The Neuroscience of feeling safe and secure: Aligning your thoughts and your actions
As a psychologist, I’m continually fascinated by the intricate dance between our thoughts, emotions, and actions. One remarkable aspect of this dance is the profound impact that feeling safe and secure can have on our mental and emotional well-being. Understanding the neuroscience behind this phenomenon can provide valuable insights into how we can harness the power of safety and security to promote positive change in our lives.
The brain’s alarm system: the amygdala
At the heart of this discussion is the amygdala, a small but powerful region nestled deep within our brains. This almond -shaped structure serves as the brain’s alarm system, constantly scanning our environment for potential threats. When the amygdala detects danger, it sets off a chain reaction that triggers the body’s stress response.
The Prefrontal Cortex: your thinking brain
Contrasting the amygdala’s reactive nature, the prefrontal cortex, often referred to as the “thinking brain”, is responsible for higher cognitive functions, such as decision -making, planning, and the regulation of emotions. It acts as a rational check – and – balance system, helping us evaluate threats, make informed decisions, and control our emotional responses.
The harmony of safety and security
Feeling safe and secure plays a pivotal role in achieving a harmonious balance between these brain regions. When we experience a sense of safety, the prefrontal cortex can maintain greater control over the amygdala’s vigilance. This balance enables our thoughts to become more focused, rational, and our emotions to remain steady, free from the disruptive influence of anxiety or fear.
Balance is really an illusion. What we seek is to manage in a healthy way, the ebb and flow of each of these two states and create a mid-way point between the two. A kind of grey zone.
The role of Neurotransmitters
Neurotransmitters, the brain’s chemical messengers, also come into play in the neuroscientific symphony of safety and security. When we feel safe, the brain releases neurochemicals associated with well-being, such as dopamine and serotonin. These substances contribute to feelings of happiness and contentment, further reinforcing the sense of security.
Our brains are remarkably adaptable, a phenomenon known as neuroplasticity. When we consistently cultivate feelings of safety and security, our brains form new neural pathways that reinforce these positive emotions. This neural plasticity enhances our ability to cope with stress, make sound decisions, and experience emotional well-being.
Practical steps for cultivating safety and security.
Understanding the neuroscientific basis of feeling safe and secure empowers us to actively work towards promoting these positive emotions in our lives. Here are some practical steps to help you align your thoughts and actions with a sense of well-being:
- Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness techniques, such as meditation and deep breathing, can help reduce stress and promote a sense of safety.
- Nurture positive relationships: Surround yourself with supportive, caring individuals who contribute to your sense of security and trust.
- Self-compassion: Treat yourself with kindness and self-compassion, acknowledging your