Wired for Joy – A Revolution from Within

The human brain has an amazing capacity to create joy not by chance, but by choice. Everyone has the equipment to do this – and it is uniquely human. Unlike other animals, the human brain has multiple strong connections between areas of conscious thought and pleasure. The thinking brain – the seat of consciousness – is strongly linked to the emotional brain, where pleasure centres abound. You can learn to use your consciousness to send chemicals and electricity through those connections and create ripples of pleasure that you can feel in your body.Finding the source of stress

WIRED FOR JOY Laurel Mellin

CODE: 210112 RRP: £10.99 Cygnus Price: £6.50 You save: £4.49 (41%)

Stress is both a worldwide epidemic and a highly personal one. Most people are overloaded these days – depressed, anxious, and on edge, with the stress buzzer jammed on. The resulting chronic leakage of stress hormones – that drip, drip, drip – causes extremes of emotions, thoughts, and behaviours. It can impact every organ system in potentially deleterious ways and is the root cause of eighty percent of health problems and most human suffering. When you gain weight, you blame yourself for eating the extra ice cream or sitting on the couch, but it’s stress that fuels those tendencies. When you fall into depression, you imagine that it is some fault of your own; however, research points to the fundamental cause of depression as stress. When stress levels are over the top, you are apt to sprout many stress symptoms, each of which stresses you out and exacerbates the other symptoms more.

The current paradigm of health care looks at each of these problems as a distinct issue rather than a symptom of stress. Doctors treat each one with a different cluster of drugs, devices, or procedures. Though costly, this used to be your best option, but in the last decade the true nature of stress has been decoded, and the mysteries of the brain have become a lot less mysterious. The way has been cleared for a new paradigm to take hold: instead of treating the symptoms of stress we can treat the stress itself. We can address the root cause of many symptoms in one fell swoop.Over the last twenty years, research has shown that the source of most of our stress is the brain itself. Given the onslaught of stress in daily life, it can easily become wired to favour stress – to amplify the real stress in our lives and manufacture a sense of imminent danger, even when there is none. Each time the stress of the day overwhelms your capacity to effectively process it, there is a price to pay. That price is an increase in your allostatic load, the wear and tear in the body and brain due to episodes of stress. That load of stress is cumulative, and given enough episodes of stress, it can turn a perfectly normal brain into one that is stuck in stress, constantly producing cascades of stress hormones. As allostatic load increases, the brain becomes highly sensitized to stress, and in time begins to erode the very structures and processes that were designed to protect you from stress. Then you become a magnet for symptoms. Whether it’s blood pressure, back problems, weight gain, infections, stomachaches, sexual problems, depression, anxiety, hostility, relationship problems, addictions, or various compulsions, each stress symptom further increases your stress load. Before you know it, you have organized your life around trying to fix what is wrong with you, and you are so mired in stress that you forget how great you could feel.

The goal of emotional brain training (EBT) is to reverse your allostatic load by using simple tools that give you the capacity to be at any level of stress and find the precise pathway through the brain back to a state of joy. The more moments you spend in well-being, the more you turn around stress-related increase in allostatic load, and the myriad of stress symptoms tend to improve. The strategy is to rewire self-regulation, the fundamental way we process daily life.

Instead of tolerating feeling stressed out, you identify your level of stress, then choose the corresponding tool to switch your brain back to a state of well-being. You do that again and again over time – for the brain only changes by repeated experience – and at some point you will download into your brain the pathways to move through stress rather than getting stuck in it. You will sense that, at long last, you have an emotional anchor, a safe haven within. You will be free to feel your strong, robust emotions, and at liberty to experience any level of stress, confident that you know just the mental practice that will switch you back to a state of well-being. Things that used to cause you to clench your teeth, raid the refrigerator, scream at your kids, or hole up in the den won’t bother you anymore. And most of those issues that you swept under the rug will have disappeared.

At that point, you have become a wizard of your own stress processing, and even though life will still be difficult and you will still find yourself stressed out some of the time; more often than not, you will feel joy regardless of circumstance. It’s a wonderful way to live, and it all starts with turning your attention away from problems and toward the elegant act of using precise mental tools to rewire your emotional brain.

Switching those wires
When I get into my car in the morning, I put the key into the ignition and turn on the engine. At least that’s what I assume I do, since I end up driving to work. But I don’t do any of it consciously – it is so automatic that I don’t have to think about it. The information that lets me do this is stored in my emotional brain, the unconscious memory storehouse. In fact, most things are stored in our unconscious memory. When humans are faced with a stimulus, we draw upon these unconscious memories of past experiences to respond effectively. These responses are stored as wires. The normal stresses of the day – the coffee spilling, a deadline looming, or a craving for sweets – arouse wires, each of which channels chemicals and electricity along a specific pathway so that we respond the same way that we have in the past.

Those wires fall into two categories. Some of those wires are highly effective – just what you need. We call these joy circuits. The coffee spills, and you say, ‘ouch’ and go about cleaning it up and feeling pretty good. You keep your cool and don’t let one spilled cup of coffee ruin your day. The other wires – the ones that are not effective – we call stress circuits. When they are triggered, that one spilled cup of coffee leads to a burning sense of resentment, having a chip on your shoulder during a meeting, soothing yourself with chocolates, and feeling bloated and grumpy. That’s an ineffective wire, arousing unnecessary stress that is prolonged.

What’s causing most of your stress is that you have too many stress circuits and too few joy circuits. The strategy of EBT is to use powerful, practical tools to alter that wiring, breaking stress circuits and building joy circuits that move you through stress and make you feel great. EBT is a practice, and although Wired for Joy introduces you to the practice, these circuits break only over time, with repeated use of the tools. You are rewiring the emotional brain, the centre not only of stress processing but also of emotions, intimacy, spirituality, and pleasure drives.As the tools have their effect and more of the stress circuits fall away, joy circuits will take hold and allow you to gracefully and effectively process daily life. When that occurs, life changes in ways that are nothing less than revolutionary. Using the brain’s natural processes, you can rewire your emotional circuitry and make it easy to be in love with your life and to do what you came to earth to do. What could be better than that?

From Wired for Joy, ©2010 by Laurel Mellin, published by Hay House.