Where Attention Goes, Energy Flows; Reducing Insomnia, Hygge and Do Needles Hurt?
February 2020

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heart brain connection
Where Attention Goes, Energy Flows
Rachel Condon, Lic. Ac.

We are continuing on the theme of Heart-Brain Coherence featured in the last few newsletters (click HERE to go to our newsletter archives page to read previous newsletters). I'm sharing another practical application – heart-brain coherence for those who have trouble sleeping. Many of us experience trouble sleeping at one time or another, and for some it’s a familiar challenge: whether it's going to sleep, staying asleep, or waking up too early. Here is a technique that might help calm the mind, and remind your brain that it's time to sleep.
We can apply some of the principles of this new understanding of the connections between the brain and the heart, and also bring in the concept of neuroplasticity -
“the ability of the brain to form and reorganize synaptic connections, especially in response to learning or experience or following an injury”
Another way of saying this, which has become popular in the field of personal growth and transformation, is, where attention goes, energy flows .” Our work at NCA focuses directly on helping your energy to flow better! So let's look at how to help your energy flow in optimal ways at night, when your body needs rest and replenishment.
Here is an exercise with a few simple steps. First, try to find something positive to focus on , either in your immediate environment or in your physical body. Here are some examples of what to focus on:
*the warmth and coziness of your bed
*the closeness of a loved one – partner, child, or animal
*the spaciousness of having a bed all to yourself!
*if experiencing pain, find a part of your body that is not in pain, and appreciate that; same goes for a spot that had been bothering you, if the pain is not there at the moment
*relax your jaw
*notice the profound silence of the night time, and feel how soothing that is to your senses
*notice the quiet humming sounds of your home, whether it’s a furnace coming on, woodstove crackling, or purring animals, etc.
Next, note your “reptilian brain,” (where the fight or flight response gets activated) , likes to get activated during the night and search for what’s not right, it looks for danger, whether it’s in your immediate situation or not. It reviews the day or anticipates the next day’s events, but it always looks for danger, for the worst case scenario (globally or personally).
When you become aware that the reptilian part of your brain is engaged, you can pause, take a deep breath (or two), and thank it for trying to keep you safe. And then give it some reassurance, as you would give a child waking from a bad dream. Tell it that you’re okay. You are safe and cared for in this moment and it can rest. There is absolutely nothing wrong with feeling vulnerable at certain times and needing some comfort and reassurance , and it is a wonderful example of self-care to offer that to yourself, just as you might to a loved one.
Once you’ve calmed that reptilian mind, and you’ve found something positive in your body or immediate environment to focus on, place your awareness, and perhaps a hand, on your heart , and take a few slower, deeper breaths. Feel the appreciation of your warm bed, your back that is not hurting right now, your purring cat, etc. It helps to set a simple intention at this time.
And remember, with any part of this exercise, find something that is meaningful for You, that rings true. The mind is not fooled by you pretending to feel positive . So find something that actually feels positive, reassuring, calming or loving to you in the moment.
Here are a few examples of positive, healing intentions
May I (or my partner, child, family, etc) be at peace right now
May my body be free of pain and worry
May all beings be safe and warm
May my children be safe and free from harm
May our world know peace
May this planet heal and renew itself
You can repeat that to yourself a few times, either in your mind or quietly aloud. Keep your attention on your heart as well, and breathe deeply and slowly. This is a practice. It takes repetition to become more familiar with it, and for it to be easier to do so that you can feel the difference.
Remember, where attention goes, energy flows – as you settle your mind, and tune your own internal frequency towards what is positive in the moment, instead of the worries and what is Not right. You are literally rewiring your brain.

Over time, as we pay more attention to what feels good and is positive in the moment, we may learn to respond differently to a situation . We can start seeing our situations differently. It sends a different message back to our brains, and further strengthens that new neural connection. This new connection or wiring makes it a little easier to seek out and be drawn towards the positive and life-affirming parts of our experiences. Other people start to feel our positivity, and they may respond to us in a different way. One little step at a time, we just might notice our world becoming a better place.
Lifestyle Tips For Reducing Insomnia
Anne-Louise Smallen, Lic. Acu.
Difficulties falling asleep or staying asleep plague many of us. You might toss and turn, wake up too early, and worry about being able to fall back asleep. With age, many people tend to sleep less and worry more. For women, menopause often contributes to changing sleep patterns and can cause increased anxiety at night. Sleep problems are complex and involve the body, mind, emotions, and our capacity for resilience. And naturally, it also can develop out of our habits and lifestyle. 
What do insomniacs report as the cause of their sleep problems? They are many and varied: inability to stop worrying, racing thoughts, ruminating about the past or anticipating future difficulties, dream disturbances, restlessness, and tension in the shoulders and jaw, inability to settle down, poor digestion (evenings are not a good time to snack), the need to urinate at night with difficulty falling asleep when returning to bed, emotional storms (cranky, pissy, frustrated), blocked emotions building up in the throat or chest, anger, worry, night sweats, internal heat, agitation and heart palpitations, etc.
A good place to start changing patterns of insomnia is to improve sleep hygiene.  How do we prepare for a good night of sleep and maximize our chances to rest and wake up rested?

  • Avoid stimulants, alcohol or nicotine 4 to 6 hours before bed
  • Make your bedroom a quiet, dark and cool environment. Blackout curtains, eye masks and earplugs can help and turning the heat down can also save $.
  • Follow the natural circadian cycle of day and night, eat your meals at regular times, sleep at night and be active during the day. 
  • Avoid bad eating habits (eating late, too much, greasy and heavy food)which can cause indigestion, bloating and discomfort, acid reflux and nausea, especially at night
  • Past traumas can cause nightmares and night fears. It is worth seeking help to decrease their effect. It is also good to spend time outside in nature, the great healer, and to exercise especially in the outdoors.
  • If you work on shifts, use off days to restore your circadian cycle. If you have a chance to return to daytime work, consider it: shift work can be hard on your health and impair your sleep.
  • Avoid television, smart phones and computer work at least an hour before bedtime. Do not keep electronics in your bedroom.
  • Do not watch the clock at night. If it’s dark out there, go back to sleep or set your alarm so you do not have to watch the clock to wake up.
  • Invest in a good mattress and pillow.
What else can help?
There are many good natural products available to help:
If you feel that neck, jaw and shoulder tension are bothering you at night and contributing to your sleep problems, take chelated (powdered) magnesium such as Calm before going to bed. It will relax your muscles.
Melatonin can work but only if your body does not naturally produce it. Valerian root can also help. These products do not normally cause habituation like sleeping pills.
Learning to relax and keep a good state of mind is most important, and Rachel’s article about paying attention to what we focus on is right on the mark. Appreciating the coziness and warmth of our bed, the silence of the night time and the simple pleasure of letting go of the day can help us gently fall into sleep. Thinking good thoughts and wishing good things to ourselves, those we love and the planet is a good way to fall into a restorative sleep and be ready to face the next day with a positive attitude, bringing what we can to make a better world. Just like the quiet of winter that prepares the earth for spring energy, sleep prepares us to face a new day.
Hygge - The Danish Art of Being Cozy
Rachel Condon, Lic. Ac.

The art of Hygge helps to cultivate coziness during the winter months, which comes from the Danish culture. We could all take note of this lovely concept, as we move thru the winter months here in New England.

If you take a peek online these days and look for Hygge, you can find many lists, and whole books, dedicated to the art of being cozy, or as some would say, the art of surviving winter!

Here are a few ideas, in case this is a new concept for you:

* reading by a fire or in bed, maybe with your loved one, two or four-legged, as one of our readers suggested - the epitome of cozy!!

* get outside and embrace winter! As long as you're dressed appropriately, you can still get outside and feel some sunshine, enjoy the beautiful outdoors, even try a new activity like skiing, snowshoeing or just gazing at the night sky

*find a sauna and/or hot tub; invite a friend! :)

*make some delicious homemade soups and stews, share with friends/family if you can

My own personal favorite hygge activity so far this winter - on most mornings, once I've gotten up and fed the cats, I'll take my cup of coffee and climb back into bed (!), even for just a few minutes, and write in my journal, meditate for a few minutes, and then read something inspiring to help set the tone for my day, with my snuggly animals nearby.

Anne Louise shares her idea of hygge and relationships here:

What a wonderful concept to be introduced to in the month of February, the heart of winter and a time to appreciate all my relations (friends, pets, nature, etc). The concept of Hygge resonates deeply for me in my connections with others. Not welcoming them by being fancy, perfect, memorable and dazzling; just cozy and welcoming. Remembering that a warm welcome, a smile, a pause in my day to enjoy who shows up at my door, a deep breath to let go of the day’s annoyances and be present is such a gift to myself and most likely to the person I welcome. No phones or computers for a while. Just being there and connecting. What a gift! I can find fellowship in my imperfect humanity and create small magic moments. Maybe I will even light a candle if you have tea with me.
Your Questions Answered: Do the Needles Hurt?
There are actually a number of questions related to this, so we'll see if we can cover the main theme here. Many people who have never had acupuncture before will ask us this, if they hear what we do for work. And you may well have been asked this by a friend or family member, upon hearing that you receive acupuncture.

The simple answer is, No, not usually! Many people, upon hearing the word "needle," think of injection-type needles, which can often hurt, because the gauge of the needle is much thicker than an acupuncture needle, and also because it's injecting a substance into your body, which can cause a pain response. Acupuncture needles are extremely thin, and most acupuncturists in the US use tubes to assist in the process, because the needles are so thin that the needle will just bend and not go underneath the skin otherwise.

A more complete answer, however, would be, not usually, but sometimes it can hurt a little, very briefly, like a pinch . This depends on the sensitivity of the person, the skill of the acupuncturist, the location of the needle (some spots are just more sensitive to needle with everyone), and also the anticipatory response of the patient. If you are bracing in anticipation of pain, it's likely going to hurt more than if you can try to relax - focus on your breath during needle placement, especially if the idea of the needles makes you nervous - this can be extremely helpful and you'll feel the needles less.

If you are receiving acupuncture, and a needle hurts more than that brief pinch that's gone within a second or two, then please - Tell Us!

Acupuncture is not meant to be a painful experience. You are not meant to suffer thru anything on the treatment table in silence. And by all means, it doesn't Have to Hurt in order for it to be "doing something!" This is a misunderstanding that many people have as well. It's that concept of, No Pain, No Gain. And that is an idea that does NOT belong in an acupuncture treatment. The main goal here is to help create conditions in your body to promote the greatest healing response, and inducing pain intentionally does the Opposite.

There are other sensations that may occur once the needles are placed, and we'll cover those in another article. But we wanted to address this very commonly asked question first.

If you have a question you've always wanted to ask, please email us HERE or ask when you come in for your treatment.
Northampton Community Acupuncture 413-586-8251 nohocommunityacupuncture.com