The Neuroscience of Self Love
When learning to love yourself it can be helpful to understand what is happening in your brain while you are changing it from an insecure and self-harming brain, to a brain that floods you with self love.
Your brain is the organic part of your physical body that is wiring up based on your mind and your emotions.
Not many people like to geek out with me on something like this, but my whole philosophy behind my self love educational programming is based on the neuroscience of self love. So what is really happening to your brain when you move towards self love and how can you make it happen faster?
How Your Brain Copes
We tend to use unhealthy distractions to help us cope, so it is important for us to recognize these and begin to move them into healthy or joyful distractions.
Zaretta Hammond, the author of Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain points out that there are things that you may use to cope if you were born in poverty, or traumatized by the conditions of modern society. That some of the survival skills that helped people grow up in poverty or under stress, are actually coping mechanisms that helped you get through tough times.
Really think about how you cope with a stressful situation. Do you talk to others? Do you talk trash? Do you retreat and go it alone? Do you lose trust in people and get angry?
Maybe you take a bath, journal, sing, anything that gets you through the stress.
Start to understand your brain by writing the ways you cope that you are aware of.
Noticing Your Automatic Thoughts
When you hit stressful moments or are being hard on yourself, negative thoughts come up that are automatic. These are also called thinking traps or cognitive distortions. Click here for some examples of these traps.
How to do you battle these? You can first distract yourself and then move into coping thoughts.
Your goal is to get your brain online so you can access your self love skills.
Here are some coping thoughts you can practice and use when your brain feels overwhelmed. Pick some and practice them with the smaller non-stressful moments in life.
I sometimes keep a small notebook with me in order to write them a few times in moments when I feel dysregulated. Journaling helps with a self love practice.
If you practice all of these habits, while your mind is calm, it is A LOT easier to use these tools when your mind is not.
Label Your Emotions
An advanced skill that you can use either after coping thoughts, or right from the beginning, is to label your emotions as they come up.
Lisa Feldman Barrett, author of How Emotions are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain, describes how powerful labeling our emotions can be for regulating our entire body.
The more words you have for one emotion can support you in gaining access to your prefrontal cortex and help you make rational decisions that are best for you. Dr. Feldman Barrett calls a large vocabulary for emotional word, emotional granularity.
She states, “You’ve probably never thought about learning words as a path to greater emotional health, but it follows directly from the neuroscience of construction. Words seed your concepts, concepts drive your predictions, predictions regulate your body budget, and your body budget determines how your feel.”
Again, your brain is the organic part of your body that wires up your automatic an unconscious processing. It is the YOU part of your brain that makes up your “mind.” This can be confusing, but it is why mindfulness can help support the neuroscience of self love in your life.
Mindfulness separates the organic brain, that can be changed with time, and the deep part of you that might be considered a soul. When you are practicing mindfulness you become an observer of your mind and can begin to direct the changes you want for yourself.
All learning happens this way. You make a decision to learn something new, you set your mind to it and you start to actually create neurons through repetition and practice.
Mindfulness is the same. You decide to learn to love yourself, you begin to be conscious of your thinking when it comes to how you view yourself, then you build new neural networks in your mind while you practice self love.
Overall, it is a complicate process. You can become an expert with me on this, or your can just use the programming and content I put out trusting that I am helping you re-wire your brain.
You can also take on your re-wiring in other ways with this next article.
Dr. Autumn Thomas
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