“What you pay attention to GROWS” and not just for monkeys

I had the fortune of studying and teaching under the direction of David Bresler  Ph.D and Marty Rossman M.D.  Both are pioneers in the field of MindBody Medicine.   They founded The Academy for Guided Imagery, a teaching academy for health care professionals to provide treatment using individualized one-on-one imagery for health and wellness.

By now you already know that Peggy and I rant and rave about the power of our minds – not to dwell on the negative, not to focus on what we can’t do but on what we are capable of.  When I came across this article by Dr Rossman I wanted to share.

Shifting Your Attention Can Change Your Brain

from The Worry Solution

by Martin Rossman, M.D.

“Repetitively shifting your attention to positive outcomes may actually result in growth in areas of your brain that start to do this automatically. My colleague, neuroscientist Dr. David Bresler, always says that “what you pay attention to grows” and research proves him correct.

“Neuroscience journalist Sharon Begley wrote in a 2007 Wall Street Journal article, “Attention, … seems like one of those ephemeral things that comes and goes in the mind but has no real physical presence. Yet attention can alter the layout of the brain as powerfully as a sculptor’s knife can alter a slab of stone.”

Not to be confused for either Dr Bresler or Dr Rossman

“She describes an experiment at University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) in which scientists “rigged up a device that tapped monkeys’ fingers 100 minutes a day every day. As this bizarre dance was playing on their fingers, the monkeys heard sounds through headphones. Some of the monkeys were taught: Ignore the sounds and pay attention to what you feel on your fingers…Other monkeys were taught: Pay attention to the sound.”

“After six weeks, the scientists compared the monkeys’ brains and found that monkeys paying attention to the taps had expanded the somatosensory parts of their brains (where they would feel touch) but the monkeys paying attention to the sounds grew new connections in the parts of the brain that process sound instead.”

“UCSF researcher Michael Merzenich and a colleague wrote that through choosing where we place our attention, “‘We choose and sculpt how our ever-changing minds will work, we choose who we will be the next moment in a very real sense, and these choices are left embossed in physical form on our material selves.’”

 I won’t say, “We told you so.”

(jw)

Originally posted on Curious to the Max on 

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Worry your life away – literally

As  psychotherapists we saw more people who were walking worriers (to coin a phrase) than most people meet in their lifetime.  Our “treatment” evolved over time based on our interest in neurochemistry and brain research.

Thirty plus years ago, when we were in school, excessive worry was labeled as an Anxiety Disorder. What we weren’t taught was there was a positive biological adaptation for the brain to “worry”.  Simply put the “brains” that knew best how to scan for danger were the “brains” that stayed alive long enough to produce progeny.

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In our jungle days it was prudent and life saving for acute “worry”. The clients we saw who were anxious actually had very smart brains that were trying to keep them alive.  Unfortunately, our 21st century brains don’t realize we no longer live in the jungle and chronic worry is a problem.

We also live considerably longer than in caveman times and recently research has discovered that in addition to creating biochemical changes, dysfunctional worry profoundly affects our genetics.

“Obsessive worries — negative responses to stress — actually can shorten the component of DNA that governs a person’s life expectancy. Under excess stress, this DNA component becomes shorter.”

So our DNA structure is literally changed by dysfunctional worry that does not lead to resolution but that instead leads to destructive biological changes in the body.

Take a look at The Single Most Effective Antidote for Anxiety for a simple and highly effective way to better control, if not curb, chronic worry.

The Single Most Effective Antidote for Anxiety.

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