Updated: Sep 17, 2019
Different chemicals are released in our body when we feel different emotions. In order to start moving towards the person we want to be living the life we want to live, we need to be able to step back and defuse from the feelings that are pulling us down.
In my previous blogs, we have looked at some of the defusion techniques that can help us with this. Today, I want to talk about when our internal experiences threaten to overwhelm us and some behavioural techniques that can help us regain our equilibrium and start back on course.
Let's look at "Body Hacking" - engaging in behaviour that stimulates the release of the chemicals that help balance our emotions.
When we want energy, confidence and focus, adrenaline is the way to go.
To get this, high energy activity with a bit of risk involved will deliver it. Competitive sports hit this button. Another way to get the adrenaline pumping is to do what athletes, boxers and footballers do – rapid shallow breathing and tensing arms and upper body.
When we want to feel more calm and relaxed, endorphins will deliver that. Those of you who have read my earlier blogs might remember that endorphins neutralise adrenalin. Endorphins are released when we put muscles under stress, so heavy cardio will do that.
Trouble is that muscles become toned and it takes more and more exercise to get them triggering the endorphin release. That’s where diaphragmatic breathing comes in.
When we want to feel good, we’re looking at getting our serotonin going. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that responds to novelty. Something new is happening and our brain gets a bit of a boost in order to process it. We use the acronym BALANCE for activities that get our serotonin going.
• Bodily Sensations • Achievement • Laughter • Acceptance • Nutrition • Connectedness • Exercise
Bodily Sensations Taste: Herbs, spices, oney, dark chocolate, lips, skin Smell: Cut grass, wood shavings, honeysuckle Sight: Sunsets, distant hills, faces of models Hearing: Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto in A Major Touch: petals, warm sand, smooth skin, soft skin
Achievement When we are depressed we often don’t feel like doing anything, find it hard to decide what to do each day and can end up doing very little.
Make a list of things you want to do. Then plan out an action list, start off with the easiest task at first and don’t aim too high. For example: aim to walk for 15 minutes rather than a half-marathon, or wash the dishes rather than spring clean the whole house. Don’t set yourself up to fail! You can build up your activity over time. Work through your action list and tick off what you’ve done. At the end of the day you’ll be able to look back and see what you’ve achieved.
Laughter (and Tears) We hear a lot about the science telling us that laughter is good for us, but we don’t hear so much about the benefits of having a good cry.
Emotional tears contain leucine, enkephalin (associated with pain) and prolactin (associated with stress) and crying has been seen as a good way of getting rid of these chemicals.
Laughter increases the levels of immunoglobin in the blood and, after only a few moments of laughter, the levels of life-threatening sediments in the blood are reduced. Laughter also appears to intercept signals from the hypothalamus (concerned with emotion) to the frontal cortex (concerned with planning and decision making).
Acceptance Negative feelings are normal. We all feel them. We will all continue to feel them at times.
To help, start practicing willingness to accept negative feelings:
• Notice when you start to feel the normal body response to unhelpful thoughts
• Don’t struggle or fight with the feelings and thoughts, just let them be and they will pass
There is a useful exercise in the Resources section of this site.
Nutrition Vitamin B: The B-complex vitamins are essential to mental and emotional well-being. They cannot be stored in our bodies, so we depend entirely on our daily diet to supply them. Alcohol, refined sugars, nicotine, and caffeine destroy B-Complex vitamins, so it is no surprise that many people may be deficient in them.
Vitamin C: Subclinical deficiencies can produce depression, which re-quires the use of supplements. Supple-mentation is particularly important if you have had surgery or an inflammatory disease. Stress, pregnancy, and lactation also increase the body's need for vitamin C, while aspirin, tetracycline, and birth control pills can deplete the body's supply.
Magnesium: Deficiency can result in depressive symptoms, along with confusion, agitation, anxiety, and hallucinations, as well as a variety of physical problems.
Calcium: Low levels of calcium cause nervousness, apprehension, irritability, and numbness.
Zinc: Inadequacies result in apathy, lack of appetite, and lethargy. When zinc is low, copper in the body can increase to toxic levels, resulting in paranoia and fearfulness.
Connectedness A large part of our sense of self is driven by group membership and social identity. People with good social relationships have a 50 percent greater likelihood of survival than people who have poor or insufficient relationships. That means that having good relationships is comparable to quitting smoking in terms of survival benefit, and is a stronger factor than obesity and physical activity.
Researchers from Brigham Young University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill looked at 148 different studies that examined the connection between survival and relationships. Regardless of age, sex, initial health status, cause of death, and follow-up period in the individual studies, the new analysis finds that those with stronger relationships have an increased likelihood of survival.
One theory behind these results is that social relationships may buffer the negative effects of stressors on health, such as illness and transitions and changes in life. Social relationships may also promote healthy behaviours, in the sense that people may directly encourage each other's good habits or indirectly provide good models.
In addition, being part of a social network gives individuals meaningful roles that provide esteem and purpose to life.
Exercise • Makes us feel less tired • Improves our ability to think clearly • Helps us refocus away from unhelpful thoughts • “Burns off” adrenaline • Gives us a sense of achievement • Stimulates the body to produce natural anti-depressants • Makes us more healthy
So what about the others? Dopamine , Noradrenaline and Oxytocin?
Dopamine is part of the body’s Reward and Reinforcement mechanism. If those new things you’re doing turn out to be good for, your body releases dopamine to get you doing more of them.
Oxytocin is released through skin on skin contact. Hugging and massage are the classic ways of getting oxytocin released. Interestingly, it doesn’t even have to be a person. Stroking a dog or a cat will work just fine – that’s why they’ve started introducing pets to old people’s homes.
The general function of noradrenaline is to mobilize the brain and body for action. Release is lowest during sleep, rises during wakefulness, and reaches much higher levels during situations of stress or danger, in the so-called fight-or-flight response. In the brain, noradrenaline increases arousal and alertness, promotes vigilance, enhances formation and retrieval of memory, and focuses attention. Activities that stimulate the release of adrenaline will also get your noradrenaline going.
OK, Body Hacking isn't the secret to eternal happiness - Those of you who have read my other blogs understand that my position is there's no such thing. These techniques can help when our internal experiences threaten to swamp us. They help put us back in the driving seat - they're not a way to control our emotions, they help us stop our emotions controlling us, so we can start doing the things that will move us towards our valued directions.