Have you ever thought that understanding neuroscience could be magical? Well, it can be, even in a world where we are feeling a heaviness, there is opportunity that exists for change. Both feelings coexist, both true at the same time. To effectively manage these feelings we need to learn, unlearn and relearn - and that’s the opportunity.
For career women who are mothers, there exists the delicate balancing between professional success and raising resilient children - both exhilarating and overwhelming. It's a constant juggle that often leaves them feeling stretched thin, and at the most wonderful time of the year, it can leave them wondering if they can truly “sleigh” it all. The answer is yes AND it takes work.
This blog explores the transformative power of the work - the learning, unlearning and relearning that takes place as we deconstruct mindset and delve into the magic of neuroscience to discover where your mind is “currently set”, uncover where you want it to “be set”, and what it takes to bridge that gap.
Discovering “Where Your Mind Is Set”: The Neurological Tapestry
Before embarking on the journey of transformation, it's important to understand where your mind is currently set from a neurological perspective and why. Currently, where your mind is set is determined by your deep conditioning and resulting habits. For example, have you ever paid attention to how you respond when you spill a cup of coffee, or can’t find your phone, or someone cuts you off in traffic? What behaviors do you demonstrate? Do you behave the same whether it's a small or big challenge? Our habitual responses go way back through generations and the deep conditioning we experience in our early years. Our external environment from birth and throughout the first 20 years of our lives design our neural pathways which are intricately woven based on genetic factors, our generational inheritance, and the continuous interplay between our brain and environmental stimuli that includes parents, peers, society and culture.This foundational neural architecture significantly shapes our thought patterns, emotional responses, and overall mindset. Having this perspective and self-awareness forms the foundation for understanding YOU, the way you show up every day (i.e.,what you think, say, and do) and for positive change.
Defining “Where You Want Your Mind to Be Set”: A Vision for YOU
This isn't just a conceptual shift, it's a neural transformation. As a result of your neurological hard wiring in your brain, you need to envision what responses you want to change. In other words, where you want your mind to be set and use tools and strategies to align and positively shift the habitual way you respond to the challenges you face every day.
Data gathered from neuroscientific research indicates that adopting a positive mindset activates regions in the prefrontal cortex associated with decision-making and emotional regulation. Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) studies have shown increased activity in the prefrontal cortex when individuals engage in positive thinking exercises.
This data-driven insight empowers high-achieving career women with a tangible vision—where neural pathways associated with resilience and optimism take center stage and are modeled behaviors for raising resilient children.
The Journey of Transformation: Navigating the Neural Magic
Turning the abstract vision of where you want your mind to be set into reality requires intentional and consistent effort. Here are nine keys, supported by both neuroscience and data, to guide you on this magical and transformative journey:
Key 1: Cultivate Mindfulness for Neurological Resilience
Resilience is defined as one’s ability to “recover”. Mindfulness serves as the gateway to self-awareness and neurological resilience. Studies utilizing Electroencephalography (EEG) have shown that mindfulness practices lead to increased activity in the prefrontal cortex and a reduction in the amplitude of stress-related brainwaves. This suggests a tangible neural shift towards greater resilience.
Key 2: Challenge Limiting Beliefs through Neuroplasticity
Identify and challenge limiting beliefs by engaging in activities that promote neuroplasticity—the brain's ability to reorganize itself and change the habituated responses. Neuroscientific research has shown that repeated engagement in cognitive tasks aimed at reframing beliefs can lead to structural changes in the brain. This supports the idea that intentional efforts to challenge limiting beliefs can result in lasting neural adaptations. Exercises that challenge and reframe negative thought patterns can be used contributing to neural flexibility.
Key 3: Set Purposeful Intentions: A Neurological Path
Defining values and priorities creates a neurological path for decision-making. Functional connectivity studies using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) have demonstrated that aligning actions with personal values is associated with more efficient communication between brain regions responsible for goal-setting and motivation. This neurobiological alignment translates to purposeful intentions guiding your journey.
Key 4: Embrace Resilience: A Neural Dance
Resilience, at its core, is a neural dance between the prefrontal cortex (where decisions are made) and the amygdala (fight or flight response). Neuroimaging studies have shown that individuals with higher resilience, which is the ability to bounce back and recover from challenging circumstances, exhibit greater connectivity between these brain regions. This connectivity supports effective emotional regulation and a more adaptable rather than reactive response to challenges.
Resilience training programs, blend psychological resilience principles with real-world scenarios, contributing to enhanced neural adaptability.
Key 5: Foster Self-Compassion: An Oxytocin Boost for the Brain
Cultivating self-compassion triggers the release of oxytocin, a hormone associated with bonding and positive social interactions. Studies utilizing hormones have demonstrated increased oxytocin levels in response to self-compassion practices. This neurochemical response not only soothes the body's stress response but also strengthens neural pathways linked to empathy and understanding.
Key 6: Build a Support System: Neural Synchronization in Action
Surrounding yourself with a supportive network enhances neural synchronization. Social connections activate brain regions associated with reward and positive emotions, creating a harmonious dance of neural activity. Data from social neuroscience studies suggests that supportive social networks contribute to increased overall well-being.
Key 7: Prioritize Well-Being: A Holistic Approach for Brain and Body
Well-being, seen as a holistic balance between mental and physical health, is a symbiotic relationship between the brain and body. Prioritizing self-care activates brain regions associated with relaxation, promoting a harmonious state. Data from studies using heart rate variability measurements indicates a physiological shift towards increased parasympathetic nervous system activity during relaxation, contributing to overall well-being.
Wearable devices like Fitbit or Apple Watch not only track physical activity but also incorporate features promoting mental well-being, emphasizing the interconnected nature of brain and body health.
Key 8: Practice Gratitude: A Boost for the Brain
Gratitude practices stimulate the release of dopamine, creating a neurochemical loop that reinforces positive thinking. Studies using Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scans have demonstrated increased dopamine receptor availability in response to gratitude. This dance of neurotransmitters fosters a mindset of abundance and contentment.
Regular journaling of moments of gratitude enhances dopamine release and promotes positive neural pathways.
Key 9: Continuous Learning and Adaptability: Brain Plasticity in Motion
Embracing a mindset of continuous learning keeps the brain plastic and adaptable and makes it possible to do the work of shifting where your mind is set. Functional MRI studies have shown that engaging in novel and challenging activities promotes synaptic plasticity—a key mechanism of brain plasticity. This flexibility ensures that the brain remains agile, ready to navigate the dynamic landscape of both career and family life.
Notably, the importance of the brain is being recognized across businesses as well. For example, Wharton Executive Education, at the University of Pennsylvania is offering a 6 week online program called “Understanding the Brain: Using neuroscience to deliver better business results.” They are looking at understanding the brain and its impact on peak performance, enhanced creativity and empathetic leadership.
Conclusion: The Magic of Neural Transformation
As women embark on the transformative journey of identifying where their minds are set, the synergy of neuroscience and positive psychology orchestrates a magical symphony of change. The brain's plasticity, the dance of neurotransmitters, and the harmony between mental and physical well-being become the notes that compose the melody of balancing and success. By learning about where your mind is set and why, women can identify where they want change and more specifically, where they want their mind to be set instead of settling for the old response “I can’t change, this is just the way I am”.
The magic of where your mind is set unfolds in the neural pathways that strengthen, the stress responses that diminish, and the synchronized dance of brain and body that propels you toward growth and fulfillment. In learning, unlearning and relearning, by the transformative powers of neuroplasticity and choosing where you want your mind to be set, you can discover the endless possibilities that exist. With every intentional step, the window of opportunities opens wider, revealing that sweet spot where success and fulfillment coexist harmoniously and the possibility to “sleigh” it all is a wish come true.