Canadian psychologist Donald Hebb said, “neurons that fire together wire together.”
The implication is that if our brain changes itself based on our experiences, then by changing our experiences we can actively reshape our brains. One way to consciously change our experience is to learn how to apply mindfulness, the ability to be intentionally aware of our experience as it is unfolding. And by being more aware of our present experience as it is happening, we begin to form a secondary ability that UCLA psychiatrist Daniel Siegel calls “response flexibility” – the capacity to pause before we act. He describes it as follows:
“It creates a spaciousness of the mind to notice that an impulse has arisen and to disconnect from the automatic behavior that usually follows when someone is an impulsive person. So mindfulness creates a space between impulse and action that allows us to be more flexible in our responses.”
Being mindful is the exact opposite of our “fight, flight, or freeze” part of the brain, the part of our brain that is activated when we feel threatened or in danger. This state of mind isn’t necessarily bad, but unfortunately, due to our busy and very fast-paced world, we have been conditioned to activate “fight, flight, or freeze” as a reaction to novel stimuli that don’t actually pose a threat or danger. However, when we are able to remain mindful, calm, non-impulsive, and feeling safe, we can free up our mental resources and use them more effectively for things like learning and problem-solving.
For some beginner practices in mindfulness you may want to try:
from The Emotion Machine