So, I love the brain, who doesn’t? I mean there is to much to appreciate! Like the best leaders of any complex organization (or in this case organism) the brain orchestrates complex tasks with efficiency, and very little fuss about who is in charge or who should get credit. It sometimes hard not to take this amazing organ for granted unless you or someone you know is affected by a brain disorder like Alzheimers or have suffered from TBIS
While I am fascinated by the structure and function of the entire brain, if I had to choose a favorite part (please don’t make me!) it would be the prefrontal cortex. This amazing part of the brain that lies behind your forehead is the mastermind of high level functions that enrich our lives and our relationships. According to Dan Siegel (what him again? Did I mention he was one of my personal heroes? You might as well go read on of his books or listen to one of his talks and then you will find yourself referencing him too) this part of the brain has 9 key functions
- bodily regulation – (knowing when we are hungry, for example, and then eating food to maintain blood sugar…)
- attuned communication – (the ability to notice what others are feeling and bring our awareness and emotional tone in line with theirs)
- emotional balance
- response flexibility – the ability to pause before reacting and think about multiple options for responding and then choosing what seems like the best one in the moment
- empathy – the ability to put ourselves in another persons shoes, imagine what they might be feeling and thinking and share that experience with them
- self knowing
- fear extinction
- moral thinking
These functions have a profound impact on our ability to live a resilient and connected life and have deeply fulfilling relationships with ourselves and others. So, how do you get a strong prefrontal cortex? Well, if you are lucky enough to be part of the approximately 60% of adults who developed secure attachment through the care of an attuned responsive caregiver as an infant, you probably already have a pretty well developed pre-frontal cortex. If not, don’t worry, our brains are changeable and just a like the rest of the ‘muscles’ (ok, the brain isn’t really a muscle, but stick with me here…) in the body, with consistency and exercise you can strengthen your prefontal cortex and all those essential functions it controls. How?
I am so glad you asked! Mindfulness. Through any activity that increases your felt bodily sense, this can be meditation, or mindful movement practices like Qi Gong, Tai Chi, or YOGA J. Or by working with a skillful and knowledgable therapist who understands and integrates attachment theory and the latest neurophysiological research.
Is it really that simple? Simple, yes; easy, not always. Having the committment and courage to explore your mind and body over a period of time is certainly not always easy. All of us have experienced pain in our lives and if you have experienced trauma it can be difficult to stick with the process as our inner knowing unfolds.
However, growing your ability to remain calm and connected throughout life’s stormy waters is pretty great! Having deeply connected relationships built on trust and openness, an intricate knowing of your self and the steady guidance of your own intuition helps create a life of joy and abundance and is part of the exquisite gift of being human.