Category Archives: Grounding

Brain System For Emotional Self-Control

Different brain areas are activated when we choose to suppress an emotion, compared to when we are instructed to inhibit an emotion, according a new study from the UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience and Ghent University.
In this study, published in Brain Structure and Function, the researchers scanned the brains of healthy participants and found that key brain systems were activated when choosing for oneself to suppress an emotion. They had previously linked this brain area to deciding to inhibit movement.
“This result shows that emotional self-control involves a quite different brain system from simply being told how to respond emotionally,” said lead author Dr Simone Kuhn (Ghent University).
In most previous studies, participants were instructed to feel or inhibit an emotional response. However, in everyday life we are rarely told to suppress our emotions, and usually have to decide ourselves whether to feel or control our emotions.
In this new study the researchers showed fifteen healthy women unpleasant or frightening pictures. The participants were given a choice to feel the emotion elicited by the image, or alternatively to inhibit the emotion, by distancing themselves through an act of self-control.
The researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to scan the brains of the participants. They compared this brain activity to another experiment where the participants were instructed to feel or inhibit their emotions, rather than choose for themselves.
Different parts of the brain were activated in the two situations. When participants decided for themselves to inhibit negative emotions, the scientists found activation in the dorso-medial prefrontal area of the brain. They had previously linked this brain area to deciding to inhibit movement.
In contrast, when participants were instructed by the experimenter to inhibit the emotion, a second, more lateral area was activated.
“We think controlling one’s emotions and controlling one’s behavior involve overlapping mechanisms,” said Dr Kuhn.
“We should distinguish between voluntary and instructed control of emotions, in the same way as we can distinguish between making up our own mind about what do, versus following instructions.”
Regulating emotions is part of our daily life, and is important for our mental health. For example, many people have to conquer fear of speaking in public, while some professionals such as health-care workers and firemen have to maintain an emotional distance from unpleasant or distressing scenes that occur in their jobs.
Professor Patrick Haggard (UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience) co-author of the paper said the brain mechanism identified in this study could be a potential target for therapies.
“The ability to manage one’s own emotions is affected in many mental health conditions, so identifying this mechanism opens interesting possibilities for future research.
“Most studies of emotion processing in the brain simply assume that people passively receive emotional stimuli, and automatically feel the corresponding emotion. In contrast, the area we have identified may contribute to some individuals’ ability to rise above particular emotional situations.
“This kind of self-control mechanism may have positive aspects, for example making people less vulnerable to excessive emotion. But altered function of this brain area could also potentially lead to difficulties in responding appropriately to emotional situations.”

Mindfulness at UC

UC San Diego Center for Mindfulness joins William Mobley, MD, PhD for a discussion of how to be present in the moment and leverage the practice of mindfulness to stay engaged, focused, and fulfilled

Yoga Benefits

Many people hear “yoga”, and think Zen gardens, meditation, and free spirits. But you may be surprised to find that one recent study showed that those who incorporated yoga into their life had improved stress levels and lower blood pressure. Yoga was ultimately developed to combine controlled breathing and poses to achieve physical, mental, and spiritual strength and unity. In fact, Michelle Obama even attributes her sleek physique to frequent yoga sessions. There are multiple types of yoga, but Hatha Yoga is the most commonly practiced type in the United States.

Here are some surprising health benefits of practicing yoga that you may have never known!

Relief of Back Pain: More than 60 million Americans suffer from chronic back pain. Yoga is one of the best exercises to help alleviate pain. This is due to the increase in core stability (abdominal muscles) and the reduction of pressure across the lower back and surrounding muscles. Yoga also helps to release endorphins throughout the body that can calm inflammation. Practicing yoga for just two sessions a week may reduce or even eliminate back pain. Many individuals also report an increase in pain tolerance after attending sessions for only three weeks.

Heart Healthy: Further research also demonstrates that even one yoga session can produce a calming effect on the body, and individuals in one study showed reduction in their systolic blood pressure after only 12 weeks of two yoga sessions per week. Additionally, incorporating yoga into a cardiac rehabilitation program after a heart attack or bypass surgery has also shown promise in maintaining lower levels of stress and healthy blood pressure levels.

Increased Flexibility: You may be thinking, “No Duh”, on this one, but the benefits may be surprising. Practicing poses like downward dog, and tree pose can improve balance and flexibility. This can directly strengthen and protect your larger joints (knees, hips, back, neck) from injury and reduce inflammation in the smaller joints (fingers and ankles). This can also help reduce falls in the elderly, and ultimately avoid fractures in this age group.

Mood Booster: In addition to mental clarity and relaxation, yoga has been shown to improve depression, anxiety, and chronic stress. A small German study reviewed in the Harvard Mental Health Letter demonstrated that at the end of a three-month period, women perceived less stress, depression, anxiety, and fatigue. A few yoga classes could leave you happier and less stressed. Increased happiness alone is reason enough to give it a try!

As with any new exercise, always consult your physician before you begin. This is to ensure your body can safely complete the activity. I also recommend you attend a beginner class or view a video with some common poses. This will make you feel more confident during your first class and ensure you obtain the most benefit.

http://www.everydayhealth.com/columns/shilpi-agarwal-your-holistic-health-guide/yoga-the-hidden-health-benefits-of-down-dogging