Taking control of your emotions may be one of the most challenging things you’ll ever do, but it is well worth the effort. Here, we’ll explain what it takes to gain back control and experience a life of abundance instead of struggle.
The Emotional Center Of The Brain
Located in the temporal lobe, the amygdala is a small, ovular region of the brain that is responsible for emotional motivation and reactions. It is also involved in memory processing and decision-making, although it is not exclusively in charge of these functions.Research has found that men and women exhibit differences in this area of the brain. Women were found to retain stronger emotional memories, while men were more likely to exhibit a physical response to emotional stimuli. Overall however, the brain is malleable for both sexes and the amygdala has been shown to respond to training. Even those that feel they have a high level of control over their emotions will benefit from some of these exercises. So why is brain training so useful?
Why “Train” the Brain?
We all want to experience positive emotions in their fullest effect. This is no secret. But when it comes to negative emotions like anger, anxiety, depression, and uncertainty, feeling these emotions is unpleasant — something we wish we could immediately escape. Resisting these emotions is a natural human behavior, but it is also an ineffective one. So instead of suppressing negative feelings or experiencing them in a volatile way, we can begin training our brain before these emotions pop up. Brain training is especially useful for individuals who are stuck in negative emotional patterns. Examples of this may include panic attacks, feeling like a victim, or even constantly complaining. Regardless of the severity, training your amygdala will help you calm the nervous system and avoid uncomfortable “fight or flight” responses.
How It’s Done: Awareness First
The first thing to realize is that this process always begins with awareness. If you are not aware of your feelings, you are powerless to influence them. So begin recognizing how you feel throughout the day. You may notice recurring emotions, such as always being frustrated at work, or always feeling lonely with your spouse. At first, you may only realize after a bout of negative emotion has subsided. As you progress, you will begin to notice during the emotional reaction. Eventually, you will be able to catch the reaction before it starts and work to curb it from the start.
Oftentimes, the reason we become emotionally reactive is because we feel threatened or unsafe in a particular situation. Even emotions like anger can be created by fear. So the key is to find and utilize that which makes you feel safe. This can be anything from a walk in the park, a particularly relaxing smell, or even just time spent with a close friend. For situations that you feel you cannot cultivate safety, try carrying something small to focus on. For example, Palo Santo, a sweet-smelling wood from South American trees is said to help reduce inflammation and anxiety in the body. Carrying a small piece of Palo Santo and smelling its scent can help to ground you and bring you back into your body during a bout of emotional reactivity.
If you seem to be stuck in the same old emotional patterns, feeling powerless to control yourself, you must realize that something about your behavior is causing these emotions to recur. So ask yourself this: What am I doing to perpetual these emotions? With deep consideration, you may find that you are forcing yourself to work overtime too often (causing frustration at work to continue). Or maybe you may be avoiding difficult conversations with your spouse (causing feelings of loneliness to perpetuate). By shifting your effort to something more productive in these scenarios, you can radically begin to shift your emotions. This is the most dynamic way to undo the negative associations your amygdala has stored in your brain.
Meditation’s Mindblowing Impact on the Amygdala
It is important to remember the power of meditation, in any form, to conquer emotional issues. Several studies have proven that meditation directly lowers amygdala activity. Some studies even show that it decreases the size of the amygdala over time. “Over time, people who engage in mindfulness meditation develop thicker layers of neurons in the attention-focused parts of the prefrontal cortex and in the insula, an area that’s triggered when we tune into our feelings and bodies.” Thanks to neuroplasticity, meditation is an easy and direct path to strengthening your mental muscles and creating a calm environment in the mind.