Dr. Frank Lawlis, author of Retraining the Brain: A 45-Day Plan to Conquer Stress and Anxiety, shares advice on conquering depression, anxiety and stress.
Ten Tips On Coping With Depression
• There are many kinds of depression, but the one thing that elevates your brain patterns to defeat depression is exercise that matches your breathing and energy. Cross country running or long term dancing produces the brain with increased activities on your own endorphins to bring a sense of joy. Your brain also is fed with rich oxygen that can shift patterns of neurons away from the sluggish frequencies around the pleasure centers.
• I think the inventions of movies provides a great change in virtual reality, which by demand changes your brain patterns to another reality, and if the story is an inspirational one that promotes a change in the meaning of the reason for our being, thus a major brain adjustment and sparks fly from the joy centers.
• Because so many of the nerve fibers go from the body to the brain, we often say that emotions follow behavior. This can be reduced to “fake it until you make it.” This is something we don’t like to do because we want to be motivated and let our emotions take us to new heights. But the reverse is also true, as far as the brain goes. If you make your mind to enjoy life, your brain will change its patterns to be consistent with your behavior. Just by altering your general posture can do amazing things. For example, you fix yourself in a “bow” posture (chest forward, arms flung back, knees bent slightly and chin tucked in so the head is sitting directly over your shoulders), it is almost impossible to stay depressed. Of course, it may hurt from the muscles that are tight. Yoga postures can really help in this process of changing brain depression.
• Again, breathing yourself out of depression has been consistent with brain shifts. For example, if you breathe the “alternate nostril technique” (closing on nostril while completing a full cycle with the other), your brain will light up like a Christmas tree, allowing your brain centers to reach a higher level of frequencies.
• Singing also has a powerful effect on brain chemistry and adds to breathing patterns for alleviation of depressive symptoms.
• There is such a thing as brain coherence across individuals. If you are around other people who are not depressed, your brain can get in step with these other entrainment forces. Team efforts can really get your brain rolling in a desired direction. Singing and dancing together promotes these brain levels even more.
• Challenge your reasons for being depressed. The area of the brain that is associated with reasoning and executive function is the frontal lobe and to change your login for emotions can be seen through SPECT scans. If you challenge your belief systems as come to a rational conclusions that very little cause can be directed to real world conditions, your brain has to change its patterns. For example, what if you were sad because you thought you were a failure, but discovered that there is no failure, only an event for learning who you are and your limitations, then your brain cannot continue to hold that choice in judgment as valid.
• Nurture your brain with good nutrition. Take herbs like Rhodiola (Siberian herb), Glutamine, Ginkgo-biloda and see how the brain changes into a more powerful center for self confidence and success, which adds to the antidepressive circuitry.
• It may sound even stranger if I told you that subjecting yourself to a 25-watt blue light you can get from the hardware store will change your brain frequencies out of low level depression, but it will. Research has shown that even animals get a charge from blue light that makes them friskier and more playful.
• Have some faith. Believe it or not, tomorrow will eventually come and another day will start. At least I am betting on it. Likewise, there is nothing that will make our whole lives meaningless from the external forces that surround us. If we allow ourselves to have faith that things will change, with or without our pessimistic thoughts, they will. This may sound like religious thinking, and maybe it is, but if we allow our brains to get stuck in the grooves of cynicism we will surely go down the vertex of brain distortions of unhappiness.
Commitment: Can a person's brain really be retrained so that a person no longer suffers stress, anxiety and depression?
Dr. Frank Lawlis: Yes, the brain can be retrained to alter its responses to those triggers of stress, anxiety and depression, and can be done in amazingly quick time, if you do it right, and that is what this book is all about with multiple methods.
The principles of PsychoNeuroPlasticity described in the book are based on sound brain studies and bases its foundations on the ability of the brain to align the neurons into different patterns and changing the functioning of the frequency states of the various regions of the brain.
Emotions appear to be more pliable than motor functions, but also less stable. By retraining your brain to be active at certain, adaptive ranges, it is more proficient in solving problems in efficient ways.
We have seen this in martial arts training where survival is a major concern, showing that the calm, focused mind is the real answer to maximum performance. The brain is capable of changing according to the trained patterns. So many of our reactions are habits of responding and we can change habits, which are brain based as well. The army has been doing this by generations.
Commitment: If a person came to you today and said, "I am so stressed out all the time" what five things could they begin to do today that would help relieve their stress?
Dr. Lawlis: The major emphasis for relief of stress is not to eliminate stress, because there is a positive aspect that we can receive joy and pleasure from some aspects of stress. Rather, the principle theme for stress is to manage it with a balancing training program, thus, making your mind more competent and actually enjoying stress.
My major five for quick relief are:
• Balancing your life with physical exercise with alternate sessions between raising the exertion level for five minutes such that your heart rate increases and relaxing for five minutes. Repeat this exchange of activities for about 30 minutes a day. This pattern will develop a restoration process in your brain creating more flexibility and endurance for stress.
• Sleep is one of the most powerful resistances to chronic stress because of the restorative processes to the mind and body. However, the brain often needs to be strained to sleep so you can get the deeper benefits. There are two ways to accomplish this, teaching the brain by association and beginning to establish orderly cycles.
• Nutritional balance is critical to the brain for energy available to deal with stress and find solutions. The usual problem is that people often abuse their friend with high sugar and salt. However, eating good foods with protein, complex carbohydrates can bring your brain up to optimum performance.
• Take a break at least twice a day for distressing exercises and brain re-patterning. I would recommend using a relaxing music selection (no lyrics) in order to reset your brain patterns to the rhythmic entrainment of the music. Drum beats are very good.
• Good breathing techniques can aid in any of the above activities, but can stand alone as a major aid in changing your brain to deal with stress. I like the 4-3-5 pattern as a great huge change for adaptation processes.
Commitment: Can you tell us about Maria, who wrote you about in Chapter 1 titled "Maria's Story: From Victim to Dragonslayer"? What enabled Maria to escape and break out of a stress cycle that left her stuck and diminished as a person?
Dr. Lawlis: There were two events that changed Maria’s life, both of them seemingly accidental. The first was someone who believed in her and her potential and the second was her decision to join the structured environment of the Marines. The first was a major mile stone because her brain was immediately converted to choosing strength over expected defeat and limitations. I would bet that if we had a brain scan going, we would have seen a major pattern shift in her neuron firing in new areas (like her joy centers and problem-solving areas).
As the success grew, more neurons plugged into that new bundle of self power. The strict reinforcement of the Marines created new brain plasticity in a total 24-7 environment and training methods based on techniques found in all methods for standard responses.
Commitment: What is a stress storm? What can put a stop to stress storms?
Dr. Lawlis: As the book defines a stress storm, you know you are in a stress storm when you can’t talk yourself out of the overwhelming fears and habitual thinking to submit to chronic defeat of your personal powers. In brain terms, it is when your brain gets into a pattern of destructive habits in which the habit strength of emotional responses. There are many ways to stop them, if you know how.
Commitment: What type of life-damaging choices can occur as a result of a deteriorating mind?
Dr. Lawlis: As we know from addiction studies, our brains can get so off balance, thus making our decision-making destructive. We lose our compasses to know where peace of mind can be, yet choose the short-term goals that do not permit new balance.
We become “addicted” to the wrong values and likely give up to this distorted world view and count ourselves as victims without power.
Like our muscles, our minds become weaker to resisting the deadly spiral. The way we change is a commitment to change, even if it is hard to see hope. With techniques in hand, someone can guide you through the passages or you can find your own path. That is what this is for.
Commitment: What foods can help the brain cope with stress?
Dr. Lawlis: The brain uses more fuel that the rest of the body combined, yet has no storage. Therefore, you can’t tank up on good nutrition and many people literally starve their brain, which causes stress by itself. Your brain uses low-fat, complex carbohydrates (since glucose is a form of sugar).
It also likes protein to protect itself and grow, and fatty acids, like Omega-3s, another form of fats, are essential. Examples of low-fat carbos include most vegetables (raw), brown rice, beans, lentils, skin-on potatoes and whole grains. Proteins and omega-3 composites includes your eggs (boiled), fish (swimming), Shitake mushrooms, almond butter and sweet potatoes
Commitment: Can you share with us the principles of brain plasticity so that we can understand how the brain that is suffering can change to one that experiences joy?
Dr. Lawlis: The brain that cannot experience joy can happen from trauma or habitual bad training of the brain. The joy centers are basically shut down and the person may be hesistant to change for fear things might change for the worse, may not change at all (hopelessness) or helplessness, being overwhelmed with fear. There are other biological reasons as well.
The way out is to follow the steps of psychoneuroplasticity. You can cause the brain to literally stop the patterns by some form of challenge or shock, thus, disrupted. It is this pause that enables the brain to restructure itself. Sonic stimulus (sounds and music) can help redirect the brain frequencies and neuron patterns. Then, the process has to be reinforced to stand in the new pattern to establish consistency.
Dr. Lawlis On The Five Ways To Retrain The Brain to Cope With Anxiety:
• Begin to breathe differently, preferably in coordination to the heart beat. As research has shown, the breath pace controls over 2000 functions in the body and has direct access to brain signals.
• I would find a highly scented flower or essence and take a long inhalation, enough to fill my sinuses. Smell has priority over other brain functions, especially emotions, and will drive away the stress thoughts immediately. This can be a short reprieve, but will “reset” the emotions.
• Find some music or rhythms that will change your stress levels. As we have learned that “music soothes the soul” and research has clearly shown that the brain is entrained by constant rhythms. Singing, especially with others, can be very helpful in helping your brain reset itself. Along with music and rhythms, physical exercise, especially rhythmic exercise, such as dancing will change brain patterns very effectively.
• Eating de-stressing foods can be effective, especially those foods that have high levels of endorphin stimulation, such as melons, strawberries with the leaves attached, almonds, and bananas. I would stay away from sugars and salty foods because they will eventually bring the stress back.
• Talk to yourself. It has been shown that children do better on mathematics problems if they talk through their problems aloud. And who else knows you best than yourself. By talking to yourself, you can hear how your thinking patterns (hence brain patterns) are processing information. By correcting faulty conclusions and finding creative solutions, you can gain self confidence and resist anxiety.
Commitment: What advice do you have for those who suffer with ADD and who would like to be able to focus and think more clearly?
Dr. Lawlis: This process has been well researched with many good ways. The process is finding ways to stimulate the prefrontal region of the brain that is a definite signature of ADD on brain scans. The most effective ways that can be done at home are:
• As strange as it sounds, humming at certain tones has been shown to stimulate the brain and change levels of activity. You can usually find the tome intuitively by experiencing the vibration in your skull because we have found some justification in this practice when we used sophisticated methods.
• Nutrition, high in protein, such as boiled eggs, fish and even peanut butter, and elimination of sugary breakfasts, will do miracles.
• Listening to constant drumming, such as the drumming CD we give all of our ADD kids, will help orchestra the brain for greater attention.
• Breathing in rhythms such that your breathing pace coincides with your heart rhythm will signal your brain to create the best oxygen mixture to use in your brain as well as strengthen positive brain frequencies.
• Be exposed to blue light, especially in the mornings that are challenges to concentrate.
• Chew gum, especially that gum that is recommended by the American Dental Assn.
• What not to do is as important as what to do. What not to do are:
1. Don’t watch television more than one hour per day and only at night. The frequency of the TV will entrain the brain to the destructive lower side, which may help sleep but endanger concentration levels.
2. Don’t play video games. It limits actual brain concentration quality needed to succeed in school.
3. Don’t eat sugary breakfasts, drink diet drinks or use recreational drugs.
Commitment: How does positive reinforcement help the brain? And what should parents understand about positive reinforcement that will help them with their children's learning process?
Dr. Lawlis: The brain has a door-like process in which it opens itself to retraining and repatterning, as well as maintaining the desired patterns. The brain chemical complex is called “Brain Growth Factors” and is composed of many of the substances we associate with excitement and eager anticipation, such as adrenal hormones. This compound lubricates the neurons with rich fatty substance that speeds up the learning process. By positive reinforcing these channels to be open, we have a much better opportunity to make the repatterning “stick.”
Commitment: For those who are aging and can feel their memory and brain slipping away, what advice do you have? What can they do to stop this memory slippage and regain some of their brain's capacity?
Dr. Lawlis: We have demonstrated that these methods work at all ages. For example, we have shown that doing these exercises in the book, the individuals (ages 67 – 89) have increased their cognitive abilities by 20 points, some going well over the average IQ of the nation. Not only can these work, but they remain stable over the years and can increase instead of decrease. The most powerful that they reported as important were:
• Rhythmic exercise and movement with music (especially for those who used to dance for enjoyment
• Breathing new patterns
• Nutritional changes
• Stimulating games, especially those game that everyone wins instead of one winner.
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