Your brain takes up 20% of your body’s energy at any one time. It also has a limited amount of attention that it can use to focus. So this means if your amygdala is firing this is taking up resources from other regions of the brain. This is also true of other regions, if your prefrontal cortex is engaged it will be using your attention and resources.
So the key to reducing the influence of your amygdala is engaging other regions of your brain that are more helpful. One region that is most beneficial is the Prefrontal Cortex. This where you plan, create or empathise with others. You can use this knowledge to develop methods for engaging this area. Here are a few examples of what you could try.
If you ever feel like you are getting into a rut and your amygdala is telling you that you have no chance of getting things done. Sit back, take a breath and plan things out. There is something to be said for making lists. This simple act of planning can engage your prefrontal cortex and reduce the effect of your inward looking amygdala. By planning things out you have to engage this area of your brain because you are looking forward or imaging the future. This ability to think abstractly is what makes us human and this is reflected in the slang term for the prefrontal cortex – the human brain.
Another simple act that can engage more helpful parts of your brain is being creative. If you should find yourself entrenched in a problem or an issue why not have a brainstorm to come up with alternative ideas? Anything goes. By thinking of different ways of doing things you can’t help but engage with your human brain and help shift your attention and focus in a more helpful direction.
Think of others
One of the core aspects of the prefrontal cortex is its ability to empathise. You may have experienced a situation when you see a charity advert on TV and you feel emotional about the situation they are in. Your issues suddenly come into a real global perspective and your life no longer seems so tough. This is your human brain kicking in and giving you perspective. The aspect of our humanity that allows us to imagine things from another’s point of view resides in this brain region. Engage with the perspective of others and you will create a more helpful mindset for yourself.
One thing modern neuroscience is starting to demonstrate is that meditation has one key beneficial aspect. It allows you to reduce the strength of your amygdala. This reduces the fear or anxiety you may feel and over time allows you to spend more of the time in helpful mindsets as opposed to the opposite more unhelpful frame of mind.
These are just a few examples of how you can engage with your human brain and develop a more helpful mindset when everything seems to be against you.