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How to use mindulness to react differently

Here, we will take a look at the physiological effect that being confronted has on your body, and how you can create a different reaction.
an image of a human brain

Here, we will take a look at the physiological effect that being confronted or criticized has on your body, and how you can use mindfulness to create a different reaction.

What happens when someone confronts or criticizes you?

Your Amygdala (emotional response centre) fires into life and prepares your body for a fight, flight or freeze response. Essentially taking the blood from your brain and pumping it into your limbs. Your breathing changes to become faster and shallower in order to increase oxygen levels in your bloodstream. You react, and logic has nothing to do with it. The situation can get ugly and out of proportion very quickly.

Evolution has designed us to survive by reacting quickly to threats – if a saber-toothed tiger is approaching, we needed to have a quick response to survive. The challenge is that in today’s world, or at least in a majority of office environments, a physical or physiological response is detrimental to our survival (i.e. ongoing employment).

It’s time to take back control.
What we need to be able to do is to recognise in ourselves when our Amygdala is activating and divert the blood back to our logical frontal lobes rather than our limbs.

Sounds great in theory, but not so easy in reality…

It helps to know a couple of key things about how the brain works:

  • The more you do something, the stronger the neural pathway, the easier it becomes
  • You can’t just “get rid” of an undesirable neural pathway
  • You can develop new pathways – in fact you do this every time you learn or do something new or even slightly different
  • Change is hardest when it affects strong, regularly used pathways
  • Our Amygdala activating indicates that we are feeling threatened in some way
  • Asking ourselves a question reignites our brains (activates our frontal lobe by bringing blood back into our brains) – e.g. “What part of my brain is currently thinking?” or “What is causing me to react this way”
  • Slow and deep breathing calms the body and brain
  • Change is more likely to succeed if we focus on just 1-3 key changes at a time
© CQUniversity 2021
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