Recent scientific discoveries have proven there is a mind-brain-body relationship and that prolonged stress can damage and weaken the immune system and the ability of the body and brain to regenerate.
The emerging field of psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) has demonstrated that a person’s thoughts and emotional states can and does impact their physical health. PNI is the study of the interaction between psychological processes and the nervous and immune systems. It focuses on communication between the brain and nervous system and the immune and endocrine systems through neuropeptides, neurotransmitters, hormones, and other chemical and electrical messengers. The findings show that negative thinking processes and negative emotional reactions trigger the limbic brain to set off a cascade of neuropeptides and neurotransmitters that activate the fight-or-flight response and send stress hormones flooding through the body. Prolonged sympathetic activation over time will weaken the immune system, causing the physical body to become much more vulnerable to germs and viruses in the environment.
Furthermore, science has discovered that neurogenesis (the generation of new brain cells) continues throughout adulthood. One key site for neurogenesis is in the hippocampus, a part of the brain responsible for encoding memories, learning, and spatial navigation. Prolonged stress has been shown to reduce and impede neurogenesis, and thus can be an underlying factor in dementia and Alzheimer’s.
The field of epigenetics has provided evidence that experience and environmental influence can alter gene expression. Epigenetics emerged from the discovery that there are heritable changes in gene activity which are not caused by changes in the DNA sequence and that external modifications to DNA can turn genes “on” or “off.” These modifications do not change the DNA sequence, but instead, they affect how cells “read” genes. Prolonged stress and traumatic incidents are events that can turn genes on or off.
All the above fields contribute to the scientific understanding of neuroplasticity, which refers to the brain’s ability to create new pathways for neural communication and to rearrange existing ones throughout life. Neuronal pathways that are highly used will be preserved and strengthened. Pathways that are less used or inefficient will be pruned. Learning new skills requires large numbers of neurons to be activated simultaneously. The more these pathways are kept in use through practice, the easier and faster it is to perform the skill and remember it. Neuroplasticity is a mechanism underlying the formation of habits. The more any activity is repeated, the more neural pathways are strengthened until they become automatic which means they can be non-consciously activated by environmental triggers.
Finally, the fields of contemplative neuroscience and positive psychology have proven that the mind and brain can be cultivated to foster well-being through meditation, mindful contemplation, and cognitive behavioral therapy. Positive thoughts and emotions, social bonds and connections, and exercise, meditation, qigong and yoga have been shown to buffer and neutralize the impact of stress and help restore the brain and body to a state of balance and harmony and optimal performance. Studies show that meditation can even increase grey matter volume in the prefrontal cortex and hippocampi and decrease the risk of age-related memory loss and dementia.
The Calm Clarity program will take you on this journey through scientific discoveries and evidence-based techniques to cultivate your inner experience, practice self-mastery, and achieve a state of optimal well-being which includes mental health, emotional health, and physical health.