In part 3, we discussed working out the anterior cingulate cortex and the benefits that increased observation, mindfulness and presence to our thoughts brings us in control and being able to engage with the creative executive functions of pre-frontal cortex.
The pre-frontal cortex loves a problem, creating solutions and evidence exists that shows that a well developed prefrontal cortex improves our abilities to study, solve life problems, engage with individuals, step outside of depression, addiction and anxiety.
Working out our pre-frontal cortex need not be an activity that causes us to break a sweat, in fact quite the contrary. Although it takes intentional activity, the best workout for the pre-frontal cortex is in situations where you feel socially supported, happy, relaxed and physically fit… so what are the things that are going to help us get the best out of our pre-frontal cortex’s and create habits and templates to utilise it more in the future?
These break down in to 3 key areas:
Postive thought is, of course, the opposite to being caught in as loop of negative emotions and reacting to these from the primitive part of the brain.
The first step is recognising that we can have control of our thoughts through a number of tools/mechanisms that work. Some of these are, counting to 10 in stressful scenarios, taking a deep breath before interacting, beginning a meditation practice, privately journal our thoughts and what we think of them, regularly express our gratitude verbally or in writing.
Recognising the positive things that happen to us every day and being grateful for these engages with the creative mind. It is impossible to feel angry at the same time as being grateful!
If you are in a negative loop and are aware of this, I heartily recommend taking a positive step to include one or more of the above activities in your daily routine to gain control over your thoughts and emotions. To add some balance and power back in your own hands.
Positive action is making a decision on something you will do and carrying through with it. You may know what it is you need to do, but it won’t get done until you do it.
From the point of view about feeling good and coming from the left-prefrontal cortex more regularly in our thinking, then taking action on a small thing will set us on the right path. The smaller the task the better.
The large the scale of the task, the more likely it is to worry us and engage with our primitive part of the brain. Doing this could immediately trigger more negative emotions and consequently the amygdala and the hippocampus. It’s therefore important to take a small step, something easy.
If you are trying to take some positive steps to gain control, commit to carrying out one of the activities above for 1 day. Nothing more, even the thought of carrying out something repeatedly daily can produce feelings of anxiety.
If there is something worrying you at work or at home, what is one simple action that would improve your day or the way you are feeling? If you rate the way you are feeling out of 10, what single action could help you move up just 1 point on the scale?
Completing the action and giving our attention to this engages with the focus part of the ACC and Pre-frontal cortex, but there are other benefits too, as on completing the task and recognising this we also trigger a serotonin or dopamine hit that makes us feel good.
Positive action brings about even more positive action. It feels good. In addition, it also helps us with positive thought too when we are accomplishing.
The feel good hit from achieving things that we have as human beings personally decided to complete, is a great feeling no matter how big or small. This is what the pre-frontal cortex is designed for us to do, problem solve and take action towards the solution. The more of this we do the better we feel, however there are even more benefits when we share this with and even complete actions with others. We are rewarded again chemically through serotonin and dopamine after great interactions with others. We have evolved as social beings and naturally benefit from great conversations or sharing experiences with others.
When able to identify something that is not working in your life for what ever reason, taking action in just 1 of these 3 areas will help us deal with the situation. It will help us feel good, move out of our primitive brain and side the world in a different light.
For me personally there is a very clear difference being run by the emotional amygdala, where it feels like I am subject to the mercy of other peoples wants/needs and I therefore do not feel in control and occasionally not good enough. In contrast, coming from the pre-frontal cortex, I can feel that I am absolutely in control of my time, actions and decisions. At this point, I love to be around people and share my gratitude for the great things that happen. This is where I want to live my life. Here.
To finish up this 4 part neuroscience essay, I wanted to leave you and myself the best ways I believe to exercise your left prefrontal cortex and enjoy life and the moment:
1. Use your body! Get active on your own or with others through sports, dance, yoga or even a martial art. Using your body not only gets you fit, but releases sod many positive endorphins, you feel great! Feeling great is key to being in your left pre-frontal cortex.
2. Get writing! Be creative and write positive stories about your future, visualise great things happening. Visitation is a tool of the pre-frontal cortex that helps us problem solve and bring about actions that make change. If you can mentally see it, you can make it happen.
3. Express gratitude and acknowledge the positive things you have done. If you are grateful, you cannot be angry! Be thankful for the people in your life or things you have. Journal these things a on a daily basis.
4. Engage in positive physical touch. I am a huge fan of hugs, offer these to your loved ones regularly. Offer positive physical contact with others the giving and receiving is miraculous.
5. Draw, sketch, doodle, use different colours! Creative minds love colours, diagrams and pictures.
6. Write stories, journal about the things you have achieved, create plans, blog or plan. Putting things on paper (or on a screen) is the very art and essence of creation
7. Get something done, whether it’s incredibly small or large, get it off the to do list and give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done. You deserve it.
8. Just play. Be playful. Play with your children, play with your friends, be silly, make things up and have fun.
9. Learn something new, learn to juggle, take an acting class or try something you never thought you would be interested in.
10. Just be you. We are perfect human beings who have access to everything we ever need to live a happy life, full of positivity and love. Acknowledge this. It’s a wonderful feeling,