For many people, getting some respite from daily stress is already a huge difference and a blessing. With Emotional Brain Training tools, we can weaken the stress circuits and create joy circuits.
What if you are feeling only a little stressed and maybe already feeling pretty good? Would you like to feel even better? What about feeling great?
Is it possible, you ask? Yes!
Here’s what Laurel Mellin shares in her book, Wired for Joy, about our brain states and how to go from feeling good to feeling great.
Brain State 2 – Feeling Good
In Brain State 2, the brain is doing quite well. There is some stress and the neocortex is affected. Thinking is concrete (not rigid) and clear, mood is balanced with awareness of both the positive and negative, habits are healthy, spiritually aware with dispersed appreciation for a deeper meaning, and relationships are rewarding, but without true intimacy.
The vagal nerve – the care-taking organ of kindness, play, affection, and caring – is activated, and with repeated activations, you train it to have elevated activity, taking you up and over to that Brain State of 1.
Laurel Mellin, Wired for Joy
Brain State 1 – Feeling Great
In Brain State 1 there is a deep connection within, with those around you, spiritually, intuitively, and with a deep sense of peace. While “every intensive, joyous state is joined by sorrow. Even the strongest love is coloured by intense ongoing, yet the bad feelings don’t feel all that bad. You feel so alive that the valence of the emotion doesn’t matter that much.”
From Feeling Good to Feeling Great
To move to Brain State 1 from Brain State 2, use the “Feelings Check”.
Ask yourself these questions – How do I feel? What do I need? Do I need support?
This will enable you to feel what you feel physically in your body, with one dominant feeling that will identify your need. Are you feeling angry, sad, afraid, guilty, tired, tense, hungry, full, lonely, sick, grateful, happy, secure, proud, rested, relaxed, satisfied, loved, loving, healthy, or?
This Emotional Brain Training tool is only accurate if you are really in Brain State 2. If you are flooded with a mix bag of feelings using this tool, you are likely to be in Brain State 3. In that case, use “Emotional Housecleaning Tool” instead.
End the “Feelings Check” with a Joy Point to get that groove going.
Joy points, according to Laurel Mellin, are “moments of pleasures, feel-good moments from surges of neurotransmitters in your pleasure pathways.” There are Emotional Brain Training tools to score joy points. You can invite in a thought or a feeling of compassion, love, connection, and being nurtured. Because these are survival needs, you will be rewarded with dopamine, which reinforces our survival. This neurotransmitter surge is a reward for the brain, which is reward-based. This is how joy circuits are strengthened.
Feeling pretty good? Let’s feel even better!
The Emotional Brain Training tool for Brain State 1 is the “Sanctuary Tool”. You will know if you are really in Brain State 1 when you use it.
Start by being mindful and attuned to yourself. Strengthen the joy circuit by feeling compassion for yourself, others, and all living beings. The last step of the “Sanctuary Tool” is giving yourself a Joy Point. If you are not in Brain State 1, these steps are not remotely possible!
According to Laurel Mellin, the tools reflect the natural ways the brain deals with stress. Because it maximizes our survival to be with others, connection is essential and an evolutionary need. This connection is deepened by compassion. This is also “mirroring the loving connection between parent and child that is the basis for the imprinting of love and joy.” 1
1 Wired for Joy by Laurel Mellin, p 153