The Scoop: Therapy, medication, and other long-term behavioral strategies may not help people control their stress levels in real time, but the Emotional Brain Training app can. For couples who want to improve their relationships and strengthen their connection, the Emotional Brain Training process can teach them how to tap into their emotions in powerful ways.
Reducing stress is one of the best ways for people to improve their emotional, mental, and physical health. However, many individuals and couples find that therapy, meditation, yoga classes, and even medication don’t quite help them solve their problem, especially in the moment.
Emotional Brain Training, or EBT, can help people deal with the stress that can adversely impact their professional and personal relationships.
“We know what we should do — exercise, eat healthy, be loving — but stress blocks us from doing it. Once people learn how to process emotions, we see change quickly. When I initially saw the power of these tools in my research, we didn’t have the science to know why people changed so rapidly,” said Dr. Laurel Mellin, the Founder of EBT. “But what we learned over the next decades was the emotional brain is where it’s at.”
The limbic system in the brain is the area that governs behavioral and emotional responses, and memory. Fear, anger, happiness, and love, among other emotions that make up the human experience, have their origin in the limbic system, which is located between the brain stem and the two cerebral hemispheres.
Scientists still have many questions about the brain’s role in the processing of a range of emotions. But a growing understanding has emerged on how the emotional brain works, especially how it retains pathways that can help prevent and treat health problems, including stress.
Research shows that it is possible to sidestep personality traits that surface when stress is high, so couples can have healthier conversations even during the most challenging times.
Emotional Brain Training, which is available through a dedicated app, is a tool people can use to strengthen and grow those neural pathways with just a little practice each day. Over time, it becomes easier for people to quickly return to a low-stress state of mind and operate at their best.
“Within two to three minutes, you find you’re connected and at your best,” Dr. Mellin said. “And to do this, we have to express our emotions in a very specific way.”
Training Developed From Personal Experience
More than four decades ago, Dr. Mellin had just been hired at a university when she found out she was pregnant. Having had a previous miscarriage, her doctor put her on bed rest. So she started researching and writing to support her faculty position.
She learned the science behind the power of the emotional brain, and she ended up writing a best-selling book to teach adults how to create joy in their lives. The book outlines a method to process emotions to control high stress.
Years later, one of her colleagues at the university found himself under a lot of stress. His wife recommended her book, and the professor was blown away by the results. Using his expertise in neuroscience and neurophysiology, he collaborated with Dr. Mellin to spread the word about her work.
“Within a few years, we used EBT as the new health care,” she said. “If you can clear up your stress with these emotions, then 90% of your health problems can improve or be prevented. We’re on the path to get these tools to as many families, couples, and individuals as possible.”
People from all walks of life use EBT, including teens, homeless populations, elderly individuals, and couples of all ages who need help in their relationships. For many of these people, mindfulness techniques weren’t enough to make a dent in their stress levels.
“They wonder why it isn’t working. These are people who are dealing with obesity and addiction and trying to live a purposeful life,” Dr. Mellin said. “We tracked the brain and have the keys to the emotional brain so we can make it work for you.”
A Process That Resets Stress Levels
The body has five levels of stress. Brain State 1 is when the thinking brain is clear, and everything in the body is working well. Intimacy is easy in this state because people feel connected with optimal levels of biochemistry.
Unfortunately, that isn’t the most common state. Dr. Mellin said most people operate in Brain State 4, which is the second-highest level of stress. Chronic stress causes the thinking brain to shut down, making people turn to TV, food, alcohol, or other activities to ease the pressure. Those responses to stress can also lead to emotional withdrawal in a relationship.
Couples may know that disconnection and avoidance aren’t helping, but they don’t know how to get themselves back to Brain State 1, which is when they can experience sexual pleasure, joy, and companionship.
“In stress overload, thinking isn’t enough,” she said. “And trying to be mindful or happy, that’s not productive. Stress is coming into the brain. If you don’t process the emotions from the stress, you repress those feelings, and the stress gets locked into your unconscious mind. It makes you feel chronically anxious.”
The app leads users through the process in a straightforward way. First, someone says (either in one’s own mind or aloud) what the situation is that is causing stress. They clear that quickly, often in two to three minutes, starting with a brief, healthy expression of anger, including “I can’t stand that,” or “I feel angry.”
Then, the feelings start to flow, and the person can continue to express other feelings, including sadness, fear, or hurt. As the negativity bias in the brain clears, they feel positive emotions like gratitude, happiness and pride. It’s all natural and a universal process of optimal resilience.
Emotional Brain Training Teaches Couples to Work Together
Dr. Mellin said EBT works because when you are stressed and use EBT to spiral up out of it, your brain becomes even more resilient. You are training your brain to be highly resilient as well as feeling better in the moment.
“By using EBT, you avoid suppressing emotions, which will catch up with you, believe me. When you feel bad, including if you are angry in your relationship or resentful about a situation, you know the problem is stress. You spiral up to a better state and have a new mindset,” Dr. Mellin told us.
She recommends people interact with the app between five and 10 times a day to express their problem and allow for three to six healthy, robust displays of anger. At first, that may feel counterintuitive.
“Most of us are afraid to express our anger, but in EBT, it’s extremely healthy and only lasts less than a minute,” she said. “Anger is the number one feeling in the brain for releasing stress. If you express it in EBT, you transform sadness, fear, and guilt into positive emotions that are authentic and deep.”
Over time, couples can create a habit of maintaining Brain State 1, which is the key to healthy relationships. One woman who worked with EBT said she was excited and surprised when her partner decided to try it, too.
“I knew I was upset, but on an energetic level, I’m a different person,” the woman told Dr. Mellin. “I used the tools, and I feel a lot better now. I didn’t tell him to do it. I changed myself and watched him begin to change. I brought out the best in myself, and I brought out the best in him, too.”
After the first use of the tools, many people say, “Why doesn’t everyone use this?” And day by day people strengthen their brain’s emotional pathways and see improvements in all areas of life. Couples train their brain to be “wired for a state of connection,” she said. They are often surprised that the problem wasn’t them or the other person. The problem was stress, and EBT made all the difference.
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