Keeping It Healthy
In order to maintain homeostasis and feel your best, the goal is to balance activities of the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems. Too much activation of one causes high amounts of anxiety, but too much of the other causes low motivation and symptoms like fatigue. Here are ways to help keep your limbic system functioning smoothly.
Use Soothing or Uplifting Essential Oils
When used in aromatherapy (inhaled), there is evidence that essential oils are absorbed into the bloodstream and then trigger the hippocampus. This is mostly due to the amount of blood vessels in the lungs that take up the oils and then circulate them throughout the body, including to the brain.
Using a diffuser can help you experience the benefits of essential oils, or you can directly inhale them from the bottle or a cotton swab. You can diffuse lavender to reduce stress, melaleuca to cleanse the air, wild orange to improve your overall mood, frankincense for spiritual enlightenment, and peppermint essential oil to improve focus and energy.
Practice Deep Breathing
Deep breathing exercises coupled with intentional relaxation of muscles engages the circuitry of the PNS and strengthens it for future use. Relaxing/deep breathing also quiets the fight-or-flight SNS, since relaxed muscles send feedback to the alarm centers in the brain that there are no threats present.
A simple way to practice deep breathing is to lay on your back and try taking slow, steady breaths from your diaphragm (near your belly, as opposed to from your chest). You can also try inhaling for four seconds, holding your breath for seven seconds and exhaling slowly for eight seconds, repeating this for five to 10 minutes.
Try Visualizations or Guided Imagery
Visual stimuli have important influences on emotional health, socialization and well-being. They can even be used to reduce anxiety disorders or symptoms of autism.
To practice, bring to mind in detail a place that makes you feel happy and relaxed (a vacation, being in nature or time spent with family, for example). Imagine or feel that the experience is entering deeply into your mind and body, keeping your muscles relaxed and absorbing positive emotions, sensations and thoughts of the experience.
The Table alongside "Guided imagery is useful in" will give you more information on the use of guided imagery
Exercise helps control stress, balance hormones (such as cortisol), raise immune function and lower inflammation. One of the ways it does this is by training your autonomic nervous system/fight-flight-response to return to normal more quickly following periods of stress/arousal.
Make a Habit of Being Mindful, Still and Silent
You can try things guided meditation or regular healing prayer to achieve this. These can help you cultivate gratitude, reduce stress, make you feel more connected to others, become more mindful/aware of good things in your life, and increase feelings of compassion, kindness and well-being.
Interesting Facts and History of the Limbic System
The functions that different regions of the brain are responsible for have been debated since the time of Aristotle thousands of years ago. Neuroscience has come a long way since then, especially recently thanks to imaging studies like MRIs, and it’s now widely accepted that the prefrontal cortex, amygdala, anterior cingulate cortex, hippocampus and insula participate to control the majority of human emotional processes.
Today, teaching people who struggle with anxiety or depression to intentionally learn to calm their autonomic nervous systems is a major focus in psychology, therapy and neuroscience research.
In recent decades, scientists have come to understand that our brains are always adapting to our environments throughout our entire life spans. The brain’s capacity to learn — and change itself depending on its environment — is called neuroplasticity, which when used to our advantage helps us become happier in addition to more knowledgeable.
The limbic system is responsible for governing “avoidance” versus “approach” behaviors in most animals — in other words feelings of pleasure versus anxiety/pain. Approach and avoidance are exactly what help keep us alive and ensure survival. That’s why the limbic system is said to be so “primitive” and is found in all types of species.
Because of how quickly the limbic system works, your brain can register something as being dangerous (such as a car speeding by you) and trigger you to move out of the way/avoid it BEFORE you even consciously know what happened or have time to think it over.
When you come across something threatening, your hippocampus immediately compares the image to its stored list of dangers. The hippocampus then communicates to your amygdala by sending high-priority alerts (which is why the amygdala is often called your “alarm bell”) that fast-track actions of your fight-or-flight/hormonal systems.
The brain typically detects negative information faster than positive information in order to prioritize ensuring survival. This is often called our “negativity bias” and explains why it’s often easier to remember bad events more easily than positive ones. Because of this tendency, it can be easy for some people to become overly anxious or depressed if they don’t train themselves to focus on the good in their lives or practice calming activities and gratitude.
- The limbic system is a connection of many brain structures that help control emotions, in addition to memory, learning, motivation and bodily functions such as appetite and sex drive.
- Sub-parts of the Limbic System include the Hippocampus, Amygdala and Hypothalamus
- One of the most notable areas that essential oils impact is your emotions tied to memories, thanks to activation of your Limbic system / Hippocampus. Essential oils that can help improve your mood, energy and focus include peppermint, lavender, orange and frankincense.
- To keep your Limbic System healthy, use soothing or uplifiting essential oils, practice deep breathing, try visualisations or guided imagery, exercise. Other things to ry are guided meditation and healing prayer to make a habit of being mindful, still and silent.