Rewiring the Brain

T-Can of Canada and a member of Planet Thrive Community has devised is personal brain-training tools to rewire his own brain to deal with his Environmental Illness and to lessen his symptoms.  (T-Can is a sobriquet for Toronto Canary).  His tools are reprinted below for your consideration.

Things T-Can Did Before and While Retraining His Brain

This list is by no means exhaustive, but these are things that have helped me. Numbers 9 and 10 are especially important:

• Drink lots of water, particularly during brain retraining.

• Eat well balanced meals. The brain uses lots of energy during brain retraining. I also use a heap of ground flax seeds in my morning oatmeal for my omega 3 and 6. These brain fats can’t hurt.

• Get lots of sleep if possible. I personally think a lot of the work in our brains happens while we sleep, so the more sleep we can get the better.

• Exercise if possible, even if it’s just walking. Anything to get the blood flowing and the limbs moving.

• Avoid situations that elicit stress, fear, anger, or anxiety. This includes avoiding literature about the dangers of chemicals, negative television programs, debates, etc. Try to surround yourself with things that elicit positive feelings of joy, gratitude, peace, safety, and belonging. I find it very helpful to watch television programs with positive messages, particularly if they are heart-warming (reruns of The Waltons has worked for me). The reason I think this helps is that we need to avoid things that can reinforce the trauma neurons that are responsible for the MCS response.

• Smile as often and as broadly as possible, even if it’s fake and especially if you encounter something that triggers an MCS response. You can train your brain with this simple technique. By smiling consistently you are telling your brain that there is nothing to be afraid of, that it doesn’t need to react as if the item is life threatening.

• Change your responses to products that usually trigger you. If you have a negative response, make it positive. For example, whenever I encountered perfume I would automatically feel disgust and think judgmental thoughts about the wearer. To facilitate brain retraining, I made a concerted effort instead to fake a smile, and think to myself, “There goes someone who is probably trying to make a good impression on someone” or “There is someone who is taking care of themselves in their own way.” If you have a flight response—then make a concerted effort to walk away calmly with a big smile on your face.

• Fill your day with activities that bring you joy, and minimize things that don’t.

• Take a personal inventory of all negative thoughts, and write them down. Especially if they involve MCS. Some of my thoughts were, “I’ll never get better,” “I’m scared of chemicals because they make me sick,” “I hate people who wear perfume and cologne,” “People who use chemical cleaners are stupid,” etc. These thoughts will be targeted with the techniques I am sharing. I believe that these thoughts are part of the trauma neuron.

• Create a personalized “safe space” visualization. This is something that therapists often utilize, especially for PTSD. This was/is pivotal to my brain retraining success. Your “safe space” can be anything you want it to be. It can be a wonderful memory from your childhood, a romantic time with your partner, a spiritual experience, or even an imagined place. Your “safe space” should evoke positive feelings like joy, calm, safety, gratitude, beauty, friendship, love, belonging, etc. Whatever details you need to use in order to evoke these feelings, include them in your “safe space.” Close your eyes and visualize this safe space often, so that you are able to elicit this visualization and positive feelings whenever you need to.

The following video describes how to create a safe space and to perform the “Butterfy Hug”.

Three Techniques to Brain Retraining

17048534-human-brain-in-abstract-medical-background

Technique One: Tapping, Humming, Counting

This has been my primary brain retraining technique. You may be familiar with EFT, or TFT, and these are the bases for my technique, but I think the way I use them is simpler and it works amazingly well for me. The main difference is that I don’t use the setup or wording that EFT typically uses while tapping. These EFT points are also known as acupoints, the same points used in acupuncture or acupressure.

By stimulating these acupoints, I am calming my amygdala. If I calm my amygdala prior to and during a reaction, I believe I am training my brain to rewire around the trauma neuron that is responsible for the MCS reaction. David Feinstein explains this much better in the following quote about acupressure treatment of PTSD. I believe the same concept can be applied to treating MCS:

The lateral nucleus of the amygdala is at once activated by memories or cues involving the traumatic event and deactivated by the acupoint-generated signal. Such reciprocal inhibition is the antecedent of extinction and may also bring about the depotentiation of neurological pathways that were sustaining the fear response (e.g., Ruden, 2010, from Rapid Treatment of PTSD).

For T-C’s Techniques II and III.

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From a Yellow Canary of the 21st century, living in our disabling biosphere

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