What's Doing the Thinking, the Brain or the Body?
Updated: Mar 25, 2022
When was the last time you had an annoying song stuck in your head running endless loops, drilling in both tune and lyrics and driving you crazy?
It’s a bit like when our thoughts, feelings or messages do the same thing; wear us down with repetition and take our attention away from the things, experiences and people we’d rather have our mental energy go towards.
And, how can we change that mental loop? Let’s begin by backing up to chat about cool science.
We aren’t just brains with legs that walk us around all day, like Little Miss Sunshine (although she’s super cute). Rather, we’re more like vertical amoebas, feeling our way through life, with the added bonus of a highly developed prefrontal brain. This part of our brain is aware and helps us to compute logically, communicate, and make decisions. It’s here where we make logical sense of our circumstances.
But when that logical message we tell to ourselves doesn’t feel right or doesn’t seem to be authentic to our circumstances, we’ve bumped into a disconnect between the way the brain and body communicate, i.e.Little Miss Sunshine doesn’t understand what the vertical amoeba is saying or what it needs.
This is because that ‘amoeba’ part of us communicates within the body through a powerful network in our viscera and nervous system, running in the background of our awareness. Information, impressions and feelings are processed unconsciously in an ancient part of our brain, so we can react to our environment according to how these messages translate relative safety or threat.
This disconnect between feeling and logic would be like Little Miss Sunshine having a grumpy day, yet trying to convince herself all is well. By smiling and saying, “everything is fine” she is left drained from trying to convince.
So how do we get these two (logical and feeling) parts to work together? Because both brain and body process information differently, it’s important to approach breaking the mental loop by letting both the amoeba and Little Miss Sunshine have their turns.
One technique we can try is called Embodied Cognition. It’s a somatic practice combining slow and deliberate movement with verbal affirmation. Moving slowly allows the body to feel safe, thereby allowing the unconscious brain a chance to speak its needs. Conversely and simultaneously, verbally affirming a positive message satisfies the more advanced front brain’s need for language and communication.
The result? Amoeba and Little Miss Sunshine are friends again, haha. More realistically though, what we, as real people with real feelings and circumstances will experience is a sense of authenticity in our mental chatter. Our affirmations are tailored to our needs for the moment and we have agency over our choices. This means with attentive awareness, gentle movement and carefully chosen words, we can positively affect our mental outlook. Pretty awesome!
And, if you like this kind of science, movement and the peaceful result it provides for mental wellbeing, check out Slo Mo Yoga, where we practice gentle yoga at a slow pace, with evidence-based techniques for mental wellness.