When BrainWise graduates are asked, “Which Wise Way do you find most helpful?” they frequently name “Wizard Brain over Lizard Brain” and the “Emotions Elevator.” Further questioning reveals why. Learning about the Wizard Brain and Lizard Brain made them aware that they have control of their impulses, something they did not know. This knowledge helped them understand how they could control their emotions and exit their Emotion Elevators.
Some BrainWise graduates give dramatic examples, such as the ex-gang member who backed out of participating in behavior that resulted in the incarceration of his homies, or the parents who said BrainWise skills helped them learn how to not hit their children. Many BrainWise graduates cite problem situations and pinpoint the techniques they used to control their urge to react. They will proudly describe how they used their Wizard Brain to stop talking, leave the situation, use control self-talk, or find acceptable ways to redirect their emotions. Now that they recognize consequences, they see how controlling their reactions helps prevent problems.
Although techniques to redirect emotions don’t get mentioned as often by graduates of the program, they can be just as important. For example, Mindfulness, Contemplation, and Meditation (MCM) techniques may be overlooked because they take more time to learn. Program users need to see this as a BIG MISTAKE! These techniques have been scientifically proved to have significant, long-term benefits for health.
Mantras are a valuable aid that complement and enhance MCM. A word or phrase that you repeat over and over, silently, or aloud, “mantra” comes from a Sanskrit word that has the root, “man,” and means “an instrument of thought.” This definition is a great description for a technique that helps you use Wizard Brain thinking over the Lizard Brain’s impulse to react. How does it work?
Studies show that repeating a word or phrase over and over relieves stress and promotes bodily changes that have physical benefits. Detailed research has been published by neuroscientists Alex Korb, Ph.D. and Aviva Berkovich-Ohana, Ph.D. and her colleagues The findings add further credibility to using MCM, as they explain the mantra effect and how it is related to controlling Lizard Brain reactions.
Previous posts have discussed the importance of addressing stress in our lives, including the wake-up call that Kaiser Permanente’s Adverse Childhood Events (ACE) study gave us. Researchers were stunned to find the serious health consequences that stressful life has on our bodies, including earlier death. As a BrainWise user, you understand the importance of replacing Lizard Brain reactions with Wizard Brain skills. You know that using words or statements such as “stay calm,” “control,” and “wizard brain” help you build more neural pathways/brain connections that promote Wizard Brain thinking. Repeating a mantra over and over to build neural connections is one more way to help you use Wizard Brain thinking to control Lizard Brain reactions.
Establishing a mindset to use mantras and other MCM techniques effectively takes practice. It is a mistake to give up if you don’t see immediate results, as the positive benefits are lasting. The following example shows how a family got in the habit of using mantras. Their unorthodox approach shows how a personal twist can promote Wizard Brain behavior.
The public health nurse who worked with the family said its members struggled with multiple problems, including explosive outbursts. When talking about ways to exit the Emotions Elevator, he introduced mantras. When the nurse revisited the family, he learned that the family patriarch had chosen “popcorn” for his mantra, and he repeated the word over and over when things started to escalate. He found that it helped him defuse tense situations as he and his wife and children started laughing when he said “popcorn, popcorn, popcorn.” This novel approach worked, and the family started using humorous as well as serious mantras to lower their emotions.