Sunday, November 22, 2009

Giving Thanks Can Actually Change Your Brain

Since the upcoming week includes Thanksgiving, I feel compelled to offer some of my priceless wisdom about that.  It may be easy to feel gratitude and thankfulness on such a cozy occasion surrounded by family and friends and maybe a herb roasted turkey, some yummy sweet potato and pecan concoction, a sinful pumpkin pie and lots of other stuff you really don't need, but are gonna indulge in anyway.  You can light some candles in the center of the table and say a few words of thanks before digging in, and feel absolutely blessed with such abundance. 

Or maybe not. It can be pure hell, and it can be just something you endure, hating every minute and counting the seconds for it to be behind you for another year.  There is that one annoying relative that won't shut up incessantly babbling about something you could care less about.  Yawn.  There is also that one friend of a relative that has breath so bad you imagine it melting your face like plastic.  Yeech.

It really is up to you as to how you experience the day no matter who is there, how toxic their breath may be or how inane their conversation topics.  You can intentionally focus your thoughts and attention on the good or the bad. It is your choice with a Thanksgiving get together or anything in your life.  This type of choice in any situation literally effects you physically and can change your brain and your life with regular repititon. 

Emotions evoked by your thoughts cause cellular reactions in your body which then are transformed into physical reality. Norepinephrine is an example of a chemical that flows in your blood stream when you are in a pleasant state of mind.  Norepinephrine and other "happy" chemicals lock into the cellular receptors in your body.  When viruses or "bad" chemicals look for a place to enter your cells and hook on they cannot because the receptor sites are filled with "happy" chemicals.  Thus making you feel better and your immune system stronger.  That is a really simplified explanation, but you get it, right?

Artists and athletes vizualize their performances before the events.  It has been scientifically proven that the brain cannot tell the difference between this mental practice and the actual event.  It chemically responds and fires the same as if the thing was really occurring.  That is very powerful stuff.  Herein lies your ability to actually change your brain and your reality.  What you repeatedly think about is actually changing your brain. Be careful what you think about.

For example, I just went to court AGAIN this last week.  Uugh!  Unfortunately, I am a regular. This time it was to address some visitation issues.  Because I tried to kill myself and had a resulting brain injury, the visitations with my kids were ordered to be supervised by the courts.  I also was under court order not to drive the kids.  The restrictions were warranted and in the best interest of the kids at the time they were originated. That was two and a half years ago.  A lot has changed since then.  I have been trying to get to court for over a year and a half to get them revised.  Our legal system is infuriating and ridiculous. 

I followed the court order down to the letter on supervision for a year.  I did not drive the kids until I took the NC on road driving test and passed.  Yes, like when I was 16.  Only, I passed the first time this go around.  However, I relaxed it a little on my own for the last year and a half just complying with telephone supervision.

The judge is not going to announce her decision until December 5th.  For the Thanksgiving holiday visitation she ordered that the restrictions are still to be in place full force and are to be followed around the clock.  Initially, I was extremely hurt and insulted to the point I was ready to tell my X just not to send the kids.  To comply now seems totally ludicrous to me and the restrictions competely change the dynamics of my relationship with the kids. 

That was the "old Debbie" reacting out of ego.  But giving the news some time to sit with my changed brain and new way of thinking, I soon began to see a larger picture and a different way to respond.  I can focus on the limitations of the visit or I can focus on the fact that I get to hug my kids and be with them for a couple of days.  It is my choice.  I can choose to experience it as a visit with the kids with the grandparents around a lot or I can choose to not even have the kids come and experience it as incredibly painful and senseless.  Hence, creating my own struggle.  It is totally up to me. I can't change the restrictions, but I can change the way I think about them and choose my experience. 

Making this kind of choice repeatedly actually changes the pathways in your brain.  It is like a sled going down a hill. The first time, it has to plow through the rough snow.  After many times, there is a well worn path. It becomes the default.  Mine is not virgin snow, but as evidenced by my initial reaction, the grass isn't showing through yet on the path. I am getting there.  

How you experience Thanksgiving and something as everyday as the toilet overflowing is completely up to you.  Either can be whatever you make of it.  I am gonna choose to make most of my experiences not so bad....even the toilet overflowing.  Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.  Blessings to you.

1 comment:

  1. Happy Thanksgiving, aunt Debbie!
    You're a constant inspiration to me and I miss you so much. I wish we could have been with you (or you with us) for the holiday. It is good to be reminded, especially when things are rough, that there are reasons to be grateful... No matter what.