Neuroplasticity, Tribal Resilience, and the Substrata of Wellness

Posted by Joel Bennett on

Been doing more reading on resilience and neuroplasticity and its seems that resilience, specifically LEARNING how to BOTH overcome and thrive from stress, is an essential part of well-being. Two things seem to be at work. First, while it is difficult to maintain a healthy habit and a positive mood state when we are faced with significant stress, there are brain functions designed to help us do just that. Very specific brain functions. And, guess what?, they have to do with internal connections within ourselves—or our coherent sense of self as a social being. We have to connect ourselves with ourselves (tune-in). Resilient people also realize that they are "connected"—through compassion (to self and others) and through community (reaching out and receiving help).

Neurologically, the research suggests that at least two connections are relevant: (1) the right-brain with the left-brain through the corpus callosum and (2) the frontal cortex with the emotional brain through specific limbic-cortical pathways. Second, there appear to be neurochemical processes that underlie whether, how much, and when we respond to stress with either an anxious (afraid) or depressive (sad) mood state. In general, the tendencies to eat (emotional eating), avoid exercise, or otherwise seek unhealthy coping strategies are greater when in these emotional states.

Alternately, we can be mindful of these states and naturally change our neurochemistry so that we are less likely to fall prey to making unhealthy choices. Timing, planning, having SOCIAL resources, and self-monitoring all appear to be important. Again, prosocial behaviors seem to work here—helping others, being altruistic, paying it forward, showing appreciation, allowing others to help us. Based on all this, resilience is best framed as a tribal phenomena. In the grand scheme of things, we cannot really be resilient just by ourselves. This may explain why—after catastrophes—people seem to pull together to help.

But this same “pull together” energy can be used proactively—pooling energies together for the greater good: The “We in Wellness” (see Chapter 7) or Team Resilience. Some of the articles and references FYI. Social influences on neuroplasticity Resilience and Vulnerability For a brief introduction to  tools and practices, check out video on Buddhas' Brain.

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