Have you ever heard of the notion that you can change your brain and manage your stress through the act of mindfulness?
Our brains even have the capacity to regenerate after a massive stroke utilizing the practice of mindfulness. We can, in fact, deprogram how our brains perceive threats of stress and allow for a healthy and calm response to daily triggers, as well as carve out new healthy brain pathways that lead to a more balanced, vibrant, and intelligent mind.
Seems far-fetched at first; however, scientists have proven that our brains are being shaped and conditioned by our everyday thoughts, actions, and experiences. These findings add more value to our everyday interactions and reactions that usually seem somewhat ordinary.
This process of changing our brains and our response to external and internal stimuli is referred to as neuroplasticity. The scientific discovery and understanding of neuroplasticity have greatly changed our understanding of how to improve our health, increase our happiness, change our bad habits, and even alter our genetics.
Neuroplasticity: Rewiring the Brain
Over the years, neuroplasticity and the impressionable characteristics of the brain have become a popular area of study. Rewiring the brain doesn’t just involve the brain itself, but rather a symbiotic relationship of the mind, body, and spirit. They are all closely interconnected and play a direct role in our survival, evolution, and homeostasis—the body’s natural balance.
This means that, when something happens to one of these areas, it affects the entire system. An exciting and empowering finding that directly translates to, “if you positively change your thoughts, you can positively affect and change your brain.”
“To change is to think greater than how we feel. To change is to act greater than the familiar feelings of the memorized self. If you want a new outcome, you will have to break the habit of being yourself and reinvent a new self. Your thoughts and feelings come from your past memories.” – Dr. Joe Dispenza
Our Thinking Matters
The human brain is intricate, concise, and beautifully complicated. There are an estimated hundred billion neurons in the human brain, making a total of over one hundred trillion neural connections.
That is an extreme amount of neural power just resting below the surface. Brain science has shown us that we increase activity in our brain’s left prefrontal cortex when we engage in an activity that increases feelings of happiness. As we continue to feel these “happy” feelings, we then strengthen and reinforce this activity and begin to solidify pathways of the brain that make it easier to replicate this pattern of happy feelings. Essentially, the more we feel happiness, the easier it is for us to feel more happiness.
People who look on the bright side of things and are more of the “glass half full” thinkers have far more activity in their left prefrontal cortex than people who are by default pessimistic. This is good news for people struggling with mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, looking to change unhealthy habits and to overall strengthen the capacity for lasting happiness, since it is entirely possible to shift and perhaps even heal these issues with the practice of retraining your brain.
Transform Your Brain
Being mindful and conscious of our thoughts and emotions can have a direct impact on our brain’s plasticity, and actually help reshape our nerve cells and change the way our brains operate and receive information.
Simply put, our perspective plays a direct role in our brain’s ability to transform itself, but also impacts how we handle and feel stress. If you directly focus on happiness and positivity with your thoughts and feelings, you strengthen your happiness pathways. Conversely, if you focus on stress with your thoughts and feelings, you strengthen your stress pathways.
Essentially, every feeling you feel, and every thought you think, strengthens these neural pathways. The amount of control we really have over our brains is pretty amazing! All the more reason to understand how and what is affecting our brains’ ability to be happy.
Neural Pathways are the result of your habits of thinking, feeling, and acting. They form our beliefs and why we feel compelled to do what we do at any given moment. We experience these pathways as our individual patterns in important areas of our life such as relationships, money, food, health, career, and happiness levels.
The Path More Taken
Have you ever paid attention to the walking or hiking trails when you are out on a stroll? Notice the trails that are very well-traveled? The grass is usually matted down, the dirt flattened and filled with footprints. Every time a person walks this path, they reinforce this trail.
Hiking and walking trails are very similar to how our neural pathways work. The more “walking” or “focusing” we do with that pathway, the more we strengthen and solidify that connection. Over days, months, and years a well-traveled hiking trail becomes a well-worn pathway.
If we were to compare this to a trail that is not as often traveled, their visibility lacks in comparison to the trails that get higher foot traffic. Essentially, as long as we know how to develop and strengthen neural pathways, we can really change just about anything we desire. That is great news for anyone looking to positively alter their brain.
Our long-term habits, however, have been “traveled” for long periods of time and are the most challenging to change. They have carved the deepest grooves in our brains. For example, the pathway related to tying our shoes in the morning at sixty-five-years-old is much deeper than the pathway you had at-ten-years-old.
“If you want a new outcome, you will have to break the habit of being yourself, and reinvent a new self.” – Dr. Joe Dispenza
As we practice traveling down new pathways, so to speak, we naturally weaken old pathways, thus creating new habits.
When we think and feel similar thoughts and feelings we either create new habits and beliefs or reinforce old ones. Over time, repetition and the intensity of these feelings, begin to take hold automatically without any effort.
For example, if we intently focus on working out a few times a week by reviewing our goals daily, chat with others for support and accountability, visualize our success, and set an alarm and stick with it, we will rewire and reinforce our new habit of exercises.
Conversely, if we do not constantly direct our mind’s attention to our new exercise goal, our old habits and strongest pathways will dictate our actions, leading to an unsuccessful attempt to change old patterns. This is true when trying to eradicate any habit you may have such as smoking, drinking, or biting your nails.
This also applies to our stress response. If we continue to respond to stress in the same manner and do not make a conscious effort to shift into new, healthier stress management habits, the same stress and anxiety will take hold and continue to reinforce those responses. Existing and—quite often—undesirable subconscious habits are what drive our bodies, brains, and behaviors. This is why they say it takes at least thirty days to create a new habit, as it takes effort and time to override old pathways and exchange them for new ones.
Patience, my friend, patience.
Thoughts Become Beliefs
Generally speaking, as a collective and as individuals, we operate on autopilot most of the time. This is mainly because our neural pathways operate under the law of least resistance. Just like a well-worn hiking path, it is the strongest, easiest path to travel. This allows our body to conserve energy and have a faster response time to life’s experiences.
A perfect example of this automatic conditioning is driving to or from work or home. Once the path is traveled enough and ingrained in our memory, we don’t have to think about it. We just do it and often don’t remember much of the drive at all. It has been shown that, after we are thirty-five-years-old, ninety percent of what we feel, do, and think is a product of our past experiences, triggers, and perceptions.
For a moment, just think about how that relates to our stress response by the time we are adults. Our brains and bodies respond to stress and triggers without even thinking about how to, or if it is a healthy response in the first place.
When we have an experience, we respond with thoughts and feelings that in turn, over time, with enough repetition, become beliefs. We develop beliefs pertaining to the world, money, our relationships, health, careers, bodies, and so on. We then find experiences that will subconsciously and consciously reaffirm these beliefs.
This is why understanding how our brains operate is so important. Our brains’ response to stimuli literally shapes how we view the world. Habits positively serve us in many ways such as learning how to drive, cook, or even just dress ourselves. However, they can be extremely limiting and discouraging when it comes to mastering a new skill at work, being in an active relationship, or trying to reach health and fitness goals.
This is a large reason why, come January first every year, we often set the same goal to eat healthily, exercise more, etc. While creating new positive neural pathways is entirely possible and within reach, it is easier said than done.
“If you can’t control your mind, everything and everyone else will.” – Dr. Joe Dispenza
The Power of Balance
There is also a unique brain process called neurogenesis that is closely related to neuroplasticity. Neurogenesis is the process of different cells in the brain adapting, reconnecting, regrowing, and replenishing.
That is good news for anyone that has suffered a concussion, dealt with a degenerative disease, or has spent some time on medications or illicit drugs. Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to form new pathways and change how it is wired, whereas neurogenesis is the brain’s ability to actually grow brand new neurons.
Our brains are beyond intelligent and self-sufficient (if given the right tools) when it comes to healing old unwanted patterns and carving new pathways to success. We just have to tune in to our thoughts and patterns. When these two powerful regeneration processes are in sync, the possibilities of what our minds can do are endless.
The Power of Mindfulness
So how do we cultivate an environment within ourselves that facilitates brain growth and positive change?
Mindfulness. One of the easiest and most intuitive ways to connect back to our brains, our bodies, and our spirits.
Regardless of our age, everyone can benefit from mindfulness when it comes to our brains and bodies. The act of mindfulness is especially successful with children and teenagers as their pathways are not as ingrained as adults and their malleable brains are still constantly growing and changing.
As we age, it does become more difficult to change these pathways, but there is still room for extraordinary growth within the mind at any age. Mindfulness can help restore and renew old connections, along with lost functions that relate directly to memory and habit. Mindfulness can also carve out brand new pathways of healthy habits and processes in an older adult. Mindfulness can also bring you a sense of connection to your whole being, allowing for alignment inside and out to take place. Finally, mindfulness can facilitate homeostasis between mind, body, and soul. When we are in perfect balance, our stress response is healthy and intuitive.
Before we dive into different mindful practices, let’s go over what happens to our brains when we are stressed and out of balance.
Our stress response begins in the brain first and foremost. In an instant, a signal from your motor cortex flies down our nerve pathways in our brain and down to our muscles, which immediately tense and brace for fight or flight.
Another signal comes from our hypothalamus that relays warnings to our pituitary gland. This gland then sends chemical messengers into the bloodstream and straight to our adrenal glands. Our adrenal glands then respond with a series of stress hormones, including adrenaline. At the same moment, our hypothalamus gets our nervous system all fired up and sends out even more warnings into all of our nerve bundles within the body.
This response affects our entire body. From our brains to our nerves, hearts, and even our muscles, this process does not exclude any part of our bodies. Oftentimes, when we are in a state of chronic stress, we don’t even realize this process is taking place. We don’t feel our chest tightening, our stomach cramping, or our muscles tensing. We become accustomed to this feeling of retraction.
When our brains begin to fire off these signals, whether constant or intermittent, our whole body is in a state of preparing for imminent danger and is prepared to fight. This powerful process is ingrained in our evolution, and ultimately cannot quite decipher between something minuscule and something major.
This entire stress response takes seconds to occur, but in daily repetition, it can carve unwanted pathways that last a lifetime. This is where mindfulness can help us connect to those sensations, offering us an opportunity to redirect that pathway or belief system.
Chronic Stress Leads To Chronic Issues
Oftentimes, our neural pathways and bodies cannot tell the difference between one stressful situation and another. Also, our stressors can often pile up one after another. On any single day, we are faced with many stressful situations. Traffic jams, work deadlines, money problems, health issues, relationship conflicts, etc. These all promote an automatic stress response within the body.
Our stress response is vital to our survival and protection, but our bodies were not meant to sit in that process all day, every day.
Ultimately, when our body experiences the stress response repeatedly, or when the response from a deep trauma is never turned off, our bodies can become damaged, depleted, and unhealthy. It can lead to a myriad of health issues such as high blood pressure, hypertension, and heart disease, and may even compromise our immune system.
The good news is that even when we are faced with chronic stress, there are techniques that can help calm our brains. With regular practice, we can soothe the sympathetic nervous system, and carve new healthy “stress response” pathways within the brain.
Being Mindful Of Our Minds
For years, we couldn’t quantify meditation, mindfulness, and other stress-relieving modalities when it comes to our brain and body health. Recently, however, a large amount of emerging research has suggested that regularly inducing our relaxation response may positively affect our genes and our brains in many ways. These practices may even confer multiple health benefits and reduce the harmful effects of stress on the brain and body.
One particular study from the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind-Body Medicine suggests that meditation and mindfulness may be able to switch off genes in pathways associated with chronic inflammatory responses.
Many experts believe the inflammatory responses within our bodies are responsible for chronic health issues such as inflammatory bowel disease, heart disease, arthritis, insomnia, depression, anxiety, headaches, diabetes, etc.
Our brains are full of protein-coding genes that enable our brains to regenerate, renew, and restore pathways. Meditation and mindfulness may help our bodies turn on genes in our pathways associated with the regulation of blood sugar or protecting chromosomes as we age. They may also potentially create energy reserves that help the body combat oxidative stress that can harm cells.
The practice of mindfulness and meditation has also been linked to increased brain size and increased grey matter. This increase translates to improved brainwave activity, enhanced efficiency with cognitive reasoning, better communication between brain hemispheres, and faster response times.
Given all these potential benefits, it’s no wonder that mindfulness has been shown to lead to an increased overall sense of wellbeing. There isn’t one organ in our body that operates separately from its counterparts. Our bodies are a symbiotic relationship of all our inner workings, collectively operating as one.
Even better, creating new healthy brain pathways and mindfulness is cyclical. So, the more you practice mindfulness, the easier it becomes, the faster it works, and the deeper those new pathways grow.
“Meditating is also a means for you to move beyond your analytical mind so that you can access your subconscious mind. That’s crucial since the subconscious is where all your bad habits and behaviors that you want to change reside.” – Dr. Joe Dispenza
Mindfulness Techniques That Help Rewire the Brain
Pinpoint the habit you wish to change and set an intention
You ultimately have to have a want and desire to change. If there is a set intention, then it becomes possible to create new pathways within the brain.
Intervene when unhealthy thoughts and patterns arise
When an old impulse or unhealthy thought comes creeping in, say “no” or “cancel” and replace that thought with a healthy one. This will help your brain move towards that new healthier pathway you have been building upon.
Visualization and Feeling
Imagining or visualizing those desired behaviors and truly experiencing the warm feelings attached to them over and over can help you build new pathways. When you visualize in your mind and feel in your body an event as if it has already happened, you can retrain your brain. This practice also has deep roots in the Placebo Effect.
Observe what this pathway you are trying to change is doing to your life
If you connect to how your body is responding to the habit through thoughts, feelings, and sensations, you can create a sensory awareness for change.
Listening to music that you enjoy can not only influence your mood and emotions, but may also make positive structural and functional changes to your brain such as enhanced grey matter and enhanced cognitive response.
Mindful Body Scan
Body scanning is about paying attention to all parts of your body and your bodily sensations in a gentle, slow sequence from your feet all the way to your head. When you mentally and mindfully scan yourself, you begin to bring awareness to every single part of your body, noticing any sensations of tension, pain, or general discomfort. You may then consciously replace these feelings with ones of health and wellness.
There are many different forms of meditation that can help you connect to your thoughts. However, the technique of mindfulness meditation is about not ignoring distracting thoughts and feelings, but rather acknowledging and observing them in a non-judgmental way as they arise, thus creating detachment from them and gaining insight and awareness.
Close your eyes and begin to breathe life into your body. Notice anywhere you are holding tension. With each inhalation, send your breath to that area of your body that is holding the stress. With each exhalation, visualize that stress and pain leaving your body. It may also help to visualize the inward healing breath as bright white light, and the outward breath carrying the pain as darkness.
How Full-Spectrum Hemp Oil May Help Your Brain
We all have something called the Endocannabinoid System within our bodies. Our Endocannabinoid System (ECS) is a complex system that controls and coordinates several important bodily functions such as appetite, mood, temperature perception, pain, inflammation, reproduction, motor perception, metabolism, memory, etc.
Whenever one of these functions is out of balance, the Endocannabinoid System alerts our brain: if we are hungry, our Endocannabinoid System tells us to head to the kitchen and have something to eat to alleviate our hunger (yes, you can blame your ECS for those midnight snacks or chocolate cravings).
In other cases, the Endocannabinoid System sends cannabinoids to fix the problem on its own. For example, if you cut your finger, the ECS creates local inflammation to stop germs from harming your body.
The human Endocannabinoid System is in an intricate balance that can easily be disrupted. Stress, bad diet, illness and diseases, pathogens, lack of sleep, genetic predisposition, and insufficient or excessive exercise can threaten its equilibrium.
What Are the Cannabinoid Receptors?
Our Endocannabinoid System functions by releasing two endocannabinoids: Anandamide and 2-AG. These bind to receptors in a way that resembles a lock and key. Endocannabinoids are like keys that unlock specific responses. However, they only work with a particular lock. In this case, the receptors are the locks. When released, endocannabinoids act as messengers that activate the relevant receptors and instruct the body to repair itself.
Our body has two main cannabinoid receptors, named CB1 and CB2. While these receptors are located throughout the body, their density varies. CB1 receptors are mainly found in the brain and nervous system but are also located in smaller quantities in the gut, heart, liver, thyroid, ovaries, and stomach. CB2 receptors are found in the gut and the immune system cells and to a lesser extent in the brain, stomach, heart, eyes, and spleen.
Anandamide binds primarily to the CB1 receptor, while 2-AG binds with the CB2 receptor. When our Endocannabinoid System secretes anandamide, it finds the relevant CB1 receptors and binds with them. Likewise, 2-AG binds with CB2 receptors and alerts them that something is out of balance, usually in our immune system.
Where Are Cannabinoid Receptors Located in the Brain?
The brain cannabinoid receptors are located in the central nervous system, spinal cord, cerebellum, hypothalamus, cerebral cortex, pituitary gland, and thalamus.
Here is what each brain area does:
- The cerebral cortex is involved with decision-making and cognition.
- The amygdala is responsible for anxiety, stress, pain, and fear.
- The hypothalamus is tasked with controlling body temperature and endocrine function.
- The cerebellum is associated with motor perception.
- The thalamus relates to motor perception and alertness.
- The pituitary gland regulates our hormones and our reproductive system.
- The hippocampus handles memory and learning.
All these functions are directly and indirectly affected by the Endocannabinoid System. The cannabinoid receptors in the brain get activated by the cannabinoids, which send the message to the brain to mend a problem.
It’s no wonder, then, that cannabinoids and Hemp Oil affect a wide range of body functions, including how our brains process, operate, and regenerate. To learn more about the Endocannabinoid System and its role in our brains and bodies check out our blog https://synchronicityhempoil.com/cbd-cannabinoid-receptors-endocannabinoid-system/
“Your thoughts are incredibly powerful. Choose yours wisely.” – Dr. Joe Dispenza
Mindfulness and Hemp Oil for Stress Relief
Isn’t it truly amazing the power we hold to not only change our minds, but to also change our brains?
The most beautiful part about all of this is that the more you practice the art of mindfulness, the easier it becomes, and the more you find that your default state of being is both calm and balanced. The act of mindfulness will begin to seep into every area of your life and provide you with a sense of clarity and introspection.
Together, mindfulness and Synchronicity Full- Spectrum Hemp Oil have amazing potential to help support you on your journey to living a life free of stress and enjoy a more balanced state of mind and body.
If you are interested in some additional resources, we suggest you check out Dr. Joe Dispenza’s book, “Breaking The Habit Of Being Yourself—How To Lose Your Mind And Create A New One”. His insight and knowledge in this area are unmatched.
And remember: the key to paving those new pathways is, practice, practice, practice!
- The Neuroscience of Behavior Change – Health Transformer.co
- Positive Psychology – What is Neuroplasticity? A Psychologist Explains
- Real Simple – What Mindfulness Does to Your Brain: The Science of Neuroplasticity
- Mindful Entrepreneurship.com – What Mindfulness Does to Your Brain: The Science of Neuroplasticity