“Our ability to control our thoughts is fundamental to our well-being. When this capacity breaks down, it causes some of the most debilitating symptoms of psychiatric diseases.” – Professor Michael Anderson, University of Cambridge.
What if there was a switch inside our brain that can prevent us from experiencing any unwanted and negative thoughts? Wouldn’t that make us happier and our lives more bearable? Luckily, researchers from Cambridge University have found ‘this switch’.
They have discovered a chemical inside the brain that can stop intrusive (unwanted) thoughts.
Dr. Michael Anderson is a professor of neuroscience who together with his research team at the Cambridge University has found the key chemical within the brain that is accountable for memory formation.
He also explains why patients suffering from depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and PTSD are continuously having invasive thoughts.
So, according to Professor Anderson, our ability to control our thoughts is essential to our physical and mental well-being.
“We wouldn’t be able to survive without controlling our actions. We have lots of quick reflexes that are often useful, but we need to control these actions and stop them from happening,” says Anderson.
The research team focused on the prefrontal cortex of the brain responsible for performing complex activities such as, critical thinking, paying attention, problem solving, decision-making, self-awareness, working memory, and social cognition. Also, the prefrontal cortex regulates other brain areas such as the hippocampus and the motor cortex.
But, it wasn’t until recently that the prefrontal cortex was found to play a crucial role in preventing unwanted thoughts.
The research of Anderson and his team was published on November 3, 2017 in the Nature Communications Journal.
They used magnetic resonance spectroscopy for measuring the brain chemistry and fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) to observe the participants’ brains as they were trying to suppress their thoughts.
The results they got from spectroscopy discovered that the chemical known as GABA which allows transmitting messages between cells, is the one that can restrain unwanted thoughts.
GABA is a primary inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain which regulates the ‘excitatory’ transmitters, such as dopamine and glutamate.
As a result, people with lower GABA concentrations are less able to control and restrain the activity of the prefrontal cortex.
So, how can you train your brain to prevent any unwanted thoughts? – By boosting the GABA levels in your brain.
Here are some examples on how you can do this:
YOGA – By focusing on the present moment, you can increase your GABA levels. Also, by practicing yoga, you focus on deep breathing also that will help you to reduce your anxiety and stress levels.
MEDITATION – Silencing your busy mind and focusing on deep breathing will increase your GABA levels. If you are a beginner, try meditating for 10-15 minutes.
EXERCISE – Increasing your heart rate by running or walking 3-4 times per week will boost the GABA levels in your brain.
PROPER DIET – Stay away from processed food and soft drinks as much as you can. Eat only foods rich in glutamic acid, such as: bananas, walnuts and almonds, broccoli, oats, lentils, beef liver, spinach, potatoes, citrus fruits, and brown rice.