All the emotions we feel recruit both the brain and the body.
For example, when we feel happy, we occupy a strong posture, chest open, head up, looking forward, we feel energized - and consequently we feel more confident, right? Now, when we feel sad or depressed, we occupy a weaker posture, we feel it in our gut and heart, we feel our body heavy, down, worn out - and so we doubt ourselves - can you relate to that?
Well, right there, we've proved by our own experience, that the emotions (states) we feel control our body and our brain. Now the question is: is the other way around also true? Can our physiology, breathing patterns and facial expressions influence our emotions or state of mind? The answer is a big YES!
What is a state?
States are more measurable. They have a beginning, middle and end. And they have an intensity that neuroscience can measure.
Why is it important to manage and learn how to change or hack your state?
This is because the state you tend to live in is controlling your performance. If you want to optimize your performance at work, sports or even your own well-being it’s crucial to learn to live in a peak state of alertness and focus. There are tools that you can learn to live in this state of alertness and focus. When you work with me, we work on these.
According to studies made at Stanford University by Andrew Huberman’s lab, to understand any state of an individual, we need to look at their brain and body. This is the reason I have moved on from a pure physical approach in my work with my clients to also focus on the mental aspects such as neuroplasticity.
To make it easier to understand what I mean, let’s take as an example depression, as its currently a global concern. At this point we can say that depression is a state of mind and by this we mean a connection between both brain and body. Neuroscientists split depression into 2 types. One is anxiety-associated where the person can feel their body agitated. The second is the state of being overwhelmed where the person feels fatigued and exhausted. This is a detail that most of times is overlooked but extremely important as they require different approaches.
In the past there was a lot of misunderstanding regarding this state. Like any other illness, depression is wired in us as a state that we all can fall into. So, we can easily say that depression is like obesity. Yes, some people may have a predisposition to develop obesity but we all can become obese if we eat junk food every day and never exercise.
The same way that we need to watch what we eat, maintain a healthy diet and exercise regularly to avoid obesity, it’s imperative that we all have the tools that we can use to prevent ourselves to fall into the state of depression. If we are unaware of being in that state and we reach the bottom then both the body and the brain will have a considerably harder time in doing the things that can get us out of that state of depression like exercising, eating healthier and so on. This is because of this duality we spoke earlier about: the brain controls the body but also the body can control the brain. By reaching the bottom, people lose the ability to intervene in the depressive process.
What can we do about it?
Well, it’s very hard to get ourselves out of low thoughts just by thinking, right? That won’t happen or it may do but only momentary. That is why, I, as a performance coach, look at physiology and the connection between brain & body as a supportive tool.
Here are some tools, grounded in science, to increase dopamine and serotonin levels which both are the body’s natural anti-depressants.
I also want to point out that the following rituals will help anyone to increase focus and alertness:
· Get up early in the morning and get some sunlight in your eyes
· Exercise, get moving
· Incorporate a morning routine of mindfulness and gratitude
· Eat healthier, meaning healthy proteins, less saturated fat etc
· Get enough sleep
For most people these are accessible, and they should be doing them. However, those feeling low will find it difficult to engage or maintain those rituals because the body has no longer the power to do it by itself. This is when an intervention is needed to interrupt this strong neuro pathway which both the body and the brain are addicted to. In cases like this a performance coach could be recommended.
Let’s remember that we are all responsible for our mental health as we are for our general health and only we can direct our brain changes and our states.
What about starting this today?