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Bouncing Back:. The Neuroscience of Resilience and Well-Being Esalen Institute April 11-13, 2014. Bouncing Back. The Neuroscience of Resilience and Well-Being Linda Graham, MFT 415-924-7765. All the world is full of suffering.

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Bouncing back

Bouncing Back:

The Neuroscience of Resilience and


Esalen Institute

April 11-13, 2014

Bouncing back1

Bouncing Back

The Neuroscience of Resilience and


Linda Graham, MFT


Bouncing back

All the world is full of suffering.

It is also full of overcoming.

- Helen Keller



  • Deal with challenges and crises

  • Bounce back from adversity

  • Recover our balance and equilibrium

  • Find refuges and maximize resources

  • Cope skillfully, flexibly, adaptively

  • Shift perspectives, open to possibilities, create options, find meaning and purpose

6 c s of coping

6 C’s of Coping

  • Calm

  • Compassion

  • Clarity

  • Connections to Resources

  • Competence

  • Courage

Practices to accelerate brain change

Practices to Accelerate Brain Change

  • Presence – primes receptivity of brain

  • Intention/choice – activates plasticity

  • Perseverance – creates and installs change

Neuroscience of resilience

Neuroscience of Resilience

  • Neuroscience technology is 20 years old

  • Meditation shifts mood and perspective; impacts immune system and gene expression

  • Oxytocin can calm a panic attack in less than a minute

  • Kindness and comfort, early on, protects against later stress, trauma, psychopathology



  • Growing new neurons

  • Strengthening synaptic connections

  • Myelinating pathways – faster processing

  • Creating and altering brain structure and circuitry

  • Organizing and re-organizing functions of brain structures

Bouncing back

The brain is shaped by experience. And because we have a choice about what experiences we want to use to shape our brain, we have a responsibility to choose the experiences that will shape the brain toward the wise and the wholesome.

- Richard J. Davidson, PhD

Bouncing back

The field of neuroscience is so new,

we must be comfortable not only

venturing into the unknown

but into error.

- Richard Mendius, M.D.

Bouncing back

Evolutionary legacy

Genetic templates

Family of origin conditioning

Norms-expectations of culture-society

Who we are and how we cope….

…is not our fault.

Bouncing back

  • Given neuroplasticity

  • And choices of self-directed neuroplasticity

  • Who we are and how we cope…

  • …is our responsibility



  • Experience causes neurons to fire

  • Repeated experiences, repeated neural firings

  • Neurons that fire together wire together

  • Strengthen synaptic connections

  • Connections stabilize into neural pathways

  • Conditioning is neutral, wires positive and negative

Pre frontal cortex

Pre-Frontal Cortex

  • Executive center of higher brain

  • Evolved most recently – makes us human

  • Development kindled in relationships

  • Matures the latest – 25 years of age

  • Evolutionary masterpiece

  • CEO of resilience

Functions of pre frontal cortex

Functions of Pre-Frontal Cortex

  • Regulate body and nervous system

  • Quell fear response of amygdala

  • Manage emotions

  • Attunement – felt sense of feelings

  • Empathy – making sense of expereince

  • Insight and self-knowing

  • Response flexibility

Mechanisms of brain change

Mechanisms of Brain Change

  • Conditioning

  • New Conditioning

  • Re-Conditioning

  • De-Conditioning

New conditioning

New Conditioning

  • Choose new experiences

    • Positive emotions, resonant relationships, self-compassion, self-acceptance

  • Create new learning, new memory

  • Encode new wiring

  • Install new pattern of response

Re conditioning


  • “Light up” neural networks

  • Juxtapose old negative with new positive

  • De-consolidation - re-consolidation

  • New rewires old

Modes of processing

Modes of Processing

  • Focused

    • Tasks and details

    • Self-referential

    • New conditioning and re-conditioning

  • De-focused

    • Default network

    • Mental play space

    • De-conditioning

De conditioning


  • De-focusing

  • Loosens grip

  • Creates mental play space

  • Plane of open possibilities

  • New insights, new behaviors

Bouncing back

Kindness is more important than wisdom,

And the recognition of that is the beginning of wisdom.

- Theodore Rubin

Hand on the heart

Hand on the Heart

  • Touch

  • Deep breathing

  • Positive Emotions

    • Brakes on survival responses

  • Oxytocin – safety and trust

  • Relationships as resources

Bouncing back

A single exposure to oxytocin can create a lifelong change in the brain.

- Sue Carter, PhD

Keep calm and carry on

Keep Calm and Carry On

Serenity is not freedom from the storm

but peace amidst the storm.

- author unknown

Window of tolerance

Window of Tolerance

  • SNS – explore, play, create, produce…. OR


  • Baseline physiological equilibrium

  • Calm and relaxed, engaged and alert


  • Relational and resilient

  • Equanimity

  • PNS – inner peace, serenity…. OR

    Numb out, collapse

Hand on the heart1

Hand on the Heart

  • Touch

  • Deep breathing

  • Positive Emotions

    • Brakes on survival responses

  • Oxytocin – safety and trust

  • Relationships as resources



  • Hormone of safety and trust, bonding and belonging, calm and connect

  • Brain’s direct and immediate antidote to stress hormone cortisol

  • Can pre-empt stress response altogether

Calm through the body

Calm through the Body

  • Hand on the Heart

  • Body Scan

  • Progressive Muscle Relaxation

  • Movement Opposite

Calm friendly body scan

Calm – Friendly Body Scan

  • Awareness

  • Breathing gently into tension

  • Hello! and gratitude

  • Release tension, reduce trauma

Progressive muscle relaxation

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

  • Body cannot be tense and relaxed at the same time

  • Tense for 7 seconds, relax for 15

  • Focused attention calms the mind

Calm through movement

Calm through Movement

  • Body inhabits posture of difficult emotion (40 seconds

  • Body moves into opposite posture (40 seconds)

  • Body returns to first posture (20 seconds)

  • Body returns to second posture (20 seconds)

  • Body finds posture in the middle (30 seconds

  • Reflect on experience

Mindfulness and empathy

Mindfulness and Empathy

Awareness of what’s happening

(and our reactions to what’s happening)

Acceptance of what’s happening

(and our reactions to what’s happening)

Two most powerful agents of brain change known to science

Mindfulness comes to west

Mindfulness Comes to West


Focused attention on

present moment experience

without judgment or resistance.

- Jon Kabat-Zinn

Attention and allowing

Awareness and acceptance



  • Pause, become present

  • Notice and name

  • Step back, dis-entangle, reflect

  • Catch the moment; make a choice

  • Shift perspectives; shift states

  • Discern options

  • Choose wisely – let go of unwholesome, cultivate wholesome

Notice and name

Notice and Name

  • Thoughts as thoughts

  • Patterns of thoughts as patterns of thoughts

  • Cascades of emotions as cascades of emotions

  • States of mind as states of mind

  • Belief systems and identities as…

    • Mental contents, patterns of neural firing

Bouncing back

Between a stimulus and a response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom. The last of human freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.

- Viktor Frankl, Austrian psychiatrist, survivor of Auschwitz

Autobiography in five short chapters portia nelson

Autobiography in Five Short Chapters – Portia Nelson


I walk down the street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk

I fall in.

I am lost…I am helpless

It isn’t my fault.

It takes me forever to find a way out.

Bouncing back


I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I pretend I don’t see it.

I fall in again.

I can’t believe I’m in the same place

But, it isn’t my fault.

It still takes a long time to get out.

Bouncing back


I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I see it is there.

I still fall in…it’s a habit

My eyes are open,

I know where I am.

It is my fault.

I get out immediately.

Bouncing back


I walk down the same street

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I walk around it.


I walk down another street.

-Portia Nelson

Bouncing back

This is what our brains are wired for: reaching out to and interacting with others. These are design features, not flaws. These social adaptations are central to making us the most successful species on earth.

- Matthew Lieberman, PhD

Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired To Connect

Bouncing back

The roots of resilience are to be found in the felt sense of being held in the mind and heart of an empathic, attuned, and self-possessed other.

- Diana Fosha, PhD

To see and be seen: that is the questions, and that is the answer.

- Ken Benau, PhD

Resonance circuit

Resonance Circuit

  • Resonance – vibe, emotional contagion

  • Attunement – felt sense, explicit, non-verbal

  • Empathy – verbal, cognitive, coherent narrative

  • Compassion – concern, caring, help

  • Acceptance – pre-requisite for resilience and lasting change

Neuroscience of empathy

Neuroscience of Empathy

  • Emotional communication is 93% non-verbal

  • Social engagement system

  • Dyadic regulation

  • Vagal brake

  • Fusiformgyrus regulates amygdala

  • Restores equilibrium

Bouncing back

Ah, the comfort,

The inexpressible comfort

Of feeling safe with a person.

Having neither to weigh out thoughts

Nor words,

But pouring them all right out, just as they are,

Chaff and grain together;

Certain that a faithful hand

Will take them and sift them;

Keeping what is worth keeping and,

With the breath of kindness,

Blow the rest away.

- Dinah Craik

Bouncing back

The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.

- Carl Rogers



  • Reflection

    • See clearly

  • Resonance

    • Embrace wholeheartedly



  • Respond to pain or suffering with an open heart, an interested mind, and a natural willingness to help.

  • Open to experience, activate care-giving, prime ourselves to act

  • “Left shift” in brain – more neural activity in left hemisphere – approach stance toward experience

  • Overcome negativity bias; become more optimistic, more flexible, better resources, better able to find solutions

Self compassion


  • Threat-protection system

    • Cortisol driven

  • Pleasure-reward system

    • Dopamine driven

  • Caregiving-soothing-comfort system

    • Oxytocin driven

    • Paul Gilbert, The Compassionate Mind

Self compassion1


  • Notice this is a moment of suffering

    • “Ouch! This hurts.”

  • What would be comforting here?

    • What would be helpful?

  • Open to larger perspective

    • “My” pain is “the” pain

    • I’m not the only one; I’m not alone

Mindful self compassion

Mindful Self-Compassion

  • Awareness of what’s happening

  • (and our reaction to what’s happening)

  • Acceptance of what’s happening

  • (and acceptance of our reaction)

  • Brain stays plastic, open to learning

The guest house rumi

The Guest House - Rumi

This being human is a guest-house.

Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,

Some momentary awareness come

As an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,

who violently sweep your house

empty of its furniture,

still, treat each guest honorably.

Bouncing back

He may be clearing you

out for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,

meet them at the door laughing,

and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,

because each has been sent

as a guide from beyond.

- Rumi

Self compassion break

Self-Compassion Break

  • Notice-recognize: this is a moment of suffering

    • Ouch! This hurts! This is hard!

  • Pause, breathe, hand on heart or cheek

    • Oh sweetheart!

  • Self-empathy

    • Of course this is painful, and I’m not the only one; I’m not alone

  • Drop into calm; hold moment with awareness; breathe in compassion and care

    • May I be free of suffering and the causes of suffering

  • Share experience with resonant other

Seeing ourselves as others see us

Seeing Ourselves as Others See Us

  • Imagine sitting across from someone who loves you unconditionally

  • Imagine switching places with them; see yourself as they see you; feel why they love you and delight in you; take in the good

  • Imagine being yourself again; taking in the love and affection coming to you; savor and absorb.

Deep listening

Deep Listening

The most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Just listen. Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention….A loving silence often has far more power to heal and to connect than the most well-intentioned words.

- Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D.

Deep listening1

Deep Listening

  • Listener asks speaker the question. Speaker answers honestly.

  • The speaker answers the repeating question for several rounds, deepening his/her understanding of his/her experience.

  • Listener and speaker switch roles.

  • Take a few moments to share reflections on the experience.

Questions for deep listening

Questions for Deep Listening

  • What brings you joy in your life?

  • What has brought you sorrow?

  • What worries you now?

  • When have you found courage in dark times?

  • What are you grateful for?

  • What are you proud of?



It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is the most adaptive to change.

- Charles Darwin

Every moment brings a choice, and every choice has an impact.

Julia Butterfly Hill

Mindfulness of patterns

Mindfulness of Patterns

  • Thoughts as thoughts

  • Patterns of thoughts as patterns of thoughts

  • Cascades of emotions as cascades of emotions

  • States of mind as states of mind

  • Belief systems and identities as…

    • Mental contents, patterns of neural firing

Cues to practice ants to pats

Cues to Practice - ANTS to PATS

  • Identify habitual negative pattern of response

  • Identify new, positive response to counter/replace

  • Identify cue word or phrase to break automaticity and change the channel

  • Practice using the old pattern as a cue to use the cue word or phrase to trigger the new pattern.

  • Repeat the practice as many times as necessary

Modes of processing1

Modes of Processing

  • Focused

    • Tasks and details

    • Self-referential

    • New conditioning and re-conditioning

  • De-focused

    • Default network

    • Mental play space

    • De-conditioning

Mindfulness dissolves the stuff of self

Mindfulness Dissolves the Stuff of “Self”

  • Quantum physics investigates matter

    • Matter is more space than stuff

  • Mindfulness investigates “I”

    • Self is not static or fixed; is ever-changing, ever-unfolding

  • True Self is flow of beingness

Rest in simply being

Rest in Simply Being

  • Awareness of Awareness

  • Insights, epiphanies, revelations

    Wisdom teaches me I am nothing.

    Love teaches me I am everything.

    Between the two, my life flows.

    • - Sri Nisargadatta

Pre frontal cortex1

Pre-Frontal Cortex

  • Toggles back and forth between focused and defocused modes of processing

  • Integration of two modes; integration of right and left hemispheres, integration of higher and lower brain

  • Deeper brain functioning; brain itself more reslient

Bouncing back

  • Consciousness

  • True Nature

  • Wiser Self

  • Adult Self

  • Inner Child

Brahma viharas

Brahma Viharas

  • Loving Kindness

  • Compassion

  • Sympathetic Joy

  • Equanimity

Connections to resources

Connections to Resources

  • People

    • Love guards the heart from the abyss. - Mozart

  • Places

    • …I rest in the grace of the world…. – Berry

  • Practices

    • As an irrigator guides water to his field, as an archer aims an arrow, as a carpenter carves wood, the wise shape their lives. - Buddha

Positive emotions behaviors

Positive Emotions-Behaviors

  • Brain hard-wired to notice and remember negative and intense more than positive and subtle; how we survive as individuals and as a species

  • Leads to tendency to avoid experience

  • Positive emotions activate “left shift,” brain is more open to approaching experience, learning, and action

Positive emotions

Positive Emotions



Serenity Love Curiosity

Kindness Joy Trust

Positive emotions1

Positive Emotions

  • Less stress, anxiety, depression, loneliness

  • More friendships, social support, collaboration

  • Shift in perspectives, more optimism

  • More creativity, productivity

  • Better health, better sleep

  • Live on average 7-9 years longer

Bouncing back

A hundred times every day, I remind myself that my inner and outer life depend on the labors of other people, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving.

- Albert Einstein



  • 2-minute free write

  • Gratitude journal

  • Gratitude buddy

  • Carry love and appreciation in your wallet

Circle of support

Circle of Support

  • Call to mind people who have been supportive of you; who have “had your back”

    • Currently, in the past, in imagination

  • Imagine them gathered around you, or behind you, lending you their faith in you, and their strengths in coping

  • Imagine your circle of support present with you as you face difficult people or situations

Positivity portfolio

Positivity Portfolio

  • Ask 10 friends to send cards or e-mails expressing appreciation of you

  • Assemble phrases on piece of paper

  • Tape to bathroom mirror or computer monitor, carry in wallet or purse

  • Read phrases 3 times a day for 30 days

  • Savor and appreciate

Take in the good

Take in the Good

  • Notice: in the moment or in memory

  • Enrich: the intensity, duration, novelty, personal relevance, multi-modality

  • Absorb: savor 10-20-30 seconds, felt sense in body

The peace of wild things

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me

and I wake in the night at the least sound

in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,

I go and lie down where the wood drake

rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things

who do not tax their lives with forethought

of grief. I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars

waiting with their light. For a time

I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

- Wendell Berry

Bouncing back

One summer night, out on a flat headland, all but surrounded by the waters of the bay, the horizons were remote and distant rims on the edge of space. Millions of stars blazed in darkness, and on the far shore a few lights burned in cottages. Otherwise there was no reminder of human life. My companion and I were alone with the stars: the misty river of the Milky Way flowing across the sky, the patterns of the constellations standing out bright and clear, a blazing planet low on the horizon. It occurred to me that if this were a sight that could be seen only once in a century, this little headland would be thronged with spectators. But it can be seen many scores of night in any year, and so the lights burned in the cottages and the inhabitants probably gave not a thought to the beauty overhead; and because they could see it almost any night, perhaps they never will.

- Rachel Carson

Places as resources

Places as Resources

  • Nature as refuge – re-Source

  • Nature is our biology, our being

  • We can create and notice shifts in perspective

Shifting perspectives in nature

Shifting Perspectives in Nature


  • Find a one square foot patch of earth. Observe for two minutes.

    • (light and shadow, movement and stillness, beauty and decay, life and death)

  • Shift your view to the larger landscape, all the way to the horizon.

  • Reflect on shift in perspective.

People as resources

People as Resources

At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by the spark from another person.

Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.

- Albert Schweitzer

True other to true self

True Other to True Self

The roots of resilience are to be found in the felt sense of being held in the heart and mind of an empathic, attuned, and self-possessed other.

- Diana Fosha, PhD

Attachment styles secure

Attachment Styles - Secure

  • Parenting is attuned, empathic, responsive, comforting, soothing, helpful

  • Attachment develops safety and trust, and inner secure base

  • Stable and flexible focus and functioning

  • Open to learning

  • inner secure base provides buffer against stress, trauma, and psychopathology

Insecure avoidant


  • Parenting is indifferent, neglectful, or critical, rejecting

  • Attachment is compulsively self-reliant

  • Stable, but not flexible

  • Focus on self or world, not others or emotions

  • Rigid, defensive, not open to learning

  • Neural cement

Insecure anxious


  • Parenting is inconsistent, unpredictable

  • Attachment is compulsive caregiving

  • Flexible, but not stable

  • Focus on other, not on self-world,

  • Less able to retain learning

  • Neural swamp



  • Parenting is frightening or abusive, or parent is “checked out,” not “there”

  • Attachment is fright without solution

  • Lack of focus

  • Moments of dissociation

  • Compartmentalization of trauma

Coherent narrative

Coherent Narrative

  • This is what happened.

  • This is what I did.

  • This has been the cost.

  • This is what I learned.

  • This is what I would do differently going forward.

Welcome them all

Welcome Them All

  • Wiser Self welcomes to the “party”

  • characters that embody positive and negative parts of the self

  • with curiosity and acceptance of the message or gift of each part and

  • honors each part of the “inner committee”

Shame de rails resilience

Shame De-Rails Resilience

Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance and belonging.

Shame erodes the part of ourselves that believes we are capable of change. We cannot change and grow when we are in shame, and we can’t use shame to change ourselves or others.

- Brene Brown, PhD

Bouncing back

Love makes your soul crawl out of its hiding place.

- Zora Neale Hurston

Love guards the heart from the abyss.

- Mozart

Bouncing back

Just that action of paying attention to ourselves, that I care enough about myself, that I am worthy enough to pay attention to, starts to unlock some of those deep beliefs of unworthiness at a deeper level in the brain.

- Elisha Goldstein



  • Memory de-consolidation – re-consolidation

  • “Light up” neural networks of problematic memory

  • Cause neural networks to fall apart temporarily and instantly rewire by:

  • Juxtaposing positive memory that directly contradicts or disconfirms;

  • Focused attention on juxtaposition of both memories held in simultaneous dual awareness

  • Causes the falling apart and the rewiring



  • Anchor in present moment awareness

  • Resource with acceptance and goodness

  • Start with small negative memory

  • “Light up the networks”

  • Evoke positive memory that contradicts or disconfirms

  • Simultaneous dual awareness (or toggle)

  • Refresh and strengthen positive

  • Let go of negative

  • Rest in, savor positive

  • Reflect on shifts in perspective

Wished for outcome

Wished for Outcome

  • Evoke memory of what did happen

  • Imagine new behaviors, new players, new resolution

  • Hold new outcome in awareness, strengthening and refreshing

  • Notice shift in perspective of experience, of self

Relational intelligence

Relational Intelligence

  • Setting limits and boundaries

  • Negotiating change

  • Resolving conflicts

  • Repairing ruptures

  • Forgiveness

Forgiveness i

Forgiveness - I

For the many ways that I have hurt and harmed myself, that I have betrayed or abandoned myself, out of fear, pain, and confusion, through action or inaction, in thought, word or deed, knowingly or unknowingly…

I extend a full and heartfelt forgiveness. I forgive myself. I forgive myself.

Forgiveness ii

Forgiveness - II

For the ways that I have hurt and harmed you, have betrayed or abandoned you, caused you suffering, knowingly or unknowingly, out of my pain, fear, anger, and confusion…

I ask for your forgiveness, I ask for your forgiveness.

Forgiveness iii

Forgiveness - III

For the many ways that others have hurt, wounded, or harmed me, out of fear, pain, confusion, and anger…

I have carried this pain in my heart long enough. To the extent that I am ready, I offer you forgiveness. To those who have caused me harm, I offer my forgiveness, I forgive you.

Bouncing back

Forgiveness is not an occasional act;

It is a permanent attitude.

-Martin Luther King, Jr.

Practices to accelerate brain change1

Practices to Accelerate Brain Change

  • Presence – primes receptivity of brain

  • Intention/choice – activates plasticity

  • Perseverance – creates and installs change



To be present is far from trivial. It may be the hardest work in the world. And forget about the “may be.” It is the hardest work in the world – at least to sustain presence. And the most important.

- Jon Kabat-Zinn



And the day came when the risk it took

To stay tight inside the bud

Was more painful

than the risk it took to blossom.

- Anais Nin



How long should you try? Until. - Jim Rohn

The difference between try and triumph is a little “umph.” – author unknown

The greatest oak was once a little nut that held its ground. – Author unknown



  • Bodily felt sense of “Sure I can!”

  • Based on previous competence

    • No matter what, no matter how small

  • Ownership

Learning model

Learning Model

  • Unconscious Incompetence

  • Conscious Incompetence

  • Conscious Competence

  • Unconscious Competence

How to create a new habit

How to Create a New Habit

  • Identify new behavior you want to cultivate

  • Identify reward for new behavior; how will you sense that reward in your body?

  • Identify first five seconds of new behavior

  • Identify cue to begin the first five seconds of behavior

Find the gift in the mistake

Find the Gift in the Mistake

  • Regrettable Moment – Teachable Moment

  • What’s Right with this Wrong?

  • What’s the Lesson?

  • What’s the Cue to Act Differently?

  • Find the Gift in the Mistake



It’s as wrong to deny the possible

As it is to deny the problem.

- Dennis Seleeby



A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.

- Grace Hopper

Yes, risk-taking is inherently failure-prone.

Otherwise, it would be called sure thing-taking

- Tim McMahon

Do one scary thing a day

Do One Scary Thing a Day

  • Venture into New or Unknown

  • Somatic marker of “Uh, oh”

  • Dopamine disrupted

  • Cross threshold into new

  • Satisfaction, mastery

  • Dopamine restored

Bouncing back

I am no longer afraid of storms,

For I am learning how to sail my ship.

- Louisa May Alcott

Human brain evolutionary masterpiece

Human Brain:Evolutionary Masterpiece

  • 100 billion neurons

    • Each neuron contains the entire human genome

    • Neurons “fire” hundreds of time per second

  • Neurons connect to 5,000-7,000 other neurons

  • Trillions of synaptic connections

  • As many connections in single cubic centimeter of brain tissue as stars in Milky Way galaxy

Brain care is self care

Brain Care Is Self Care

  • Sleep

  • Nutrition

  • Movement-Exercise

  • Laughter

  • Learn Something New

  • Hanging Out with Healthy Brains



  • Housekeeping

  • Reset nervous system

  • Consolidate learning

  • Take mental breaks

How to sleep well

How to Sleep Well

  • Stick to a sleep schedule

  • Pay attention to what you eat and drink

  • Create a bedtime ritual

  • Get comfortable

  • Limit daytime naps

  • Include physical activity in your daily routine

  • Manage stress

    • - Mayo Clinic

Take mental breaks

Take Mental Breaks

  • Focus on something else (positive is good)

  • Talk to someone else (resonant is good)

  • Move-walk somewhere else (nature is good)

  • Avoid adrenal fatigue



  • Less Caffeine

  • Less Sugar

  • More Protein

Movement exercise

Movement - Exercise

  • Oxygen – brain is 2% of body weight, uses 20% of body’s oxygen

  • Endorphins – feel good hormones, brighten the mind

  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) - grow new brain cells, will migrate to where needed



  • Increases oxygen and blood flow, reduces risk of heart disease and stroke

  • Releases endorphins – body’s natural pain killer

  • Reduces stress hormone cortisol, lowers blood pressure

  • Triggers catecholamines, heightens alertness in brain

  • Releases tension in body, balances nervous system



  • Promotes work productivity

    • Reduces stress

    • Promotes creativity and problem-solving

    • Reduces mistakes, increases efficiency

      Promotes group cohesion

  • Promotes learning (through play)

  • Eases loss, grief, trauma

How to promote laughter

How to Promote Laughter

  • Humor

    • A person without a sense of humor is like a wagon without springs – jolted by every pebble in the road. - Henry Ward Beecher

  • Play

    • Play, in short, prepares the brain to handle the unexpected. – Lee Alan Dugatkin

  • Playful resonance

    • Laughter is the closest distance between two people. – Victor Borge

Laughter yoga

Laughter Yoga

  • Let yourself laugh for 5-15 minutes,

  • Gently at first, then relaxing into a deep belly laugh

  • Happy baby pose (dead bug pose)

  • Lying on the floor with your head in someone else’s lap; someone else’s head in your lap

Learn something new

Learn Something New

  • Speak a foreign language

  • Play a musical instrument

  • Juggle

  • Play chess

Hanging out with healthy brains

Hanging Out with Healthy Brains

  • Brain is social organ; matures and learns best in interactions with other brains

  • Social engagement regulates nervous system

  • Resonant interactions prime the brain’s neuroplasticity; promotes learning and growth

Sharing your world view

Sharing Your World View

  • Work with a partner

  • Choose a card(s) from the World View deck, one each for Self, Other, the World

  • Ask the questions on your cards of your partner

  • Answer the questions your partner asks you

  • Reflect on the process of exploring/sharing together

Bouncing back2

Bouncing Back

The Neuroscience of Resilience and


Linda Graham, MFT


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