In Emotional Brain Training (EBT), the check-in tool is used at least 10 times a day to assist the user in calming the emotional brain (limbic system, amygdala, hippocampus) and connecting the two brains together (the thinking brain and the emotional brain), thus supplementing the rewiring process. Although it is a fairly easy tool to use there is a lot of science behind what is actually happening in the brain and body whilst doing a “check-in.”
In this three part blog, I will discuss each component of the check-in tool (diaphragmatic breathing, decentering and the internal advisor) and explain what is happening to us physically and psychologically when we are practicing them. The fourth component, proprioception, has already been written about in a previous post.
So, let’s start with the first component – abdominal or diaphragmatic breathing. Breathing from the abdomen seems easy enough, but in fact it is not the way that most people normally take in breaths. Instead, 80% of us tend to breathe from the top of the chest. This is especially true when we are in a state of anxiety or stress. When in stress, the sympathetic nervous system gets set off, which increases our heart rate, respiratory rate and metabolic rate – it essentially gets us ready for “fight or flight. ” After the threat has passed, the parasympathetic nervous system kicks in to regulate our bodies. The problem lies in the fact that people in chronic stress have their sympathetic nervous systems running constantly. Consequently, the system stays out of balance leading to exhaustion of energy supplies, cumulative cellular damage, inflammation, anxiety, fatigue, headaches, and even depression.
Breathing from the abdomen, on the other hand, calms the sympathetic nervous system and the receptors in your lungs send messages about your breathing through the vagus nerve to relevant centres in your brain. These messages travel through pathways leading to the emotional brain, hormone regulation centers (hypothalamus), and processing centers for perceptions and thoughts throughout the cortex. Through these routes, breathing patterns exert a strong influence on how you think, feel, react, and perceive yourself and others. In other words, just by changing your breathing, you are sending a clear message to your emotional brain that all is calm and safe. And, handily, breathing happens to be the one part of our autonomic nervous system that we have control over.
So, keep this in mind when you do a check-in. Just by voluntarily changing where you take your breaths from, you can have control over deactivating your sympathetic nervous system, reactiving the parasympathetic system and therefore changing the messages your body is sending to your brain. This then naturally has a positive impact on the way you think and feel. And that’s just one component of the tool!