So far, I have explained how I have swapped to an AIP Purity diet, as I call it, and we have gone over how certain issues including methylation and trauma in childhood may have resulted in limbic system hyperarousal. At the end of the last post, I stated our aims to try and find non-ingestive healing methods to help us turn our constant ‘on’ switch to ‘off’ and build new neuronal pathways in the brain.
I considered lots of different methods of healing: ancient, new, ‘wacky’ and mainstream and surely missed a load, but you could research forever and never get started, if you know what I mean, so I have just chosen what I feel to be right so far. This is always going to be subjective because I have to choose what I feel is right for me at this current time. That might be different for you. Of course, I will write this up generally at some point for you, but, for now, the selfish focus is on me. If I can feel as well and strong as I do this particular week, then I am all the better for helping you. I keep dreaming of a big clinic with staff again, wouldn’t that be nice!
The Hour of Power!
Below is a quick run-down of the methods I am going to actively trial for the next 3 months, and longer as necessary. I have already started most of them and am combining them as I see fit, not least to get them into my busy day! I am not going to say which specific stuff I am using yet as it may well change as I go along. I will certainly tell you if I rate them and which I feel give the most benefit, for me at least.
The aim is to spend an hour a day doing some form of them. This is because most stuff I looked at seemed to suggest there is a synergistic effect in combining methods that is stronger than the individual methods themselves. I can believe that. That’s how Nature works, isn’t it? Taking a chemical out of a whole distilled essential oil doesn’t work like the oil itself, same with plant remedies.
I think it is less important to do the whole hour in one go, although I remain open to that, especially since I read a study only yesterday which showed the powerful effect a weekend retreat of two 8 hour days had on the participants’ stress responses before and after. For me, especially as I am combining methods, it has been easier so far to split it into three 20 minute slots. This may change because I can already feel myself wanting to carry on with certain methods. We’ll see. I also do add little things as I go along during the day. All will become clear…
The simple message here is, though, to just do something. Even 10 minutes a day is proven to bring benefits, dampening down the brain processes that govern the stress response for a start, which is what we are aiming at. Don’t sweat it if you can only do 10 mins and not a whole hour. I work from home and our kids have flown, so it’s easier for me nowadays. Just do what you can.
Here are the healing methods I have chosen, then:
I am trialling several methods here to find what best suits me and for different circumstances:
Yoga Nidra (thanks to M at FM again for sending me this; I love it). Very relaxing lying-down yoga designed for chronic fatigue and chronic illness sufferers.
Dynamic. This is like a combination of meditation and hypnotherapy. It’s becoming the core of my practice so far.
Mindfulness. Becoming more aware of what is happening in your body, accepting and naming it to lower worry about it.
Compassion (Loving Kindness). Forgiveness meditation. This may well play into the ACEs we mentioned in Part 3. I already feel this is an important part of the practice, given the ACE research.
Mantra. Repeating a phrase over and over to gain a calming of the over-reactive system. I have developed my own version of this incorporating brain training methods to build new neuron pathways and ‘grooves’ in the brain. Which brings us onto…
This is neuroplasticity. I have downloaded and studied two different programmes and read around it. There is a lot to this and I started whole hog, which is what got me through Christmas as I explained last time, but felt I had gone too fast and that’s when I introduced the more gentle meditative approach.
The basics I am using are constantly acknowledging when I say something negative inwardly or outwardly, stopping it and replacing it with something positive whilst smiling, repeating certain phrases lots of times a day (this is tough) to build new neuronal pathways. It’s all in the repetition apparently. I combine that with imagining in loads of detail the outcome I am looking for. I find the dynamic meditation helps me to do this more effectively. I do the brain training mostly when walking or doing something active. This is because the mind is distracted and more able to process the information in a useable fashion. It’s like walking meditation if you like.
I am a very shallow breather so I need work on this. It comes through the meditation anyway but I can tell my chest and lungs don’t want to expand enough so I am adding breathing exercises to help. I may not need something specific but I know instinctively better breathing and oxygenation will help me.
I need more exercise and this has always appealed to me. It is a form of movement meditation and the forerunner of Tai Chi and Yoga. I am trying both traditional and modern QiGong. So far, I prefer traditional. It’s very slow, soothing but energising and you are only supposed to do it for 15-20 minutes so that suits me fine!
More exercise. I spend an awful lot of time sitting at my computer. I am trying to get out more and use the brain repetition brain training as my excuse. The mindfulness comes in here too and on days when my mind is too tired for the brain training (it is pretty draining), I try to look at everything around me and really notice it. Trite, I know, but actually I am enjoying noticing nature a bit more.
The psoas is a huge muscle that goes right over your abdomen and is a very stabilising, core muscle. I learned how to do psoas release as part of my massage and manipulative therapy training. I had forgotten about its link to emotions until I read The Last Best Cure (see part 3). The theory is that if you are going to hold onto deep emotions your amygdala and hippocampus have buried, physiologically that may well be within the psoas. So, I resolve to get my notes out and re-learn about it so I can do it on myself. It can be pretty releasing emotionally, so I will do that after the meditation has been going in for a bit and I feel ready. Might do nothing, who knows!
So, those are my six chosen methods. There may well be others: EFT and EMDR, for example, which P used to use for our clinic patients and worked a treat for phobias and stress especially. Acupuncture, reflexology, cranial osteopathy, reverse therapy; there are many.
In essence, all we need to remember is that we are finding methods known to lower the stress response, undo fear conditioning, unstick the amygdala and build new neuronal pathways, all of which in turn leads to lower inflammation, a more effective immune response and a less reactive and better-at-healing you.
As I said before, I am not going to go into the research in depth at this time as I simply haven’t the time what with all the clinic work, writing and trying to get well! But, I will point you to any studies and articles I see from now on. To start you off, here are a couple:
Meditation and Neuroplasticity Brain Training are not that far apart. Research shows that meditation can physically affect the structures of the brain. Here’s an interesting set of 5 studies to look at.
Effect on Telomeres (ageing and immunity)
And there are loads on PubMed. This is one search on the words meditation and immunity.
So Far, So Good
I have been doing some form of this since before Christmas now, not in any consistent way really because I was doing the thinking and analysing of the methods too much. I’ve been doing the Hour of Power for almost 3 weeks. So, what difference so far?
Well, I don’t know on reactivity as I am on the AIP Purity diet which calms things down anyway. I haven’t had a migraine for 3 weeks, which is great for me, but then I haven’t been doing any food challenges really which would usually cause them. And I have had 18 straight days of smiley faces in my diary, which is unheard of in the past few months, so that is very welcome! (I have changed from scoring 1-10 for now to just putting smiley faces on the diary page if I have felt well. If that was the old score, the smiley face would be 0-.5). As of today, my mouth has healed in most places, just one main section still mildly inflamed. Yay!
The one thing I can say for sure at this stage is that I feel different somehow.
I am definitely calmer at my core, if you know what I mean; less reactive emotionally, which I take as a good sign. I feel more hopeful and thankful that I am doing something to help myself. Before Christmas, I was starting to feel very low and hopeless for the first time ever. I have an innate belief that we can heal ourselves but even that was shaken at that time. I now have that belief back. I am definitely less focused on how I am feeling and. oddly, naming the feeling I get eg. ‘this is itching’, ‘this is fear’, ‘this is sadness’ as per the mindfulness training does indeed seem to make the feeling lessen as they say it should. Cynically, I scoffed at that one but, again, the research did suggest it would work. Might be placebo. Who cares: that is a viable medicine in my books, just a vastly undervalued one. What is placebo if it isn’t mind over matter, the very thing we are aiming for?
Doing the emotional work is quite tough and I can’t tell if thinking about past events is a good thing or not. I suppose if I am to believe that my buried emotions from the ACEs are what’s kicked off this inflammatory, gene-modified dripping tap that’s caught up with me in middle age as they say it does, then I have to deal with it. Even if I thought there was nothing left to deal with.
Interestingly, Donna says in that Cure book that underneath her surface layer of anger (which I don’t have) emerged a layer of deep sadness. I have discovered I do have that; sadness is the key feeling that keeps coming up – sadness at the loss of things like my Mums (not only my biological mum to suicide, but, in foster care, you get attached and then ripped away from them, or rejected by them, which has got to be very damaging, hasn’t it?), my Dad, my childhood etc etc and now my food and enjoyment of life. My way forward at this point I think is at least to explore that sadness and see if I can let it go. Perhaps that will help my body re-methylate the stress response genes and turn the ruddy tap back off! I can hope.
Anyway, that concludes the New Focus series for you for now; enough of the soul-baring! I hope you enjoyed it and found something in there to help you. I will continue my trials and report back. Wish me luck. Back in 3 months no doubt to report.
Be happy and keep smiling!