Mindfulness is a skill that can affect regulation, and not only in a given moment. Mindfulness contributes to the ongoing strengthening of regions in the brain, leading to greater self-regulation abilities. Affect regulation happens when the brain integrates or heals where blocks have occurred between different areas of the brain. For integration or healing to happen, reconnection must occur among neurons and systems such as the prefrontal cortex (cognitive focus) and the limbic system (emotions and behavioral responses). Even before the integration of differing regions of the brain, differentiation must take place. Mindfulness is the key to bringing about differentiation from systems in the brain and bringing connectedness.
Affect dysregulation happens when neurons are not well connected within the brain. This can contribute to an amplified negative experience in a stressful environment as your brain can stay in freeze, flight, or fight mode. Trauma, especially in childhood, touches the development of the brain and creates blocks between neurons. When neurons are more connected, brains are more stable, which results in affect regulation. Mindfulness can contribute to the journey of grounding daily and long-term and is accessible whenever you need it. In its nature, mindfulness is presence in a moment, taking notice with purpose, and doing so without judgment but with kindness.
One particular mindfulness practice is called “The Wheel of Awareness” by Dr. Dan Siegal. You can learn more about Dr. Dan Siegal and this integration/healing that takes in the brain with “The Wheel of Awareness” in his book “Aware.” Essentially, the wheel is a visual to hold in the mind. The wheel is made up of 3 main parts. Those parts are:
- The Hub of Awareness
- The Rim of the Wheel, representing the knowns of life.
- Spokes of the Wheel, which connects awareness and the knowns of life.
These parts and their orientation individually and together present the experience of differentiation and connectedness that brings about restoration in the brain.
The Rim of the Wheel of Awareness is made up of 4 parts.
- The five senses.
- Internal physical sensations
- All mental activities (emotions, thoughts, desires)
- Relational connectedness with others
Each of these sections represents the knowns of life, while again, the Hub is awareness itself. Spokes on the Wheel represents focused attention to your body, environment, emotions, cognitions, desires, and relationships among family members, friends, co-workers/collaborators, and community members.
The Wheel of Awareness can be self-guided or guided by a therapist or audio recording. Dr. Dan Siegal has a few guided meditations, and Adam Young also has an easy 17-minute guided meditation that will be linked below.
The benefits of daily mindfulness practice can cause growth in the corpus callosum (which links the left and right brain) and development in the hippocampus, which is found in the limbic system (memory). You are worth the time, space, and investment of mindfulness and awareness of awareness itself that leads to restoration and healing in your brain and your life experience. Integration of the parts of your brain that have been blockaded from different regions is possible, even with past trauma. Introduction and exploration of mindfulness are highly encouraged to be done with a therapist. At Heartland Therapy Connection, we would love to help guide you in your journey to peace and restoration.