Most people go about their daily lives giving their mind free to do whatever it wants, not realizing they can choose what to focus on. But our freedom is only partial, as unconsciously we keep a close eye on many things to survive. Mindfulness allows you to understand and recognize why and what are you think.
In fact, there is a powerful reason for you do this. After all, we are just animals and we still have the same survival instincts of our cavemen ancestors – Our instincts are designed to protect us. How many times do you say or hear “I’m a survivor!
We have an automatic reaction to stress and anxiety in the same way that when we lived in caverns as our ancestors. Don’t worry about this, I have good and bad news for you.
The bad news is that we do have a triggered to boost our anxiety and stress built-in in our brains called amygdala. This set of brain structures at the top the brain stem, that is part of the limbic system processes our emotions.
How does amygdala work?’
The amygdala is an almond-shaped mass of nuclei located deep within the temporal lobes of the brain. There are two amygdale, one situated in each brain hemisphere. The amygdala is a limbic system structure that is involved in many of our emotions and motivations, particularly those that are related to survival. It is involved in the processing of emotions such as fear, anger, and pleasure.
Imagine you see a Lion in the middle of the street, you have two choices: either fight with the lion or start to run in the opposite direction, in this moment your amygdala is active, your heart starts to beating faster, the muscles will tense up ready for the action, your respiratory rate increases, your nervous system floods your body with adrenaline, you begin to sweat to keep from overheating. You are in survival mode. Of course, if you see a lion you are in serious danger … All this mechanism is inborn.
Nevertheless in our days is very difficult to find a lion, you find your thoughts, your judgments about situations and all the possible sceneries in your life, as a film. I call that “the power of imagination” many of us could win an Oscar. If you start to understand that you don’t have in front you a lion, you don’t live in a cavern, you live in 21 century, and you can choose what do you do, what do you think and how do you… ,The problem is that when you have in front you a stressful situation, your amygdala works as if you see a lion. Can you imagine for a moment how many times in a week you have your body in attack mode? Many times, isn’t it? your body starts to send you signals such, pain, tension, lost the energy, problems to sleep, and will affect your body and mood and behavior.
Remember at the beginning of the article there were a bad news and good news. So here the good news, Mindfulness can be used to limits this effect by identifying and modulate the triggers of survival mode. You can learn how to recognize the symptoms and so put the brakes on the subsequent negative chain reaction.
Mindfulness will teach you how to recognize what your mind is doing with this external stimulus and thoughts, so you can get some prudential distance and from there work out whether you want to act in survival mode or perhaps have a more rational respond to these thoughts.