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Mental health: Can you train your emotions

I’ve been meaning to write this article for a long time but never felt I had the time to do it justice. Now I just feel I have waited too long so I need to put my first draft together and then build it over time.

A recent article Size, connectivity of brain region linked to anxiety level in young children is useful because it provides some evidence that our day-to-day experiences influence the development of our brain. Of course, that is not particularly surprising. What I want to do is look at the insight in a different way than is discussed in the article. The idea is that you can control how your brain and emotions develop much like you can train your body. That is kind of a crazy notion, but it is something that research indicates is possible.

In the same way, you cannot create muscle or tendon where there is none; you can’t create new sections of the brain or emotion. But you can enhance what is there. So, too, with the brain and emotions. If you spend your life focusing on being calm and relaxed, it stands to reason that your brain and emotional system will connect strongly in the areas required to be calm. If you spend your life getting stressed, your body will see this as a training stimulus and develop the areas to support your stressed lifestyle.

This way of thinking can help you control your mind and emotions and make them work for you, in my opinion.

The findings of the study are:

Prolonged stress and anxiety during childhood is a risk factor for developing anxiety disorders and depression later in life. Now, Stanford University School of Medicine researchers have shown that by measuring the size and connectivity of a part of the brain associated with processing emotion—the amygdala they can predict the degree of anxiety a young child is experiencing in daily life.

They found that

the larger the amygdala and the stronger its connections with other parts of the brain involved in perception and regulation of emotion, the greater the amount of anxiety a child was experiencing.

Further reading

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