How Does Your “Brain Garden” Grow?
Dear Awesome Woman,
I know – strange title, right? What’s a “Brain Garden” anyway?
Well, in an article called “Your Brain has a Delete Button” authors Judah Pollack and Fox Cabane use the metaphor of a garden to explain how the brain works. They invite the reader to imagine that our brain is like a garden, except instead of growing flowers and veggies, we grow synaptic connections between neurons. These connections allow for neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin and others to travel across.
Turns out that just like we have some control over what happens in our backyard garden, we also have some control over what happens in our “brain gardens”. We can choose what we “grow” in our brain, as well as what we “prune”.
Each time we think a thought or review an image/memory, we strengthen the neuro-circuit of it. This is referred to as “neurons that fire together, wire together.” The more we practice certain things—like a musical instrument, a language and even new concepts, the stronger these circuits get. This is the process of choosing what we “grow”.
Our brain also has a “pruning” mechanism. It marks the synaptic connections that get used less with special proteins and these get “pruned” —destroyed—from the brain. This pruning allows the brain to make space to create new and stronger connections in order for you to learn more. So, things that we choose to think LESS about, get “pruned.”
When I read this I said to myself “Wow! I better get a grip on my ‘brain garden’!” I can be quite lazy with my thinking and now I realized how harmful that can be. My brain may be pruning some really good stuff because I’m not using it and may be strengthening negative thoughts, memories and beliefs that have become habitual.
So, in order to get a better grip on my “brain garden”, I decided that I would do my best to be more conscious of what I’m thinking.
But how could I control my thinking? Thoughts are like clouds that are constantly drifting in and out of my brain all the time. As a woman, I don’t have a “nothing box” (ha-ha).
Yet, I did notice that I do have the ability to choose which thought clouds to follow. Each one has a particular destination. Some thought clouds have negative pathways and create feelings of anxiety, sadness, annoyance, shame etc. Others are uplifting and kind and lead to feelings of hope, joy and peace. Which way did I want to go?
Now, this is not to suggest that I advocate ignoring feelings. Nope—that’s a big “no, no”. When feeling emotionally triggered by a person or situation, those feelings need to be acknowledged. If you find yourself in the midst of a tornado of thoughts, this is called ruminating. Ruminating happens when you’re overthinking a situation rather than dropping into body awareness and experiencing the physical sensation of the emotion. I invite you to get the ROAR! eguide to release ruminating, to process your emotions (such as anger, resentment, fear), to get out of the freeze response, to tap into your intuitive guidance and to have greater health. There is such importance to experiencing your feelings on a somatic level.
The thought clouds that I’m referring to in this newsletter are the ones that drift in and out of our minds when we’re by ourselves—walking, cooking, cleaning etc. In choosing which thought clouds to “jump on”, I’m basically choosing what gets “grown” and “pruned” in my brain.
Here’s five tools that I found to keep my “brain garden” as happy and healthy as it can be. I invite you to try some of these:
1) Have kind people in your life:
Interacting with kind people means more feel-good “brain food”—pleasant memories, gratitude, laughter, intimacy and joy.
2) Anchor Gratitude:
Place your hand on your heart, take a conscious breath and think of things/people that you feel grateful for. For example, a butterfly just flitted around my garden. I put my hand on my heart, took a conscious breath and thanked G-d for giving me the vision to witness this beauty with my eyes. I find that by combining a physical action with the gratitude thought, I’m anchoring that moment of joy deeper into my being.
When you find that you’ve jumped on a thought cloud that is negative, jump off. Tell yourself “nope, not going down that path now—the less I think that thought, the greater chance that it will get ‘pruned’ from my mind.” Give yourself the freedom NOT to think certain thoughts. It then becomes a habit to discern and discipline.
4) Surround yourself with uplifting images and phrases:
Words and images are powerful. It’s great to “seed” the positive ones in your mind and grow these kind of synaptic connections. Speak the phrases out loud as well—pretend that you’re talking to your imaginary friend, but the friend is you!
5) Sprinkle people with compassion and compliments:
Spreading kindness to others strengthens your neuro-circuits of dopamine and serotonin and theirs as well.
With these tools, next thing you know, we’ll have a world full of people with happy, healthy “brain gardens”.
Need a helping hand? I invite you to schedule your Free Clarity call today. As a Somatic Healer, Clarity Coach and Relationship Expert, I help empower women to trust themselves through the wisdom of their bodies and intuition. Stress and pain relief, trauma processing, marriage magic, Narcissist/Borderline-relationship detoxing, career shifts and goal setting can all be accomplished through Mindbody Soul sessions (by phone). Looking forward!
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“I have been blessed to have worked with good coaches and healers, but Miriam holds a very special place in my heart and healing journey. I had reached a point where I understood intellectually where I wanted to be, the changes I wanted to make in my life. The knowing, along with the actions I was taking, weren’t enough to make it happen and I was lost as to what to do next. I had been a follower of Miriam’s on Facebook and was attracted to her approach to healing, and the beauty she shared through her photos and words. I reached out to her and in my first session felt the shift of energy in my body that I had been longing for. Miriam uses somatic healing techniques that have been extremely effective for me. Also, Miriam is firm and kind, as well as unfailingly supportive. It is my great pleasure and honor to work with her.”
- T.C., Kentucky
June 12, 2017 @ 5:45 am
This was a beautiful post. Thank you for sharing it on Monday Blogs this week. I really like the idea of cultivating your thoughts, especially after you clarified that it’s not about denying your feelings.
Miriam Racquel Feldman
February 5, 2019 @ 10:46 am
Thank you, Lydia 🙂 So important to never deny our feelings.