-Unless we can measure something, science won't concede it exists, which is why science refuses to deal with such "nonthings" as the emotions, the mind, the soul, or the spirit." - Candace Pert Ph. D. Molecules of Emotion
We are an interconnected system full of other systems, with a system, connected to all the people around us, connected and influences by an even larger system, and it just keeps going. Candance Pert coined the word "bodymind" in her book Molecules of Emotion. She was talking about the connection our Brain and Body have, and how our experiences affect that system. She is talking about what the mental health world knows as the Psycho-Somatic connection. That our bodies and our world aren't separate. That we are influenced in our body by the world, and the world is influenced, and the people around us, by us being in the world.
The Buddha said, "The one contains the many and the many contains the one. Without one, there cannot be the many. Without the many, there cannot be the one." The Buddha was a physicist before such a thing was a thing. He understood this connection.
In 1939 at a lecture published in the Journal of American Medical Association, Dr. Soma Weiss educated his audience that "social and psychic factors play a role in every disease, but in many conditions, they represent dominant influences."
Modern science now shows how our environment and our experiences greatly affect our internal world. From the vast study done by Dr. Felitti et al, from a cross section of 17,000 middle class, white collar, Americans, concluding in what we now know as A.C.E.s Adverse Childhood Experiences, and their influence on our nervous system and disease. And with Dr. Dan Siegel's work in Neurobiology. Dan came up with the word "interpersonal neurobiology" describing this connection. We are finally getting clear on what the ancients have said for thousands of years, that it's all connected, from our cells, to our sun.
Dr. Gabor Mate says in his latest book, "The brain itself is the central organ of a super system that extends through the body and influences every aspect of physiological functioning. ... "It's all one."
Walt Whitman said, For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you."
So, what does this mean for us going about our daily lives?
Well, first it's always empowering to gain understanding about how our internal system works and how we are influenced by it, and it's connection to our outer world. And in our understanding also comes some comfort. It gives us something to focus on versus, something that seems and feels ethereal or unable to get clarity around. Second, It allows us to see ourselves as "just like all the other human beings." We are not alone in how it all works. Everyone of us is affected by our experiences. Not one of us is exempt from this universal truth. That can be very liberating. I know for me, feeling like I'm not alone in my experience allows me to feel less isolated and not like an outsider going through all the ups and arounds of dysregulation and healing.
So, how do we navigate this connected state of beingness?
When we really get this concept, that everything is connected. We start to take a closer look at what is influencing us in a positive way and what is harming us. What things around us are empowering, uplifting and healing for us? What nourishes us? What environments and people are co-regulating and support our healing and harmony for our internal world? And, what things in our life are "toxic," dysregulating, triggering, re-traumatizing and unhealthy?
Perhaps, we need to reevaluate our job and how toxic it is for us? Or maybe we have a group of friends who only cope through harmful habits and behaviors? We may learn that when we get good sleep our day goes more smoothly, and that when we eat less sugary foods we seem to be less irritated and our gut seems happier.
Whatever, we discover from the connected lens, will open us up to a new perspective and this will always be the start of a journey to a harmonious life.
So, we have the new perspective, we are understanding our connection and the influence of the outer world on our inner world. Now What? How do we change it?
First we may need to find a therapist who specializes in shifting our neuropathways for a more harmonized system.
It's good for us to look at the foods that can disrupt our harmony too. When we are in a threat response/dysregulated, our body craves survival foods like sugar and fats. This is not because they soothe us, but because our body thinks we need to survive, so it wants survival foods to store needed calories and adipose tissue to burn, during "survival." This means that foods that nourish us, have an opposite affect. By giving our body the nutrients it needs, we can let our body know, "everything is going to be ok." Check out more on this in my Polyvagal blog.
It benefits us to have people around us who can co-regulate us. These are people we know are physically and emotionally safe. We can ask for added support from these people and they will give us good healthy boundaries for a safe and caring environment.
Taking an inventory in the things in our lives that dysregulate us can be so useful for figuring out what things and places and even people cause us to derail and get us in behaviors and thinking that doesn't promote our healing and personal growth. Who in our lives just aren't part of our healing team? Maybe it's time to reevaluate our relationships with them? What kinds of habits and behaviors do w have that are triggering us and evidence shows it just keeps getting us back to an unhealthy state?
It can be hard, but sometimes we need to remove ourselves from unhealthy places, relationships and lifestyles.
So, we've discussed people, foods, and environment, there are also some easy exercises you can do to get regulated too.
Shake it off - Breath in and as you exhale, shake your arms out, vigorously. Try shaking your whole body, like a dog does. This can move the adrenaline and or cortisol through your body, shifting you out of a threat response.
Deep belly breathes - Breathe in your nose, hold, then breathe out your mouth slowly, repeat this at least 4 times. The moving of your diaphragm will massage your vagus nerve, bringing serotonin into your system, restoring harmony and bringing calm into the system. Try it!
When anxious, try this - close your eyes and sway, slowly. Hum a slow tune and let your arms just gently slop back and forth across your torso naturally. This can bring calm back into an alarmed system.
Peaceful Place - close your eyes, even at your desk, and breathe deep and go to a place you can imagine that is safe and calm. It can be imaginary or a place you love. Picture the feeling in this peaceful place and feel your nervous system come down to calm.
Sing a song - just sing! Any song, and either song it quiet or belt it out. Singing is a whole body regulator.
Dance - Moving the body to music has tremendous regulating properties. It doesn't mater how you do it, just put on some music and groove or jam.
Use a weighed blanket - The wait of a weighted blanket can be a great source of calm for an overwhelmed or anxious system. Get under it and just let go.
Go for a walk - getting out in nature is a wonderful way to allow nature to co-regulate us. Go near water or to a place with trees. Hug a tree.
Our pets - Animals are natural beings of regulation, as long as they are safe animals. Cuddle up with your pet and let them purr you into calm. Pet your bunny and feel the anxiety melt away. Sign-up for some equine therapy and become friends with a beautiful creature, the horse and let it heal your heart.
Take a Yoga class - Yoga incorporates so many regulating elements. The old gurus knew about the science before it was science. There are MANY kinds of yoga classes. You don't need any experience or to even be flexible. Yin yoga is calming and relaxing and doesn't require any skills at all. Try a gentle flow class and see how it can move any worry or depression right out of your focus, if even for an hour, shifting neural pathways.
Guided meditation - Go on youtube and find a guided meditation you like. Download an app, or join a membership. Even if it's only 10 minutes. You will certainly be more calm after you've taken time to focus on something else and sat quietly for a bit.
Of course, these are just a few of the ways we can get our system humming again in a calm, regulated way. Perhaps you have some things you know will get you feeling in sync, you already enjoy.
As a therapist, of course, I'll tell you that you getting connected and feeling whole needs to include an expert in the field of healing and supporting you on the journey.
Get curious, and ask for support on this connected journey to a whole-you healing journey, to all connection has to offer.
Sincerely & Compassionately,
quotes from Dr. Gabor Mate's book The Myth of Normal