Welcome back to part 2 of our exclusive interview with John Mekrut, founder of The Balanced Brain, a holistic mental...
Stress reduction with HeartMath biofeedback
When clients first come to see us, they are puzzled that our training involves watching movies on a monitor.
Neurofeedback training is based on the idea that the brain is capable of learning and adapting, and that by providing it with feedback about its own activity, it can learn to regulate itself more effectively. This is similar to the way in which we learn any new skill or behavior, by receiving feedback about our performance and adjusting our behavior accordingly.
I am careful to explain that it is not the movie that is doing the training but that the brain is observing the fluctuations in screen size (it gets bigger and smaller), volume (the sound gets softer and louder and brightness (the screen gets dimmer and brighter).
Your brain is connected to a computer by sensors which are reading, in real time, the small changes in electrical activity your brain produces and when activity is too much or too little, the computer program changes some or all those elements of the movie you’re watching.
I also carefully explain that is not the therapist who is manipulating the screen but your own brain! We are there to decide on the location for training, the training parameters and to monitor to success of the session.
The goal of the training is for the brain, the subconscious part, to learn how to control its activity so that it remains within the desired range, which can help improve symptoms related to various conditions, such as anxiety, depression, ADHD, and chronic pain.
What you witness are those very fluctuations, some of them useful, some not. That is the essence of neurofeedback, allowing the brain to observe its own changes and modulate them accordingly.
The good news is that is a very willing participant in the process since that is what it does every day, all day, take in information about the environment, evaluate its usefulness and adjust its behavior. It learns, it’s designed that way.
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Getting To Know Brain Rewiring With John Mekrut of The Balanced Brain (Part 1)
Discovering the best approach to mental health and overall brain health can be a daunting task. With so many experts, programs, and methods for promoting brain wellness out there in the world, it’s difficult to know where to turn. As founder of “The Balanced Brain”, John Mekrut has developed an evidence-based cognitive programming program called ‘Brain Rewiring’ with tremendous potential for those looking for positive change in their lives. In this post, you’ll get a chance to meet John Mekrut before diving into his revolutionary method of improving well-being through rewiring neural pathways in order to break cycles of negative thought patterns or behaviors—but don’t worry; he’s not a robot! He’s a kind, welcoming, relatable, and humorous person trained as much in personal anecdotes as evidence-based practice; he perfectly combines both worlds while keeping things light yet meaningful within his training sessions. Let’s jump right into our chat with John and explore what makes him & The Balanced Brain special.
Before Journeying inside The Balanced Brain
If you’re someone totally new to managing mental and overall health issues or just trying to find a better way of looking after an affected family member, you will need help opening up the doorway into uncharted territory.
For that, this question was asked John Mekrut:
I have quite a bit of experience with traditional mental treatments and am willing to try something new. How will this experience be different from what I had?
Lots of the people who come to us have tried lots of different things, not the least of which are medications. They’ve done psychotherapy as well. Neurofeedback is rarely the first thing they try, to be honest, but that’s not currently how it works.
According to John, how the system currently works is that you’re having anxiety, depression, or something. Then, you go to your doctor, and he or she says, “Well, it sounds like you have anxiety. Here’s a prescription for Zoloft.” In other words, they give you a prescription for some medication based on their training and experience if that’s what’s right for the particular condition.
“Our argument in neurofeedback is that (medication) should be the last option. I mean, the only time for medications is in dire circumstances. Medications are not designed as long-term interventions. There are no studies on them. Nobody’s followed up on this or done a study on these medications in the past six months, maybe a year. “Truthfully, nobody has any idea, 20 years out, what the effects of benzodiazepines are,” he said.
Furthermore, John mentioned that the theory behind the medication intervention is wrongheaded, to begin with.
A Push to An Integrative Approach
John said beginning with the least obtrusive methods is a surefire way to success.
“We’re not medical providers, but I understand the principles you look at when you look at your meditative posture in the world: how well can you calm yourself as a human being? What are your spiritual connections to your family, your friends, and to nature?”
As John emphasized, there are six pillars of lifestyle medicine. He made sure to highlight some of the following:
Exercise. Get your heart pumping and blood flowing with just a few simple steps—no need to join that crowded gym! A leisurely stroll around the neighborhood can make all the difference in achieving better physical health.
Diet and nutrition: Nutrition is fundamental to good mental health. If you are eating junk food, your brain isn’t going to work very well; it’s as simple as that.
Sleep. People don’t sleep enough. They stay up because they’re on their phones, scrolling through. Put the gadgets down and get some real sleep. Sleep is the restorative place where your brain and body repair themselves.
Stop consuming things that are hurting you. That includes bad food, but it also includes alcohol, cigarettes, drugs—all of it, including, by the way, prescribed medications. These are not helping your brain heal itself. They’re not helping your body heal itself. It has almost full capacity.
An important exemption that John mentioned is insulin. If the pancreas doesn’t produce enough of it, you need to take insulin. There’s no argument around that. However, most of the medications that were prescribed culturally need rethinking. “You could fix a lot of different things and avoid a lot of pain, which is certainly true in the mental health field. All of them, from Zoloft to all of the other drugs that get commonly prescribed, have very limited uses in acute situations. They are not long-term management strategies,” John pointed out.
Address the Electrical Realities
John Mekrut: People who come to us have already tried everything. They’ve been down the medication road. They’ve had five years of psychotherapy. They still don’t feel well, and they’re wondering why. Our answer is: you haven’t fixed your brain circuits.
John further said that the source of issues like anxiety, depression, migraines, headaches, panic attacks, and more is your brain screaming out to you that there’s a problem and it needs your attention. It’s like the brain is going to make you feel so bad that you do something about it.
Doing something about it does not imply masking symptoms; it means remaining vigilant.You feel like that all the time because your brain circuits are propelling you to “feel that way.”
“Fix the brain circuit that gives rise to that feeling. Now you can go on about your life, and you don’t need to take the anxiety medication.”
The clients that have come to The Balance Brain have experimented with all of those other approaches, and it hasn’t worked for them. “They want to get off the drug,” John said.
John, additionally, said “You’re messing with systems that are finally tuned to work properly. We’re inserting ourselves into a chemical solution that isn’t appropriate. Chemistry does not push brain function; electricity does. The chemicals are there to support, enhance, ameliorate, and make more efficient a normal electrical function that happens in the brain. Address the electrical realities, and you’ll solve the problem downstream.”
An Evolving Understanding of Mental Health
As someone who will be interested in how the Balanced Brain can help people who may be struggling with mental health conditions and challenges, I asked John:
How do you think the general public’s understanding of mental health is evolving?
Here’s his perspective:
“Mental health has evolved over the centuries from evil spirits and possession by the devil to all kinds of esoteric viewpoints on mental health. I think what we’re finally realizing is that there’s so much biology involved that it’s less conscious than we ever thought.”
A Deep Biology
John talked further about the deep biology of mental health challenges like anxiety and depression and how people have started to recognize the role of brain circuit behavior in how we feel. The feeling is an interpretation that the brain makes at a conscious level, but it is based on a deeper inner experience that the brain itself is having. The brain is having difficulties processing sensory information in a way that makes sense, so it gets confused and doesn’t know how to act or respond properly.
All of the ideas have to come together very quickly. We have to be able to understand what is happening around us and how we feel about it. We also need to be able to remember things that are similar so that we can act appropriately. If there’s a challenge anywhere in that system, the behavior that you wish to exhibit isn’t going to be accurate at the moment.
“But if the organic structure of the brain and the circuits themselves aren’t producing the appropriate information for you, your behavior is therefore going to suffer. It’s going to be different—not what you expect, not what you intend,” John highlighted.
John highlighted the extensive range of mental health issues that are rooted in our organic brain circuits, such as panic attacks, depression, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). By understanding these pathways more deeply, we can help people work through their challenges both physically and psychologically—a fascinating connection between mind and body.
It’s not that you have a character flaw—you’re an alcoholic, you’re a drug addict, or you have a problem.
“Your brain is driving you to seek out substances or actions that make itself feel better. It doesn’t know that it’s not very good for you to take heroin. It’s just thinking, ‘I feel better when I do.’ It’s your brain talking, not your consciousness,” John asserted.
Despite our better judgment, we often struggle with the desire to drink to excess. Our brains may be making decisions for us that cause addiction in an attempt to cope with underlying traumatic experiences. All of these circuits get laid down throughout our lives, from childhood to the present, and all have a net result.
The Malleability of the Brain Circuits
John revealed the amazing truth that our brains are not bound by genetics; they can be reshaped and continually evolve. With every new knowledge packet, we gain, we upgrade, so to speak, growing in skill or understanding as life goes on. We have a chance of redeeming ourselves with its plasticity, no matter where we started off at birth.
“Some of our animal ancestors operated that way; their entire structure of life was reactive in nature. They’re predetermined to do certain things because that’s the way their brains operate. They don’t have a cortex, and they don’t have the ability to learn. That’s the joy of being a human being—we can learn new behaviors all the time. We always do. The trick is to learn good behaviors that replace bad behaviors with good behaviors,” mentioned John.
We have the ability to teach the brain to operate more efficiently, with more stability, and with a more proactive consciousness in terms of itself, so our behaviors match our expectations.
Neurofeedback enables us to observe the brain in real-time and direct its behavior. Unlike traditional interventions, neurofeedback doesn’t require conscious effort or awareness; it works passively through observation alone! In this way, our brains can understand how their own activity translates into tangible changes that enhance performance without any extra input. Fascinatingly enough, John explains: “It is learning by observing itself in real time!”
Helping the Brain
John from the Balanced Brain revealed that their mission is to aid clients in discovering new aspects of the brain and how it works.
Nutrition is a big aspect.
Your brain is only going to work as well as the food. It receives the vitality of the food delivered to it and its nutritional components. You have to eat well.
You have to sleep.
Allow the brain time to repair itself during the rest periods. When we abuse those two things—nutrition and sleep—we are going to have a world of troubles.
To truly be content, we must connect with our loved ones and the nature around us. Taking time for ourselves to explore the beauty of our environment is essential to cultivating healthy relationships that can last a lifetime.
Exercise doesn’t mean you have to go to the gym and become a bodybuilder. We can simply walk around. There’s a huge benefit to just walking, and we don’t do enough of it.
We have to avoid toxins.
We all like a cocktail or two. We need to minimize that as much as possible. Alcohol’s a poison, even when we enjoy it occasionally. Moderation is key in life, and it’s a concept that applies to all aspects of our day. Limiting toxic intake, whether through information overload or environmental pollution, can have an immense impact on the health of both our body and mind.
Having explored the complexities of brain rewiring, it’s clear there’s a lot to learn. John Mekrut encourages an integrative approach that speaks to the electrical realities in our brains. We have an evolving understanding of mental health and can recognize circuit behaviors. This malleability of the brain circuits offers lots of hope for real change in our lives. It turns out there are many ways we can help our brains when we don’t feel able to go on as we are.
The knowledge and empowering understanding that comes from spending time with John will help you find your way back into peace and balance in your life. It’s no longer necessary to live in distress, whatever form your struggles may take. If you’ve been seeking clarity and direction, The Balanced Brain is ready to be your new best friend on this journey toward healing. You don’t have to take this step alone! There’s support available just by scheduling a discovery call, so take the first step today!
For an even more detailed look, dive deeper into Part 2 of this story—you won’t be disappointed!
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At The Balanced Brain, we help people from all walks of life discover the potential that lies within. Through our groundbreaking strategies like brain rewiring and more, we provide unprecedented resources for better mental health and well-being.
To learn more about this transformative approach to wellness – join in on the revolution and schedule your personalized discovery call today! As neuroscience continues to trust us with forward-looking applications for improving lives and augmenting performance, why not let The Balanced Brain be the bridge to unlocking your brilliance?
“Brain Rules” with Dr. John Medina
Brain Rules are things we know for sure about how the human brain works. Dr. John Medina uncovers details and imparts lessons every teacher, parent, business leader, and curious person deserves to understand.