[00:00:00] Welcome to Move With Deb. I'm Deb, your friendly neuroplastician. And this is a podcast that explores the relationship between the body and the mind from a health at every size, judgment, free perspective. I teach you how developing a new internal conversation based on curiosity, self friendship and simple neuro-plasticity techniques can rewire your bodymind out of pain and emotional overwhelm to help you build the rich full life that you want to live. Disclaimer, this is not a replacement for medical care.
[00:00:50] Welcome to Move With Deb, the podcast. This is episode number 37. Today's episode, I'm going to talk about the mind body process of moving back to a place that has difficult memories. This is my experience. I'm not saying you should move back to a place that has difficult memories, but sometimes we find ourselves in places in which we've had hard times in the past, and I'm going to share this surprising, nervous system magic I unknowingly made for myself that gives me tremendous hope and excitement.
[00:01:26] So I've got two awesome resources to recommend. One is Dr. Andrew Huberman's lecture on the biology of learning. And if you've listened to this podcast, you'll probably know I am a giant, Huberhead, uh, Huberman fan of his Huberman Lab podcast. I love learning from him. He really explains things in simple language, and I can make links and associations with mind, body mechanisms that I observe in myself and my clients. And I just love knowing things. I love learning. Learning is kind of an exciting place to put my brain. As I learn and teach with this mind body process, we want to find places to put our brain because otherwise it'll just kind of run around the house like an untrained dog and eat your slippers and, um, uh, make a mess in the bathroom and eat all the toilet paper. So we want to tell the brain where to go, tell the brain what to do with this spotlight of attention that we have going on all the time.
[00:02:33] So one of the life-changing lessons I've learned from him is the agitating effect of the chemicals of learning. So he talks about acetylcholine, which is released during learning process, and that is activating. It creates energy in the body that is essential for focus, but if you're like me, a recovering perfectionist and you have negative beliefs about failing and have created a belief system around feeling discomfort. And then the fear of failure just becomes amplified because these natural chemically inducing processes of learning, bring with them discomfort.
[00:03:13] We're always interpreting our sensory experience and we make meaning. This is part of how we train the brain to amplify the experience of pain and when we mix that in with the thoughts and beliefs of fear, which some of them, you know, are real, when your doctor tells you, you know, you're destroying your joints, that paints this evocative picture. And that information creates our nervous systems sense of self protection.
[00:03:43] So if we interpret failure and the activating sensory experience of learning as something negative about us, we're going to want to avoid this experience at all costs. So we feel the discomfort and then the fear of failure that becomes amplified because we've created a certain meaning about what is a natural neurochemical process that is attributed to learning. So we actually become kind of afraid of the thing that happens when we are learning. So we want to train ourselves into a place of having willingness and a safe experience of this sympathetic activation. We want to go from avoidance to willingness. From fear to curiosity. You want to be able to expand our window of tolerance to allow for activating sympathetic nervous system activity. If you know anything about polyvagal theory, we have this ventral vagal resourced space, a sense of home, and then we have what's called sympathetic activation. And then we have dorsal activation and those are just different nervous system states. One is resting and repair. One is activating and energizing and it's normal for our human physiology to have all of those things. Those are all a part of living a human life. But we can learn that danger is in any of these places. We can learn that sympathetic activation feels scary. We can even learn that dorsal activation feels scary and then we like don't even allow ourselves to rest, right? Because we have meaning placed on these things. This is why learning is brilliant.
[00:05:41] We can change our experience of meaning and then our physiological experience of that idea becomes different. So we want to reinterpret that uncomfortable physiological experience as one that I feel neutral about, or even that I embrace, because now that zizzy feeling tells me I'm in a learning mode. And then my brain just like, yeah, go neurons, go, go, neurons, go let's go learn!
[00:06:11] These are also based on me being the person choosing. I am putting myself in this situation to choose, to learn, to do things on purpose. That's also a part of it, it's very, very hard to create willingness and curiosity when you also feel like you're being made to do something and forced to do something you don't want to do.
[00:06:32] Another favorite quote from this lecture was, is very hard to control the mind with the mind, use the body to control the mind. Now I'm not a fan of the word control, but I agree with this concept, I would phrase it as trying to create change only through our cognitive thinking brain will often fail because honestly we can think anything.
[00:06:54] We got like 60, 80,000 thoughts running around in our brain. They're not all awesome. They're not all true. Right? I can string together the words pink pineapples tastes like blueberries, or I'm so glad that I'm nine feet tall because I can reach the top of the cabinet or I'm so stupid and dumb for ever believing anybody will listen to this podcast.
[00:07:16] Ooh. Okay. One of those thoughts created a sensation in my body. It wasn't pleasant. I'll let you guess which one. But that sensation in my body is a powerful signal to me that I have a fear or a belief about my work. Now it's a mild sensation of tension when I think that thought. I can also think the thought I am proud of me for creating a podcast in which I help people understand the relationship between their mind and their body better. When I think that thought, which I believe I feel warmth and like a deep exhale comes out of the middle of me.
[00:07:55] So those mechanisms of listening through the body with the somatic tools I'm going to explain as this podcast goes on how using our body to create our experience, rather than just letting our thoughts run the show, but also learning how to use thoughts on purpose to train the brain, moving our bespoke mind, body together towards the pursuit of your goals. They work together it's not like mind only, or body only. It's about developing the skill of this internal conversation.
[00:08:32] Dr. Huberman in his learning lecture says that after 25 only behaviors are protocols. So that just means intentional practices enhance neuroplasticity, which is a fancy word for learning. And without alertness, there is no learning and remember, alertness can be misinterpreted as anxiety. So just hang out with me here. So much of our perception is driven through our visual cortex. Focus follows visual focus. Our eyes are the only part of our nervous system that live outside of our cranial vault. Getting alert and focused is a process within which we should expect and embrace errors because errors create alertness and focus, and we can only learn in alertness and focus. So we can affect change in our nervous system, through behavior tools, things that we do or things that we avoid, through pharmacology and brain machine interface. But only behaviors or protocols again, which is intentional practicing create neuroplasticity. So we might need both.
[00:09:45] We want to affect change in our nervous system, but long-term change comes through neuro-plasticity. So this is about creating an active living protocol. Or as I like to say, I dynamic embodied learning experience. Where we make discovering and then teaching the nervous system, which includes the brain, the spinal cord and the connection to the organs for these two way conversations. Neuroplasticity is the ability to you change in response to experience.
[00:10:18] Recently I had two very contrasting mind-body experiences that stood out to me like a beacon in a way that I'd never experienced before, probably because I was never trying to look through my lived experience, with this framework, and wow it's like the matrix. When you begin to see it, you can't unsee it.
[00:10:38] I guess I'll start with my first experience. I went back to where I haven't lived for 10 years. And I haven't visited for two years, uh, because pandemic and so much has changed in my little neighborhood, it was kind of intense to be there. I'm planning on moving back. And what I noticed were two things happening. I was either in judging brain or I was in time-traveling brain. They were both kind of unpleasant experiences, very activating and creating an avoidant adversive reaction in my body. The first two days I felt really off-kilter, my brain was like, oh, you lived here yesterday. Cause like when it was nighttime, I could just walk to the bathroom in the dark with ease in a way that my body remembered literally, like I still live there. And then during the day, some things were new and some things were old.
[00:11:30] The things that old were remembered. The things that were new were a little jarring. I literally felt out of time. I could remember times 10 years ago that were like during my breakup and my store closing and my move and my mother being sick, like it was currently happening, like a felt sense of it. Not like a memory that you look back on that you only remember when you think about it.
[00:11:58] Like a memory, just like that's in my body. So it, it wasn't even as strong as like a flashback, but just that, all the feelings that I had going on at that time were just showing up in my body now. And so when I walked outside of my apartment, I was confronted with things that were similar, but different. It's like an old TV show when they changed the actor for the same character. There's the time that your brain takes to integrate that new person into the same role. Like Darren on Bewitched or Becky on Roseanne, or even every time there's a new Doctor on Doctor Who, even though for that, we're anticipating the change, but there's this lag time process of reminding yourself that it's the same character just played by a different person.
[00:12:50] It was a jarring and unpleasant experience that kicked up some fear, is moving back the right choice. The fear was interpreted through language in my brain. "Is moving back the right choice?" "I don't feel excited." "This doesn't feel like home." You know, my, my whole body was in the, like, we left here energy because in my out of time brain, I was also still leaving. So it's very strange, like I'm in like leaving brain and I'm also in like moving back brain. So knowing something about our nervous system and about creating change in my mind body experience on purpose, I decided to do something about it and see what happened. I made an experiment.
[00:13:35] For two days, I took a slow, intentional walk around my neighborhood. I got a cup of coffee and I began to explore. And I would just scan my eyes places, letting them take in the new information . Just notice how strongly my brain wanted to label things as good or bad. I noticed usually that things that were familiar to me, I labeled as good. Things that were new and different were bad, signs of gentrification that's bad. It was a very simplistic impulse, this labeling. But the impulse to label things good or bad is a habit and a practice that creates our embodied experience. When I work with clients, we try to stop and drop the labeling experience of sensations or emotions as good or bad and develop the skill of curious, awareness, rather than categorization, which sets our brains prediction. And then we live out that judgment until it gets updated, but that process of updating can be tedious and sometimes fraught. So using this time to practice the skill of developing this neutral, curious awareness was a good use of my time. Instead of like just kind of jumping to all these conclusions, I was like, what if I don't even know what it is that I'm thinking and feeling? Let's get curious.
[00:15:00] So I look at the shape of the buildings and I would just let my eyes move over them. Taking in all the varied shapes, the varied colors, the varied textures. I'd feel the wobbliness of the cobblestones under my feet. I walked to the pier and I took in the sky and the water and the humans around me.
[00:15:22] I let myself be delighted by a teacher teaching a whole concept to a group of children and looking at their pile of backpacks that were all strewn about the ground. I just let myself feel present and welcome and a part of things. As I move through block by block, inviting myself to feel connected and curious. The next day I woke up and I felt much less agitation. I could notice my building curiosity about leaving the house. What's down this street? What's it going to be like to get from point A to point B? What will it feel like to live in this apartment knowing that I have these cognitive somatic tools on my side? It was a small activity with a large impact.
[00:16:11] After this, I read on Instagram, a post from anxiety MD, Dr. Russell Kennedy, where he talks about the amygdala is often called the fear center of the brain. And this is what he says. I like to think of it as the emotional reaction center of the brain. The amygdala never forgets and will re react to anything that it perceives and has ever hurt you in the past.
[00:16:34] The amygdala also has no sense of time. When something comes into your awareness that has hurt you in the past, the amygdala fires up and sends you back to the time of the original trauma, depending on the intensity of the pain of the past, the amygdala will cue an emotional reaction. Typically the more intense the memory, the stronger and the reaction. Oftentimes, we may not even be consciously aware of what is triggering us in our present environment. This is often where panic attacks originate. The brain, holding a memory out of time, it will fire the alarm in the body when anything in our present world resembles that of our original pain or trauma. Alarm fired memory, emotional time travel.
[00:17:22] So, this is in my words, our physiology responds unless we have learned to rewire our response to that stimuli and update the prediction. I like to start with creating awareness because awareness replants us in the now time and creates space between the stimulus and the response, which naturally quiets the alarm and allows for a real threat assessment, like anything right now, present moment dangerous. And then we get to apply the tool and the skill of self friendship and self-soothing. Talking to that fear body that lives inside of us. It's not so much about never having the alarm go off. It's about how we respond to an alarm being fired. And the way that we respond to the alarm being fired is the way that we rewire the alarm in the first place.
[00:18:18] So then I came back to Florida and whoa. Wow! It was like my living classroom experiment proved itself true. My whole body relaxed. I felt connected and energized and ready to work. My agitation was gone. Things I noticed were my eyes without effort would scan the sky and look at the clouds and my body would feel warm and happy. I noticed the trees and the birds. I sought them out as anchors for my mind body. Now these were what I considered survival techniques from a year ago that I created on purpose to help me find sanity and plant what I call joy seeds for this uprooted in Florida during COVID experience that I had. I did not like being here. I didn't want to be here. I was scared and angry a lot of the time. And when it made sense that life was what it was. I decided I was choosing to be here on purpose and I got curious to see if I could actually create a positive experience for myself because honestly I was sick of being miserable and fucked up. So I turned the spotlight of my attention on things that felt neutral or pleasant to my senses. I smelled my coffee beans before making coffee. I danced silly dances and made up songs to help me allow and process my emotions. I kept myself good company while I felt things. I was captivated by the beauty of the clouds, and I decided that clouds were my friends, and we would greet each other throughout the day. I would sing songs to them with gratitude for their beauty. I found ways to connect to others and be creative. I built a new temporary home that helped me care better for me even while not wanting to be here.
[00:20:16] And then when I got back my body remembered, cause I've been gone for a few months now. So that might not have been clear. I was away back in California for a few months, when I arrived back in Florida, my body remembered. Now, remember, I still don't want to live here but I'm not feeling aversion. What I'm feeling is love and completion. And that gives me great hope that I will also be able to find a way to be creative and making my embodied experience feel like what I want. I can use these tools of neuroplasticity for my own benefit to cultivate a mind body practice that's not just about problem solving, but about world-building and conscious creation. Knowing that life is always 50/50, not everything is something that I can control. I am not a positive vibes only person. But how we respond to sensory input, stimuli and the world around us through these powerful tools of perception and meaning are what creates our lived experience.
[00:21:29] Life is not just something that happens to you. We are co-creators whether we are aware of it or not. So taking simple steps towards creating a more mind-body learning, skills based approach, can be a gift of empowerment in a world that is not egalitarian and doesn't teach you these things.
[00:21:52] Anybody can learn to have a more loving, more connected, more desired mind body experience through the magic of neuroplasticity. If you're curious about this process and want to know more, I've actually turned off my consult calendar but I'll be back on in the new year. So I'm happy to talk to you, but listen to my podcasts, follow me on Instagram. Just start thinking about how this might be possible for you. Even just reflect on moments in times of transition for you when you moved from something that was unpleasant as something that was pleasant. Just start creating your own little mind, body experiment lab for yourself. You know, get curious. Curiosity, unlocks the door to new experiences, new mind, body experiences. This is where we engage in the dynamic present moment, updating predictions process of neuroplasticity. I hope this episode was helpful for you. I am always delighted by trying to find new stories and ways to share these concepts and experiences with you.
[00:23:12] And I appreciate your listening. Thank you so much and have a wonderful day.