Redefining Stress

How to train your brain to conquer anxiety and depression

It Is Out—Finding Natural Paths Through the Stress Storms

Finally, a training model for the brain for stress innoculation.

On September 22, a major breakthrough into mental health was published under the name of The Stress Answer. I think it is great, but I am biased—I wrote it. But before you write me off as a narcissistic bore, let me explain that I wanted to make a statement about a new science breakthrough that people have discussing for years and never had applications of it. The term is "brain plasticity," and it refers to the brain abilities to reconstruct itself and create new pathways. Paralyzed people have walked again by teaching another area of the brain to function for their motor coordination, when according to current thought it would be impossible. People have learned to talk again, using another part of their brains. There are examples over the map of people who have recovered motor function. Why not emotional function?

Find a Therapist

Search for a mental health professional near you.

What the book is about is about using brain maps to study the brain stress storms that invade our lives and render us incapable to be rational and use our resources to problem-solve. More specifically, I used the brain map signatures for general depression and anxiety separately, and followed the principles of brain plasticity, more notably the neuron connections. My next steps were to find methods of stopping the destructive brain cycles (storms) and create constructive ones.

What I found and wanted to share with you the ones that worked. That is what the book is about. And fascinating factors emerged as powerful facilitators of brain change were many of the ancient tools of stress reduction, such as drum beats, music, flower aromas, dancing, breathing, meditation, etc. Of course, some advanced technology and cognitive psychotherapy get very high marks as well. Medications don't change brain plasticity much, although they do slow down or speed up overall activities. This is like slowing down the road traffic when a road hazard is present and preventing major jamming and crashing, but it doesn't prevent changing the traffic pattern into a better and more constructive passage. The problems still remain.

To be clear I am not trying to sell you my book, but to announce that we finally have a science of the mind in which we can begin to see changes in our emotional complexes. No longer do we have to rely on some mystical neuro-chemistry theory that cannot be measured or understood. Yes, we have dopamine and serotonin receptors, but trying to base applications on those theoretical interactions is like measuring driver qualifications by measuring the sparkplug timing of his car.

Being an optimist and enthusiastic therapist, I have seen marvelous changes that have taken place consistent with the brain maps. People have changed their depressive patterns in a matter of hours for more constructive (and joyful) cognitive processing. Phobias and PTSD are processed and left behind. Who knows? This stuff may really work!

G. Frank Lawlis, PhD, is principal content and oversight adviser of the Dr. Phil Show.

more...

Subscribe to Redefining Stress

Current Issue

Just Say It

When and how should we open up to loved ones?