Archive for brain

Six Ways to Shine 6 #BeHereNow

Do you recognise that most of the time your mind is away with your thoughts? Do you get distracted to the point that you can’t follow what people are saying? Are you missing key chunks of the day due to wandering off? Do you find your concentration muscle is withering away so that tasks take hours when they could take minutes?

Well you are in great company! In our modern culture, where we are overloaded with incoming streams of digital information and technology makes it easier and easier to flit between one thing and the other, our brains are changing accordingly and we are losing the ability to #BeHereNow. I notice how lacking in presence people are and I have begun to find it unsatisfying to be around people who are constantly distracted and can’t really hold the conversational space or tune in to what’s really going on… Having a busy, distracted mind is one of the most common symptoms my clients talk about when we first meet.

So if our minds really do go #AWOL, what sorts of problems do we face?

  • poor absorption of facts, figures and information resulting in what feels like a bad memory
  • low productivity leading to having to work longer hours than necessary and frustration that this happens
  • poor quality connections in relationships due to the other picking up on the distraction, or the lack of presence
  • lack of empathy or intuitive connection
  • unfulfilling conversations or unsatisfying interactions
  • creating an inner environment of stress caused by negative mind wandering
  • lack of capacity for really enjoying the moment as it is
  • lethargy and tiredness caused the the unnecessary syphoning off of mental energy into overthinking
  • no off switch, often leading to insomnia

The good news is, despite the modern epidemic of distraction, it is extremely easy to remedy with the right brain training tools and techniques.

Many meditation methods are designed to train our attention onto a specific focus instead of wandering off into the wilderness or our minds. When I created SHINE Meditation I included this as a key element within the techniques, because I realised the power of training attention and concentration and the #PowerOfPresence. I’d go so far as to say it’s a total game changer. SHINE is like a bootcamp workout for your attention muscle, meaning you can become the master of your attention. Tony Robbins, the global personal development guru, coined the phrase “Where your attention goes energy flows”, and this is so true. What gets our attention is what we become. What you focus on and create in your inner world, will literally raise your state of being. In addition, when you learn to use the power of your focus, your external world will benefit in two ways. Firstly, as you create a positive thriving inner state through mind and body, you create an inner harmony primed for health, happiness and success. This affects what you radiate outwards, how you perceive people, and how they perceive you, in a way which forges stronger connections and relationships. Secondly, when you can focus in your inner world, this up levels to focus and greater discernment in your outer world, meaning that you can strengthen your capacity to focus on what is important, on what will build you positive results, and you can more easily let the rest go.

I like the metaphor of the garden hose. The force of the water in the hose is like the force of energy in your mind through your attention. You can imagine a hose which has been left unattended, and the water is spraying out forcefully, but no-one is holding or guiding it, and it is causing utter chaos, swirling wildly and spraying anything and anyone in its path. Now picture the alternative, someone is holding and guiding the hose, directing it in a specific way. Same force, very different results.

Left untrained your attention wanders off, and why is this so bad I hear you cry? A little daydreaming never hurt anyone surely? And no a little daydreaming is fine. But what happens in the modern human mind is this: Your mind will wander and get distracted in all sorts of directions, but mainly, because of the way our brains are naturally predisposed to ‘negative’ writing, our mind wandering takes us off into stressful, anxiety producing thoughts, often in loops. This is called rumination, and it’s a top cause of stress, anxiety and depression. We produce the same stress response from our stressful thoughts as we would do from stressful events actually happening. Our brains do not know the difference.

When we drift off this is a borderline level of thinking that is mainly unconscious, we activate a ‘default network’ part of the brain called the posterior cingulate cortex – so a lot of the time we are not aware we are looping through these negative, stress producing thoughts. However, even thought the thoughts are just rumbling away under our radar of conscious awareness, our bodies are still making and physiological connection to these thoughts! Yes we are actually feeling our thinking at a cellular level through our bodies, without even being aware of it!! No wonder stress builds up to chronically toxic levels within our inner systems!

I designed The SHINE Program with simple techniques which train you in how you can shine the light of your attention onto positive thoughts, feelings and sensations. It’s SO easy when you know how. SHINE has been tried, trialled, tested AND proven for it’s positive results on mood, emotions, focus, happiness and stress busting. But SHINE subscribers also report being more present, attentive and empathetic in their relationships due to being able to focus on their friends, family and partners when in company, and being received as much better listeners, which of course creates a greater sense of connection.

I am currently offering my SHINE program for a special #FabulousFebruary offer. For just £87 you can access your own SHINE Program here…. #GetReadyToShine and #BeHereNow :

Lisa Bardell – BSc (Hons) Psych, Diploma in Clinical Hypnotherapy, Coaching & NLP Master – is a coach and therapist who retrained to follow her passion into Psychology after a 16 year business career at executive level. Lisa runs two busy practices in Cheshire and London and works with coaching clients all over the world via Skype. For a FREE 30 min consultation mail on

Some science on Emotion and your Brain

brain articleHave you ever pondered what the science is behind the barely tangible, but extremely familiar daily experience of feeling emotions? Sometimes we feel these formless waves of inner communication so strongly that they seem to run the show. As a therapist I’m fascinated by the science of emotions.


In a recent article by Rick Hanson PhD, he shares some interesting information on the major brain regions that support our processing and experience of emotions. I’m going to give you a whistle stop tour of your brain, and the areas within it which influence our moods and feelings.


Our conscious experience of emotion is just the top layer of icing on a much bigger cake. It rests on many layers of neurological activity such as the firing of very complex and intertwining neural circuits and the tidal flows of neurotransmitters and hormones such as dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin.


So let’s look at the brain regions and their role in our emotional experience.


  • Hippocampus – This region helps store the contexts, especially visual-spatial ones, for important experiences, such as the smell of a predator or the look of an angry expression. It is necessary for forming personal memories of events, and is unfortunately damaged over time by the cortisol released by chronic stress, especially, high or even traumatic levels of stress. If you needed another good reason to resolve your stresses, and to take up meditation, then here you have it.
  • Amygdala – Connected to the hippocampus by the neural equivalent of a four-lane superhighway, this small, almond shaped region is particularly involved in the processing of information about threats. The subjective awareness of threat comes from the feeling of the experience when it is unpleasant. When the amygdala perceives a threat – whether an external stimulus like a car hurtling towards us at speed, or an internal one, such as suddenly remembering we are on a tight project deadline – the amygdala sends a jolt of alarm to the hypothalamus and other brain regions. It also triggers the ventral tegmentum, in the brain stem, to send dopamine to other areas of the brain, in order to sensitize them to the “red flag” information streaming through.
  • Hypothalamus – This is the major switchboard of the brain, involved in the regulation of basic bodily drives such as thirst and hunger. When it gets a “red flag” signal from the amygdala, it communicates to the pituitary gland to kick start the adrenals to release epinephrine and other stress hormones, to get the body ready for immediate Fight or Flight action, known as the Fight or Flight Response or the Stress Response. This very same activation of the Stress Response occurs not just when a wild tiger chases us through the woods, but also in a chronic and ongoing way to our ‘imagined’ threats and everyday stresses, like when our boss reprimands us, our deadlines get tight, or when we respond to internal mental events such as pain or anger etc.
  • Prefrontal Cortex This region is involved in anticipating the future, making plans, organizing action, monitoring results, changing plans, and settling conflicts between different goals. These are called the Executive Functions. Where emotion is concerned, the Prefrontal Cortex helps us to foresee the emotional rewards (or penalties) of different courses of action. It also inhibits emotional reactions. Many more nerve fibers head down from the Prefrontal Cortex to the Limbic System circuitry than in the other direction. The left side of the Prefrontal Cortex plays a special role in controlling negative emotion and aggression. For example, stroke victims whose left Prefrontal Cortex is damaged tend to become more irritable, distraught, and hostile. Activation of the left Prefrontal Cortex is associated with positive emotions, which, has been proven to be stimulated by long term meditation practice. Once again, just in case you needed any further motivation to meditate, you have it right here!
  • Anterior Cingulate Cortex – This sits in the middle of the brain, centrally located for communication with the Prefrontal Cortex and the Limbic System. It monitors conflicts between different potential objects of attention, for example ‘Should I notice the flowers in these bushes or that snake slithering toward me?’,  ‘Should I listen to my wife’s story or focus on this TV show?’. It flags these conflicts for resolution by the frontal lobes. Therefore, it lights up when we attend to emotionally relevant stimuli, or sustain our attention to important feelings – inside ourselves and other people – in the face of competing stimuli. In action, this would help us to read and sense emotions in others, instead of perhaps getting lured off track by their words which might attempt to contradict their true emotion.
  • Nucleus Accumbens – In conditions of emotional arousal, especially fear-related, the accumbens receives a major wake-up call of dopamine, which primes it to receive information coming from the amygdala and other regions. Consequently, the accumbens sends more intense signals to the brain relay station for the motor systems, which results in heightened behavioral activity. This system works for both negative and positive feelings. For example, the accumbens would light up if an addict were to see their drug or drink of choice.
  • Insula – The insula is involved in picking up the inner sensations of the body, the changes which come with different emotional states. It is the brain region which unlocks the deeper layers of your emotional life, and it is also key to empathy, to being able to sense the primary emotions in others, such as fear, pain, or disgust.

As a therapist and meditation coach I love to understand a little more about the inner mechanics of neural patterns, those very patterns, connections and brain regions which we are able to change for the better with effective therapy and meditation practices.

Neural plasticity is the term which is used by neuroscientists to describe the ever changing inner structure of connections and connectivity within the brain. The good news is, that your brain is not a genetically pre-determined lump of matter. It is plastic, and with the right guidance, interventions and practice, it can change in a way which results in more positive emotions, improved resilience, less stress, better concentration and quicker learning.

Lisa Bardell is a Performance Coach, NLP Master Coach, Clinical Hypnotherapist and Modern Meditation Coach running private clinics in the heart of the City of London ( Liverpool St ) and Cheshire, and Corporate Coaching Programmes for businesses in Manchester and London. Lisa leads regular Coaching Workshops and Retreats, tickets and details can be found in the Eventbrite link: