Integrate Your Brain For Optimal Wellbeing
Let’s try something for a moment:
Set a one to two-minute timer on your phone, sit down, breathe deeply, and close your eyes.
How many different types of thoughts and sensations popped into your mind during this short amount of time? If you’re like most people, probably more than you can count on two hands!
Wouldn’t it be nice to have a calmer and more organised mind? Luckily, it’s a state of mind we can train our brains to achieve.
Our brains are constantly monitoring information flow and if we don’t learn how to effectively manage this in-flow, we can get a bit lost in the noise. This is where integrating our brains comes in handy.
Integration is the process of differentiation and linkage which creates more efficient and regulated systems. It’s a concept that shows up in mathematics as well as in the natural world—including in our brains.
As Dan Siegel—a doctor and expert in the field of interpersonal neurobiology—puts it:
“Integration is more like a fruit salad than a smoothie…[it] creates the synergy of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.”
Integrated brains have been linked to overall wellbeing and the strengthening of functions such as self-regulation, problem-solving, and adaptive behaviour. Strong integration is also linked to good health and happiness.
Sounds pretty appealing, doesn’t it? So how do we integrate our brains?
In mindfulness training, integration occurs by methodically focusing our attention on various aspects of awareness. The Wheel of Awareness is one mindfulness exercise which is science-based and uses this type of training to nurture brain integration.
In this simple practice, attention moves in sequence through four different categories:
The 5 senses
Sensations within the body
Connection to others
Through repetition of this process, the brain creates new pathways and connections due to something called neuroplasticity. A trending term among mental and holistic health experts in recent years, neuroplasticity refers to our brains’ ability to form new neural connections. This is what allows us to learn new things, form new habits and even break old ones.
The Wheel of Awareness trains the mind in three important areas:
Focused Attention: the ability to choose what we pay attention to, notice when we become distracted, and gently redirect our attention.
Open Awareness: the ability to witness what is happening around or to us, without judgement or attachment to the experience.
Kind Intention: the ability to remain compassionate and kind to ourselves and to others around us.
Together, these three aspects have been shown to improve our wellbeing in significant ways—e.g. lowering inflammation, improving immune function, and regulating cardiovascular functions.
If you’re new to mindfulness practices, this Wheel practice might be a great place to start. It’s is simple, organised, and effective. Try a guided recording of this practice to begin integrating your brain today!