Dr. Caroline Leaf – In this podcast (episode #261) and blog, I talk about how to use the Neurocycle to break the toxic cycles we have in our lives, whether these come from our own past or are a pattern that is inherited as generational trauma.
When it comes to the mind-brain connection, we don’t have to be beholden to the past. We can change how these cycles play out in our future. Our thinking, feeling and choosing changes our genetic expression. We switch genes on and off with every thought we have, and every thought we have is a response to how we perceive our life and the world around us.
In fact, as I discuss in detail in my latest book, Cleaning Up Your Mental Mess, research has shown that around 5% of genetic mutations cause disease; an estimated 95% of genes are influenced by our environment and lifestyle factors.
What does all this mean? The way that you think also contributes to this environment. Your genetic activity is significantly determined by your thoughts, attitudes, and perception, which collectively create the environment of your mind, brain and body.
Even though this may sound overwhelming and a little scary, it is actually very hopeful! The science of epigenetics shows that our thoughts can control our biology, and we can control our thoughts, positively directing genetic expression in our body and passing these genetic markers through the generations. Essentially, this means that what you are thinking at any one moment is vitally important because your thoughts affect the signals your genes receive. By managing your mind, you are in effect managing these signals and how they impact your genetic expression and biology.
So, how does this all work? Epigenetics shows us that our thoughts are a predominant factor controlling genetic expression; our mind controls what we think, eat, exercise, respond to and so on—it controls how we live our lives. Epigenetics shows us that how we think, feel and choose (our mind-in-action) will influence the behavior of our genes and our subsequent mental and physical wellbeing.
These epigenetic changes represent a biological response to an environmental signal. The response can be inherited through the generations via epigenetic markers. However, if you remove the signal, the epigenetic mark can fade. If you choose to add a signal, on the other hand, the epigenetic mark can be activated. In sum, we are not merely our genes or biology. Our past doesn’t have to be our destiny. How we think and choose to live our lives impacts a big part of the picture!
What you are thinking at any one moment is vitally important because this is the signal your genes receive. This means that when you learn how to manage your thoughts through managing your mind, you can change your thoughts. And, by changing your thoughts, you can change your genetic expression; you rewire your brain (through neuroplasticity), which then impacts your biology.
Research studies, including mine (which I discuss in detail in my latest book Cleaning Up Your Mental Mess) show that managing your mind can even influence how you age and your vulnerability to disease, while there is strong scientific evidence that controlling one’s inner thought life and detoxing the mind is preventative against cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s!
So, how do we start breaking these cycles? As I talk about in Cleaning Up Your Mental Mess, this process begins with deliberate and intentional mindfulness that activates our self-regulation, which then helps us go beyond mindfulness and into mind-management. To do this, I recommend using the mind management technique I have researched, developed and applied clinically over the past three decades, which is called the Neurocycle. The kind of self-regulation that is achieved using the Neurocycle is a great way to deal with the root of the toxic generational cycles in your life, reconceptualizing them and how they impact your genetic expression. It is done in 5 steps:
- Gather awareness of what you are feeling emotionally and physically as you work on a toxic cycle in your life.
- Reflect on why you feel the way you do—be as specific as possible.
- Write this down—this is way to help organize your thinking and gain clarity.
- Recheck what you have written. Look for patterns in your work life, your relationships, your responses, your attitudes and so on.
- Take action. I call this step an “active reach”. It is essentially an action you take to reinforce the new, reconceptualized pattern of thinking you want in your life (which is replacing the old, toxic cycle).