using spicy words to make sure there is no confusion about how they feel about you right now, flag the behaviour, then make your intent clear, ‘I know how upset you are and I want to understand more about what’s happening for you. I’m not going to do this while you’re speaking to me like this. You can still be mad, but you need to be respectful. I’m here for you.’

Think of how you would respond if a friend was telling you about something that upset her. You wouldn’t tell her to calm down, or try to fix her (she’s not broken), or talk to her about her behaviour. You would just be there. You would ‘drop an anchor’ and steady those rough seas around her until she feels okay enough again. Along the way you would be doing things that let her know your intent to support her. You’d do this with you facial expressions, your voice, your body, your posture. You’d feel her feels, and she’d feel you ‘getting her’. It’s about letting her know that you understand what she’s feeling, even if you don’t understand why (or agree with why). 

It’s the same for our children. As their important big people, they also need leadership. The time for this is after the storm has passed, when their brains and bodies feel safe and calm. Because of your relationship, connection and their felt sense of safety, you will have access to their ‘thinking brain’. This is the time for those meaningful conversations: 
- ‘What happened?’
- ‘What did I do that helped/ didn’t help?’
- ‘What can you do differently next time?’
- ‘You’re a great kid and I know you didn’t want this to happen, but here we are. What can you do to put things right? Do you need my help with that?’♥️
As children grow, and especially by adolescence, we have the illusion of control but whether or not we have any real influence will be up to them. The temptation to control our children will always come from a place of love. Fear will likely have a heavy hand in there too. When they fall, we’ll feel it. Sometimes it will feel like an ache in our core. Sometimes it will feel like failure or guilt, or anger. We might wish we could have stopped them, pushed a little harder, warned a little bigger, stood a little closer. We’re parents and we’re human and it’s what this parenting thing does. It makes fear and anxiety billow around us like lost smoke, too easily.

Remember, they want you to be proud of them, and they want to do the right thing. When they feel your curiosity over judgement, and the safety of you over shame, it will be easier for them to open up to you. Nobody will guide them better than you because nobody will care more about where they land. They know this, but the magic happens when they also know that you are safe and that you will hold them, their needs, their opinions and feelings with strong, gentle, loving hands, no matter what.♥️
Anger is the ‘fight’ part of the fight or flight response. It has important work to do. Anger never exists on its own. It exists to hold other more vulnerable emotions in a way that feels safer. It’s sometimes feels easier, safer, more acceptable, stronger to feel the ‘big’ that comes with anger, than the vulnerability that comes with anxiety, sadness, loneliness. This isn’t deliberate. It’s just another way our bodies and brains try to keep us safe. 

The problem isn’t the anger. The problem is the behaviour that can come with the anger. Let there be no limits on thoughts and feelings, only behaviour. When children are angry, as long as they are safe and others are safe, we don’t need to fix their anger. They aren’t broken. Instead, drop the anchor: as much as you can - and this won’t always be easy - be a calm, steadying, loving presence to help bring their nervous systems back home to calm. 

Then, when they are truly calm, and with love and leadership, have the conversations that will grow them - 
- What happened? 
- What can you do differently next time?
- You’re a really great kid. I know you didn’t want this to happen but here we are. How can you make things right. Would you like some ideas? Do you need some help with that?
- What did I do that helped? What did I do that didn’t help? Is there something that might feel more helpful next time?

When their behaviour falls short of ‘adorable’, rather than asking ‘What consequences they need to do better?’ let the question be, ‘What support do they need to do better.’ Often, the biggest support will be a conversation with you, and that will be enough.♥️
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#parenting #positiveparenting #mindfulparenting #anxietyinkids

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