How Beliefs Change Your Brain

We’ve talked before about how our core beliefs impact the interpretation of events and our actions, but did you know that your beliefs actually change your brain? Tim Jennings, President of the American Psychiatric Association’s Tennessee chapter, likens the relationship to a fire alarm, much like the ones in your office building. This ‘fire alarm’ area of the brain, called the Amygdala, and it is responsible for:

1) Getting your body’s attention in a crisis

2) Alerting the ‘fire chief’ of potential problems

When you’re afraid, your Amygdala releases adrenaline, which alerts the 911 operator (the Hypothalamus) that something is wrong. The 911 operator sends a message to the radio tower (your Pituitary gland), which transmits a hormone signal to your emergency response system (your Adrenal glands), which in turn sends out first responders (glucocorticoids).

Like a sophisticated alarm system, your brain is pre-wired to deal with emergencies. You have a fight or flight response that’s adaptive and responds well to imminent threats. Unfortunately, constant “fire fighting” impacts your body’s natural alarm system—leading to chronic damage. Simply put, if your body believes you are in constant danger, your brain will suffer the consequences. For you and your Corporate Family members this means that, if the alarms aren’t turned off, stress will impair physical growth (shunting blood away from your internal organs towards the musculoskeletal system), weaken your immune systems (by using resources unnecessarily), and even impact your rational thought process, clouding your judgment.

Leadership is full of stress, but balanced leaders must directly address the warning signs of an overloaded system. In addition to directly dealing with problems, you also must take time off from time to time to “reboot” your system. Personal and professional life balance is critical for long term success. Not only will you have more impact in your organization when you find this balance, but you’ll also be a powerful role-model to everyone in your sphere of influence.