90-Second Storm Warning for Your Mind

What a confusing time for Wisconsin. This reference is not to football or politics, but rather the weather.  58 degrees a short time ago with no measurable snow fall. After a few days with our nose linings stuck together and seeing lots of white, we are in the depths of winter.  The snow and cold was predicted, but reactions to winter finally arriving have been mixed.  In Colorado, extreme weather changes are typical; golfing one day and cross country skiing the next.  The saying in the mountains used to be if you don’t like the weather, wait 10 minutes.

The “wait ten minutes” weather joke and the need to discuss emotional storms with my 9 year olds had me revisiting Jill Bolte Taylor’s 90-second rule.  Dr. Taylor is a neuroscientist who suffered a stroke at the age of 37 and wrote about it in her book, “My Stroke of Insight”.  Her rule explains how it only takes 90 seconds for the body to have an emotional circuit triggered, send the chemicals flushing through the body to put it on full alert, and totally flush it out of the body.

“It’s predictable circuitry, so paying attention to what circuits you are triggering and what that feels like inside your body, you can recognize it when it has happened. Whether it is my fear circuitry or my anger circuitry or even my joy circuitry – it is really hard to hold a good belly laugh for more than 90 seconds naturally. The 90-second rule is totally empowering. That means for 90 seconds, I can watch this happen, I can feel this happen and I can watch it go away. After that, if I continue to feel that fear or feel that anger, I need to look at the thoughts I am thinking that are re-stimulating that circuitry.  You can continue to make yourself mad all day and the more you obsess over whatever it is, the more you run that loop.  We can all learn that we can take full responsibility for what thoughts we are thinking and what emotional circuitry we are feeling. Knowing this and acting on this can lead us into feeling a wonderful sense of well-being and peacefulness.”  – Dr. Taylor

The weather in Wisconsin may take more than 10 minutes to change, but it is forecasted. We can contemplate ahead what it will feel like on our body, and respond by adding layers, seeking shelter, or react with emotion and complain about it.   The 90 second rule is like a weather report for our mind.  We learn to predict when and what situations will trigger our circuitry.  Then when we feel emotion filling our body, the mind can choose to stay stuck in the response, or wait 90 seconds for the storm to blow through.  Think of the neuro-cascade of chemicals like snow beginning to fall and prepare to take shelter in the present moment.

I highly recommend watching the TED video talk by Jill Bolte Taylor:

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