We use a protocol that we call Brain Exercises in our coaching program Immune Resilience, and I want to share more about what these are and why they are essential for our recovery. You may see online a lot of programs now that talk about “Brain Retraining”, “Limbic Retraining”, “Nervous System Regulation”, and others. Ultimately, these are interchangeable concepts and I will discuss why. We choose to use the term “Brain Exercises” because we want to emphasize that this is an exercise- you are not going to be very good at it when you first start, and that is okay and expected! You have to build areas of the brain just like you would build a muscle.

Whatever program you choose, some type of Brain Exercise is a foundation for any healing path. This is because our brain is a primary orchestrator our of autonomic functions, which includes detoxification, circulation, tissue repair, and immune system balance. Our brain is in a constant conversation with the rest of our bodily systems. If our brain is being run by the threat detection areas, constantly hijacked by emotional memory and therefore is in a chronic fight/flight or freeze state, all the nutrient dense foods, supplements and cleanses in the world are going to do nothing. Our brain must be in a state that is receptive to healing to see progress.

The limbic system is the part of our brain that gets “triggered”. This is what is activated if we see something, feel something, hear something, or think something and suddenly we feel a wave of fear, adrenalin or anger running through our bodies. We may feel tingly, choked up, tight, disconnected, or other uncomfortable sensations. It can be an extremely intense bodily experience when we recall, consciously or unconsciously, formative memories that included high pain, distress, and emotionality. Our primal instincts for survival take over. These are memories where, whether objectively true or not, our nervous system perceived our life to be in danger. Any time it perceives a similar scenario, the limbic system becomes activated. This is an important mechanism, as the brain saves energy and ensures survival by bypassing our logical brain and having an automatically reactive response. The point being- everyone gets “triggered” sometimes, and it is a totally natural human experience, shared by other mammals as well. The problem happens when this part of the brain becomes excessively OVER active, due to chronic stressors and traumas that have gone unresolved. The problem is not “going up”, the problem is “going up” too often, and not knowing how to “come down”.

Our modern life itself tends to be overstimulating to the limbic system. If we are not intentional about resolving our past experiences of trauma and learning to come down after experiences of stress, our brains become stuck in a feedback loop of constant limbic system activation, and this is where chronic mental and physical illness start. If our brain never perceives the ability to “come down”, our autonomic functions will get put on hold. We won’t repair, detoxify, or be able to complete our daily tasks of living.

Adding healthy foods, detox support, and good quality supplements may not always be enough. If you are adding all of these interventions on top of the same underlying patterns of stress and fear, your body is not going to have the capacity to do anything with these new resources!

I’m curious. Does this sound like you? You wake up, you scroll through the news headlines, you check your email and feel annoyed at a co worker, you see that your partner hasn’t put the dishes away yet and get frustrated, you call your friend and vent about how hurt you feel about what your sister said to you this weekend, you get a stomach ache after lunch and start reading blogs about gut health trying to figure out what else could be wrong with your digestion, you get stuck in traffic running errands or going to work and come home with a tense jaw and shoulders, then you watch your favorite zombie show or true crime show before going to bed and read the latest celebrity gossip on your phone before bed.

Or how about this: you wake up with distressing symptoms and you like in bed for several hours until you feel like you can get up. You turn on the TV so you can distract yourself from your thoughts. You try to eat but you are scared of reactions you know you are going to have. You lie back down after eating because you start having more symptoms. Then you get on the computer and research more treatment options, and more tests you want to look into ordering. You spend some time worrying about EMF exposure but feel trapped in your home because you feel too anxious to go outside and “ground” even though you know you “should” and then feel guilty and scared that you are never going to heal unless you can mitigate EMF’s in your home. You feel a little better for a few hours in the evening but try to just get a few chores done while you are feeling better and then go lie down and spend some time worrying about if you are going to wake up with symptoms again in the morning before falling into a light sleep.

Now, you may think that you are managing your stress because you also go to yoga class on Saturday mornings and feel calmer for 30 minutes afterwards, or you joined a limbic retraining program and a few times a week muster up the capacity to do some “rounds” or exercises. I am here to tell you that piling a few relaxation exercises on top of the way you are currently living your life is probably not going to be enough. Most people who are stuck in severe limbic system activation need to exercise their brain in new ways throughout the day, and truly rebuild their daily routine and approach to life. This is like re-learning to walk after being in a severe accident. People in this situation have to do hours of physical therapy a day, retraining all of their muscles. If your brain is deeply hijacked in fear, it takes this kind of exercise program as well, but to exercise different parts of the brain that right now are under active.

Again: no matter how good your diet, supplement and detox routine is, it is not going to work if you overlay on top of your same habitual negative thought patterns and fear focused world view.

So how do we exercise the brain?

Our Immune Resilience program uses a method called NeuroMeditation, developed by Dr. Jeff Tarrant, because it has actually been corroborated by EEG brain scans that the techniques shift your brain: making different areas of the brain more active, and actually changing the quality of your brain waves in these places. We love an evidence based approach, and we are confident that this is the one with the most scientifically corroborated approach.

This technique is particularly helpful if you have long term limbic impairment or PTSD. Many people start meditation using a transcendental or “quiet mind” technique, which is actually the most advanced type, and inappropriate if you already have dissociative tendencies. We start with foundational techniques called Mindfulness and Focus, which actually give your brain the building block skills to become a successful meditator later. These exercise the parts of the brain that become weak and underactive when we experience unresolved stress and trauma, or have ADHD or PTSD.

Cultivating a Mindfulness or Focus meditation practices allows you to become much more self aware of your patterns of thought and behavior. This is the best way to start shifting our habitual thoughts and actions naturally, by building more conscious awareness and then aligning ourselves to new thoughts and behaviors that promote a more regulated perspective on the world and our illnesses. Changing our default response to symptoms to sitting mindfully with ourselves and allowing our body to be exactly how it is, and away from jumping straight on our phones to do more research, is an essential shift. We also use gentle body scans and tools to build neutral awareness of our body systems, and reframe our symptoms as benevolent messages from our bodies. This is an antidote to the “symptom scanning” that many people do who are stuck in long term chronic illness. Scanning our body for new symptoms in a state of fear or stress actually makes our symptoms more intense and distressing. Eventually, we can start to cultivate positive emotions towards our bodies, and even our symptoms, using techniques called Open Heart or Compassion. This builds on the Mindfulness and Focus tools and is a second step in our curriculum. Again, many programs have you trying to jump to this step too quickly, when your brain isn’t ready yet. The order of operations is important here. Over time, we can actually train our brain to release positive hormones and neurotransmitters simply through the experiences we allow ourselves to have day to day.

Auditing our daily routine is just as important as the formal NeuroMeditation practice we engage in. You can meditate for 20 minutes every morning, and feel calm afterwards, but then if you go right back into your same patterns of social media doom scrolling, allowing yourself to be annoyed by the same petty issues, and watching activating media (your nervous system doesn’t know the difference between TV and reality!) every night, you are not going to be exercising your brain into new patterns consistently enough.

We know sometimes taking on these approaches can feel daunting, and that is why we have a lot of support built in for you in our Immune Resilience program. Among the nutritional and lifestyle support, you get a group Brain Exercise class every month and access to our full curriculum, with clear instructions and guided meditations and exercises to do. We also have EFT Tapping protocols, which can add an extra layer onto your brain exercise when you are feeling particularly stuck.

Learn about the program below:

About the Author
Jen Donovan completely rebuilt her life and career as a result of her experience with severe chronic illness. After finding no answers from conventional medical approaches, she took matters into her own hands and with the help of key mentors, found a path to healing.
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