Mental health: Can you train your emotions

Colin Chambersanxiety, depression, emotion, migraine, mind Leave a Comment

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 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 actually something that my training and articles like this indicate is possible.

In the same way you cannot create muscle or tendon where there is none you can’t create new sections of 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 then your body will see this as a training stimulus and develop the areas to support your stressed lifestyle.

It is this way of thinking that I feel can help you get control of your mind and emotions and make them work for you.

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

  • How Loneliness Reshapes the Brain: Feelings of loneliness prompt changes in the brain that further isolate people from social contact.
    • They looked separately at socially isolated people and at people with low social support, as measured by a lack of someone to confide in on a daily or almost daily basis. The researchers found that in all such individuals, the orbitofrontal cortex — a part of the brain linked to processing rewards — was smaller.
    • This finding supports previous reports from eye-tracking studies that lonely people tend to focus excessively on unpleasant social cues, such as being ignored by others
    • Lieberz and her colleagues showed that lonely people struggle to synchronize with others, and that this discordance causes the regions of their brain responsible for observing actions to go into overdrive. Coaching lonely people in how to join in with the actions of others could be another strategic intervention to consider. It won’t cure loneliness by itself, “but it may be a starting point,” Lieberz said.
  • New Research Reveals That Lonely People Process the World Differently
    • A researcher from USC Dornsife in psychology comparing brain images has found significant differences in the brain processing patterns of lonely individuals when compared to those who aren’t lonely.
  • Why do high IQ people stagnate in their careers? Emotional intelligence Research suggests that emotional intelligence is more vital for success than IQ
  • To be a happier, more successful person, get off the “hedonic treadmill”
    • Research has shown that many high performers are affected by “microstress” — an ongoing accumulation of small pressures. 
    • Eudaimonic pursuits are outwardly focused, whereas hedonic activities are concerned with self-centered fulfillment. 
    • Those who manage microstress successfully also tend to create a eudaimonic sense of purpose by giving back to others.
  • Aggression may be a result of self control not lack therof A new study contests the belief that aggression stems from poor self-control. Instead, it suggests that aggression is often a deliberate, controlled act, inflicted to maximize retribution
  • Prefrontal Cortex: A tale of two pathways The connectivity between the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala is believed to be critical for the regulation of emotion, and has been implicated in anxiety and mood disorders in humans.
  • Life’s hardships rewire the brain: Study pinpoints neural changes from adversity Research covering what happens to people with tough lives. Found that the amygdala strengthens and the pfcpre frontal cortex weakens.
  • Amygdala–medial prefrontal cortex connectivity relates to stress and mental health in early childhood These findings suggest that the impact of stress on emotional circuitry is detectable in early childhood and that this impact is associated with mental health difficulties

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