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At Coffs Psychology & Neurotherapy, we’re absolutely convinced of the fundamental integration of the entire human system. What you do – your behaviour* - influences your body, brain and mind. The state of your brain – its oxygenation, inflammation, energy, developmental status, age, damage, anatomy, cellular health, electrophysiology, chemistry – influences and is influenced by, your body, how you sleep, what you do. The state of your body – it’s mood, energy, mobility, feelings and sensations, physical health, injury, pain, biochemistry, biome – influences and is influenced by, what you do, the state of your brain and your mind. Your mind – thoughts, ideas, beliefs, habits, learnings, aversions, appetites and drives – influences, and is influenced by, what you do, the state of your brain and the state of your body. Your mind, brain, body and behaviour – working in synergy - is the foundation for thriving and flourishing.
We can’t make change in one area, without change inevitably occurring in another area.
For example, what we eat influences our body including our biochemistry and our biome. Our biochemistry and biome profoundly influence neurotransmitters and hormones which influence brain health as well as mood and emotional state. When our foods are poorly matched to our needs, we can end up with “brain fog” and attentional deficits. That inevitably influences what we do & how we do it (behaviour).
How we eat (“what we do”) – in a rush, in a binge, alone or with others, with gratitude or resentment - influences the metabolism of micronutrients (how effectively and efficiently we can use that food), the experience of satiety (how full we feel) as well as (possibly) the way we talk to ourselves (with open-hearted kindness or with denigration and judgement), and more. Those in turn, influence our mood, energy, biochemistry, mental chatter and what we do next.
Our body is endowed at birth with particular genes (our genome). Maybe there’s a family history of mental “illness”2 suggesting that you might have a genetic predisposition towards such mental illness. The beautiful thing is that genetic tendency may never translate into the “illness”. Twin studies provide evidence for this. You might have genes associated with say, schizophrenia or depression, but those genes are never expressed because you’ve lived in an environment that has been protective for those “illnesses”. Alternatively, you might have genes associated with schizophrenia or depression and grow up in an environment that activates those genes. Early childhood adversity is one such environment. Once the genes have been expressed, what then? Interestingly, there is no direct pathway for genes to activate complex experiences such as mental illness. Instead, genes regulate neurotrophic, hormonal and inflammatory pathways and these pathways seem to mediate the experience of genetically predisposed mental illness. So, you can intervene at the level of those mediators. This means for example, that we might guide you to reduce inflammatory triggers as well as to learn ways of reducing bodily stressors (eg, through biofeedback, physical activity), to leave or change abusive relationships and to learn to treat your pain with kindness and compassion instead of criticism and judgement. All these behaviours can influence the mediating pathways between your genotype and your psychology.
This figure is from my present favourite read on depression, a fabulous book by two academic-clinicians, Doctors Vladimir Maletic and Charles Raison, “The new mind-body science of depression’” (2017). It demonstrates the factors their research has found to be implicated in depression. This model is an excellent illustration of why we at Coffs Psychology & Neurotherapy want to work with you in a way that is holistic and integrated of mind, brain, body and behaviour.
With neurofeedback we’re intervening more directly with your neurophysiology – the electrical activity of your brain. Your brain is given an opportunity to learn more optimal brainwave patterns, thus working in the “body-brain complex” identified in the figure above.
Our mind, brain, body and behaviour are influenced by – and influence – our external environment. There’s a context for all our experience. (See my next article “context is everything”). At Coffs Psychology & Neurotherapy we want to help you function in your external environment in way that meets your needs, goals and deepest heartfelt values. To this end, we will endeavour to work with all the parts of you – your mind, your body, your brain, and your behaviour.
1. What we do, includes what we “do” when certain thoughts, feelings or urges arise. Your response to those arisings – whether you react blindly to a feeling, or get caught up in a worrying thought, or act on an urge, or notice with nonjudgmental curiosity & openness – these are things you “do”. In this sense, they are a behaviour.
2. I use inverted commas around words such as mental illness, mental disorders. This is because I view these difficulties as adaptations to adverse environments. Undoubtedly there are adaptations that cause incredible pain and suffering. However, in my opinion, to call them an “illness” or “disorder” is unhelpful. As a leading professor of psychology Peter Kinderman says, “everybody is crazy but nobody’s ill”. Instead of treating people as if they’re sick, why don’t we support people whose social and life circumstances have caused them to become distressed?