The method of Neurosculpting® is a scientific practice that draws on neurological research to inform holistic practices such as daily exercises, sleep hygiene, nutritional principles and mediation practices to reframe the brain’s stress responses. By working to intelligently bridge the mind-body connection, this practice serves to reduce emotional and physical stress, increase cognitive functioning, stimulate creativity and support a healthy immune system. This method has been applied to help first responders deal with the effects of chronic stress as well as victims of extreme physical trauma. By providing people with the tools for cognitive rewiring, Neurosculpting® offers a life skill that encourages individuals to reclaim control over their mind, body and self.
STRESS & THE BODY
Stress is only a stressor as it has a story.
Chronic stress over time is the fastest way to shorten our lives, it’s the absolute underpinning concept behind most of our mediated diseases and it is a controllable aspect of our lives if we learn the language to cope with it.
Controlling the physical and emotional response requires an understanding of how stress and fear develop. In any situation of high stress or tension, Lisa explains ‘we have a psychological response to any threat, whether gentle, profound or extreme.’ Whether a reaction to a badly worded letter or extreme trauma, what is happening in the body is based on the brain’s perception that we are under threat. The mind then builds associations between an event and our negative emotions, archiving the stress trigger within a narrative that becomes assimilated into a pattern of behaviour. Lisa continues, ‘ an event is only stressful to you because somewhere deep down you have a story about that.’ For example, for a person with financial worries, an unexpected credit card bill would trigger a stressful response whereas an abundant person, wouldn’t be affected by the same experience.
HOW STRESS WORKS
Anything that we see as a threat will trigger a flurry of neurological activity in the forebrain; the command centre for the limbic fight or flight response.
Our brain assesses the experience, mapping and comparing it to experiences in our history to validate that it is a threat and act appropriately.
This activity signals the hypothalamus to send a message to our glands to release stress-hormones. So we are taking a neurological event and moving it to a bodily response. These stress-hormones are amplifying it to fight or run from this threat. In the process, our bodies divert blood oxygen and glucose from the midline of the body and focus all our energy on our response to the threat. Moving the energy away from the parasympathetic system (rest and digest) we start to close down the regular functioning of the body. This involves; inhibiting digestion, raising the heart rate, making our breath shallow to increase oxygenation to the blood and pumping blood faster to the muscles.
Over time, chronic stress creates chronic damage. By revisiting these bodily responses our immune and digestive systems become fatigued and unable to maintain regular function.
OUR BRAIN ON STRESS
How the brain processes an experience is key to being able to reshape its response. The theory of neuroplasticity has shown that our brains are highly adaptable and predisposed to pattern recognition. Once the brain has taken an association and established a pattern within it, it stores this pattern and produces an automated response when triggered. This allows our brains to function more efficiently, allowing for improved performance, memory and thought. However, when negative thought patterns and narratives are repeatedly overlooked and suppressed, this can cause negative mental patterns that are detrimental to one’s psychological health.
According to Lisa, any event will produce a response that reinforces a story of pattern. For instance, fear is an emotion that contracts the nervous system. When we experience fear in a given moment, this will cause a strong moment of attention, and fear will then become a theme of that experience.
REWIRING OUR BRAIN
To reframe our response, Neurosculpting® assesses what the brain needs to quiet its immediate fear response. Explaining her method, Lisa elaborates, ‘the first thing we have to do in Neurosculpting®, is to make sure we can get to our stories to edit them. To do so, we have to quiet the fight or flight centre, otherwise everything we do will be in resistance, contraction and themed with a small charge of fear or threat’. By focusing on recreating new stories within our cognitive patterns, neurosculpting allows individuals to either reinforce what they would like to get stronger or to revoke narratives that no longer serve the individual.
The therapy of Neurosculpting® is a method that can be applied for across a wide range of purposes to address and undo self-limiting thoughts, physical healing and personal growth. Relying on the adaptability and malleability of the brain, this method teaches students how to access scripted mental patterns and rewrite them, bringing their physical and psychological perceptions into alignment.
THE NEUROSCULPTING® METHOD
The Neurosculpting® Institute works with its students to assess how their brains process experience and work with them to reshape its responses. By using the five-step process outlined below, the Neurosculpting® method is highly effective in opening new neural pathways that re-form positive behavioural patterns. As its core practice, the Neurosculpting® method recommends approaching every stressful incident by re-framing the situation with curiosity rather than fear. For instance, when confronted with a stress trigger, the student may enquire ‘What could I do differently about this stress right now?’. Asking this simple question can create a subtle yet profound shift, in the student’s stress and fear responses. This simple shift, can begin the process that helps the student create new, positive physical and psychological responses to various situations.
the 5 steps
Quiet Fight or Flight
Calm your basic survival hypervigilance. Tell your brain that you are safe, everything in your environment is predictable, you have access to food and water and you are on solid ground.
Engage the prefrontal cortex
Feed the brain thoughts that are curious, and safe. Once you calm the fear centre, then and only then do you have resources available to get to the centre of the brain. It all correlates to increased activity in the front of the brain. You can tease that activity into strong dominance if you have access to everything meditation has to offer you- compassion, empathy, joy, creativity, ease and grace.
Tip: To tease the resources to the front of the brain; try these techniques to encourage brain plasticity.
Exercise: Brush your teeth with your nondominant hand. Use your nondominant hand to stir things when you cook. Squeeze the shampoo bottle with the opposite hand. Fold your laundry in a different way. Rearrange your drawers. Choose a new route to work. Hold your car keys in the opposite hand. Turn your coffee cup so the handle is on the opposite side. Walk around the opposite side of the car when pumping gas. Brush your hair with your opposite hand.
Increase communication between the right and left hemispheres of the brain
Once you have completed these two steps, you literally put yourself at the top of the bell curve when it comes to focussed attention. Primed with an induction, at that point you can access a memory, edit it, constantly quieting the fight or flight centre so you can subdue that negative memory. From here you can start to create a new memory, vividly imagining it in a way your brain will store it more powerfully.
Tip: Ask yourself ‘What story do you want to focus on?’ Use your language and their thoughts to cross the midway of the brain and engage both the left and right language centres, increasing the plasticity of the moment. Focus on a narrative with concrete details, semantic and abstract imagery and colours.
Imprint the Meditation
For easy identification in day-to-day activities link a somatic cue with tapping. Using a two finger tapping action along with an acceptance statement, this hands-on method is easy to use and has an immediate calming effect. In order the common tapping points include; start of the eyebrow, the side of the eye, directly under the eye (bone), under the nose, at the chin, one inch under the collarbone, the underarm and the centre of the head. Rather than following this method, at the Neurosculpting Institute, they ask encourage their students to tap the body wherever their awareness takes them.
Name the Meditation
Complete the process by naming your meditation. By associate a linguistic reference to your experience, your are supporting the brain’s natural pattern-forming nature and helping to cue it throughout the day.
Lisa Wimberger is the founder of the Neurosculpting® Institute. She holds a Masters Degree in Education, a Foundations Certification in NeuroLeadership, and Certificates in Medical Neuroscience, Visual Perception and the Brain, and Neurobiology. She is the author of NEW BELIEFS, NEW BRAIN: Free Yourself from Stress and Fear, and NEUROSCULPTING: A Whole-Brain Approach to Heal Trauma, Rewrite Limiting Beliefs, and Find Wholeness. As the Founder of the Neurosculpting® modality Lisa runs a private meditation practice in Colorado teaching clients who suffer from stress disorders, and she is a faculty member of Kripalu Yoga and Meditation Center, the Law Enforcement Survival Institute, Omega Institute, and 1440 Multiversity. Her books on her method may also be purchased here.