There are a lot of hurting heads out there!  I speak to people in consultations, at my weekly stall at Noosa Marina, on the phone, and out and about, as I like to follow up with PEOPLE.

When I refer to ‘hurting heads‘, I mean dysfunctional, sometimes destructive internal painful thoughts, which require a little more time and patience to sort out.  It’s an understatement to say this, however, I’ll say it.  A hurting head can become unhealthy, unhinged, and unacceptable for the beings who have to live with it.

So my question to you ‘How healthy are your thoughts?’  Because, you are the sum of your thoughts, and your thoughts are like wild creatures that travel through your brain using footpaths of neurons and synapses with lightning speed.  Thoughts become things that can and do change the world!

62,000 thoughts a day:

It’s estimated that you have around 62 thousand thoughts a day, that’s nothing unusual, however, they are usually the same 62 thousand thoughts you had yesterday!  No other part of the body has received more misguided attention or proved to be more resistant to scientific understanding, than the head. Change your thoughts and you change your outcomes, good or bad!

Understanding the brain:

Getting anatomical, I do think it’s worth pointing out a few facts about the brain.  The brain is made up of 75 - 80 % water, with the rest split mostly between fat and protein. This spongy mass can allow us thought, memory, vision, aesthetic appreciation, perspective, and brilliance (for some). With the consistency of tofu or soft butter, the brain exists in silence and darkness, with electrical pulses tapping away like Morse code. Your brain is your universe!

A Hungry Organ:

The brain is a ravenous hungry organ, that receives stimulation and translates these synaptic signals using no more than four hundred calories a day, at a steady rate no matter what you are doing.  You are never going to get skinny from thinking however, you are going to get tired if there is not enough nutrition feeding your brain. We use exactly the same components in our brains, neurons, axons, and ganglia, as our pet dog!

Breaking down the brain:

When we break down the brain anatomically into neurons we realize they are not like other cells, which are compact, and spherical.  Neurons are long and stringy, to efficiently pass on electrical signals from one to another.   With approximately 400,000 of these dendrites at the end of each neuron, ending with the tiny space between nerve cell endings - the synapse.  Each neuron connects with thousands of other neurons, giving trillions and trillions of connections, in direct proportion to the stars in the Milky Way.  It is in all that complex synaptic entanglement that our intelligence lies.

Where are all these neural pathways happening?  Scattered through the brain are many smaller structures, hypothalamus, amygdala, hippocampus, telencephalon*, spetum pellucidum, habenular commissure, entorhinal cortex, and dozen of others, which are collectively known as the limbic system (from the Latin limbus, meaning “peripheral”).

The Limbic System is not something you are going to hear or read about too often unless something in those areas goes wrong.

The basal ganglia, for instance, play an important part in movement, language, and thought, but it is only when the basal ganglia degenerate which leads to Parkinson’s disease and thus you would experience your brain in a very different way, like Michael J Fox, the actor from the Back To The Future Movies.  I have written about Michael J Fox before, as I admire the way he is navigating his life today, championing the research around Parkinson’s disease and being supported by his family.

Learning something new:

If I’m experiencing the same thoughts day after day, where is the potential and excitement in that?  The concept of learning something new is very powerful as a therapy for keeping the brain and humans motivated, stimulated, Happy and productive. Learning something new could be the key to helping a brain stay healthy. Studying the brain and what makes it the structure that it is, is like exploring ‘space’.

Every year I put myself through something that will stretch me to learn.

So far this has involved, learning to fly an airplane (9 lessons), doing a stand-up comedy course; and performing the stand-up comedy! Quite terrifying! flying a glider; trekking the Kokoda track, Larrapinta trial, and Thornsburn trial on Hitchenbrook Island; The last two with Darryl.

I’ve been involved in building a cottage in Babinda, North Queensland also with my husband Darryl; creating a pond from start to finish, writing books, birthing a human, feeding a human, trying to ride a skateboard (trying is the word), running a marathon, swimming the Pier To Pub 1.5km swim back in the ’80s and experiencing hypothermia, climbing a mountain or two, designing a cartoon, studying a Permaculture course, studying Iridology, NES study, gaining a certificate in this and that, speaking internationally on Gut Health, speaking on the radio and TV, recording a song - (you will never hear this), and the list goes on.

Future learning experiences will include having a go at driving on the other side of the road in Europe, that will be next year for me, I’m up for this. New experiences force new neural activity which can only enhance mental health.  I don’t have to be good at all of them, just giving them a go is more than enough!

The Limbic System in a little more detail:

The structures of the limbic system have a fundamental role in our happiness by controlling and regulating basic processes like memory, appetite, emotions, drowsiness and alertness, and the processing of sensory information.

In 1952 Paul D. MacLean (an American neuroscientist), invented the concept of the limbic system.  Taking center stage of the Limbic system is the hypothalamus, a bundle of neural cells.  located under the thalamus (inner chamber of the brain) the hypothalamus is a relay station for sensory information.  Stay with me on this, because whatever you think you knew about the hypothalamus, there is always something more to learn.

The thalamus is less than the size of a peanut and weighs barely a gram, it controls much of the most important chemistry of the body.  It regulates sexual function, controls hunger and thirst, monitors blood sugar and salts, and decides when you need to sleep.

The scientific geniuses out there have suggested It may even play a part in how slowly or rapidly we age.  A large measure of your success or failure as a human being is dependent on this tiny nut size thing in the middle of your head. So, when I ask you, ‘How healthy is your head?’ Part of your answer will be linked to the health of the hypothalamus!

The Hippocampus:

The hippocampus is central to the laying down of memories.  The amygdala specializes in handling intense and stressful emotions like fear, anger, anxiety, and phobias - perceptions.  The amygdala is ‘sense sensitive‘, meaning it will dance with scents and meanings you put to those scents, and smells.  For me, the smell of Boronia will be forever linked to childhood joy.

When I was a little girl living in Melbourne, I loved the smell of Boronia flowers.  A Boronia tree bloomed outside my bedroom window.  The scent signaled the beginning of spring, which meant the hope of warmer weather, which also meant the promise of my fingers thawing out, as Victorian Winters were freezing.

I could never deal with the cold, even now becoming cold causes me to feel depressed!  This is another example of the senses picking up on temperature, smell, and sounds, which when felt, smelt, and heard bring back the sensation associated with that experience!

I carry out a therapy called ‘anchoring‘, whereby I help my client to anchor a new smell through an essential oil blend to a positive experience, to build emotional resilience and strength.  This is a powerful exercise to carry out, and one which we teach at our live-in retreats and workshops.

Nightmares & The Teenage Brain:

People whose amygdalae are destroyed are left literally fearless, and often cannot even recognize fear in others.  I worry for footballers who receive countless blows to their skulls, and when the Post Concussion Syndrome sets in, life can be very difficult indeed.  I don’t think any sports salary can compensate for the damage done, again to young brains, is this contact sport really worth the risk to the brain?

The amygdala and sleep:

The amygdala grows particularly lively when we are asleep, and thus may account for why our dreams are so often disturbing.  Your nightmares may simply be the amygdala unburdening itself.  Also, why on the subject of the amygdala, your best chance at amazing health, is linked to amazing sleep?  Practicing good habits at night before bed can ensure better sleep and next day healthier mental performance.  We diffuse essential oils like Lavender Peace and apply Frankincense for an improved mindset and happier dreams.

What is surely the most striking feature of the brain is that all its higher processes - thinking, seeing, hearing and so on happen right at the surface, in the four-millimeter-thick sheath of the cerebral cortex.  The person who first mapped this area was the German neurologist Korbinian Brodmann (1868-1918).  Brodmann was one of the most brilliant and least appreciated modern neuroscientists.  While working at a research institute in Berlin, in the early part of 1909, he painstakingly identified forty-seven distinct regions of the cerebral cortex, which have been known ever since as Brodmann areas.T

Before the age of 25, Your brain is still only at 80% completion:

Because we have such a complex structure to house our innermost thoughts, it may not surprise you to know that it takes a long time for the brain to form completely.  While you were a teenager your brain was only about 80% finished, which would account for why you were reckless or like me, collided into the car in front, at a roundabout!

Another time I was encouraged by a boyfriend at the time to take over the wheel of his ‘panel van’, I was not confident, and several times I said ‘no, I did not want to take the wheel‘.  In the end, his insistence won out, I took the wheel and pressed the accelerator, instead of the brake, driving us over a substantial cliff into the wooded forest below.  As the front bonnet appeared on the windscreen, I silently wished I’d stuck to my guns and stayed as a happy passenger.

We are not going to be picnicking today:

I remember thinking, we are not going to be picnicking today, as our picnic hamper rose in the air behind us with the contents spewing out onto our laps as we collided with the tree.  You know I paid for every bit of that damage, which was a lot in 1979.  Consequently, the relationship fizzled out after that incident!  So many accidents happen to teenagers, especially when they are all together!

Synapses aren’t fully wired until a young person is in their mid to late twenties.  With that in mind, I think about the legal age we have given our teenagers to go out and purchase alcohol, consume it, and drive a weapon (vehicle)!  Up until the age of 25, the young person is certainly more impulsive, less reflective, and completely vulnerable to the effects of alcohol.  If we introduced alcohol for the first time today, it would be considered the most dangerous substance’, and therefore illegal, poison!

Alcohol & Drugs:

I would have been no more than 10 years old when I tried alcohol for the first time. It was a sip of my dad’s beer at a family Christmas function. I was not encouraged or coerced to drink the amber liquid, it was me that insisted, I was just curious.  Instantly I didn’t like the taste, and that was that! What if I did like the taste?

In these, times we are witnessing what happens when unfortunate kids, are influenced by their peers, bored, chemically unhinged, and triggered.  The government will never stop alcohol, because of the amount of money they collect as taxes that fuel all the other disastrous decisions they make! Its going to take a very aware and evolved society to breed alcohol and drugs out of the equation.  Everyone who brings a human into this world is going to check in with themselves and the habits they form and repeat in front of the most vulnerable and easy influenced minds.  You will read more on this in part two of my article.

I never embraced alcohol in a big way, but the occasional spirit mix like Sweet ‘Vermouth and Lemonade’, certainly became my chosen blend as a teenager, now that’s a hangover you don’t want to experience. Ughh!  I was virtually a nondrinker by the legal age of 18, it just didn’t agree with me!  The price of alcohol didn’t agree with me either, I preferred to save for my first home, rather than waste my hard-earned wages on pointless alcohol.

When I tried Marijuana for the first time, I mixed it with alcohol one night at a party in Victoria.  I may have been 17 or younger.  I reacted very badly to the mix, and spent the rest of the night vomiting!  I do remember Electric Light Orchestra music - Last Train To London - playing in the background, the strong smell of Marijuana and incense aroma fumes as the ash from the incense burned into the carpet.

I don’t see Marijuana as the evil culprit, in fact, I see alcohol as the more serious human destroyer, Marijuana has been used for healing and helpful for pain without the nasty side effects of liver and kidney damage.  That’s a whole other article.  For the purpose of this blog, I want to continue on the subject of solutions for hurting heads.  Solution number one, learn about your Limbic system, the Limbic brain, and the amygdala.

Here’s a reminder of the power of the Limbic brain, amygdala, and association by scent. Add to that a particular piece of music. I only have to get a whiff of marijuana and I feel nauseated, because the smell takes me back, in a limbic sense, to the party night in Melbourne, also when I hear the tune ‘Last Train To London, from ELO (Electric Light Orchestra), I go back to the memory my head down a toilet bowl.  On a positive note, music and scent, are very powerful healers for changing and shifting states, particularly if you anchor an essential oil smell to an affirming and positive moment in your life. My next workshop is based on this very subject, Anchoring & Shifting State With Essential Oils.

Prevention of Addiction:

Fortunately for me, I never became an alcoholic or drug addict.  I had some luck, some good parenting, and circumstances that enforced my repulsion to alcohol particularly.  The limbic association to my experience also helped. Perhaps essential oils and positive anchoring could be a therapy introduced to help people avoid alcohol or any sort of addictive substance.  Extreme idea yes, but associating the taste and smell with something really unpleasant (vomiting or pain) could very likely offer a prevention for addictions.  Prevention Strategies Link.

Ahh, but if only it was that simple!  For the very reason I mentioned earlier, younger brains are vulnerable, and when a kid grows up in an environment where alcohol and drugs are considered the norm, and nutrition, and choice of associates/friends are not even given a chance or high priority, that’s a cocktail for an unhealthy head right there, leading to a lifestyle of woe! Monkey see, Monkey do!

In our country alone, how many households are festering with violence, poor nutrition, abusive behavior, chemical addictions, lost causes, unemployment, unrealized dreams, deceit, despair, and depression?  It’s hard to know, but if you catch a glimpse of the evening news, the majority of the stories are connected to someone who has come unhinged, which takes me back to a ‘hurting head’.  Hurt people, hurt people!

Here’s a quick summary of my suggestions for a Healthy Head:

  1.  Become aware of your thoughts - keep a journal.
  2.  Actively engage in different activities - learn something new.
  3.  Don’t drink alcohol or at least if you do, don’t normalize it!
  4.  Learn about drugs, and teach your kids about them, that way the taboo is removed!
  5.  Chose your company wisely - you are the sum total of the people you hang around with.
  6.  Be mindful of what other people insist you do, in other words, make up your own mind.
  7.  Attend one of Annie Clark’s Anchoring Scent For Positive Change classes ASAP’.
  8.  Use essential oils intelligently.
  9.  Exercise and use your body more, get physical during the day so you have better sleep at night.
  10.  Avoid playing contact sports when you are young unless you wear a crash helmet.
  11.  Attend one of Annie’s Raw Food Workshops to spice up your daily menu.
  12.  Cut back on animal products in your diet.
  13.  Practice kindness to others as your priority.
  14. Cultivate a garden - every problem in the world can be solved with a garden!
  15. Actively seek out any of Michael J Fox’s films, they will inspire you.
  16. Purchase Lifestyle Reset, The Essential Guide To Healing You and the Planet book.

So if you have managed to read to this point, you may want to follow me into part two.  Part two gets into society and subjects that you may not have linked yet to emotional and mental health, which is why I divided this into two parts.  I welcome your comments.

Thank you, x Annie,

References:  The Body A Guide For Occupants, Bill Bryson.

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