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Season 1, Episode 7: Cell Danger Response and the Parasympathetic State with Elisa Song, MD

By Jodi Cohen

Podcast episode feature: jodi cohen, ntp, and elisa song, md, discuss 'cell danger response and the parasympathetic state' on 'essential alchemy - the ancient art of healing naturally.'.

With Elisa Song, MD, you’ll learn the cell danger response, the connection between the vagus nerve, cell danger response, and chronic illness, how to build cellular resilience in response to stress.

  • What is the cell danger response?
  • Vagus nerve, cell danger response and chronic illness
  • How to build cellular resilience in response to stress

About Elisa Song

Elisa H. Song, MD founded Whole Child Wellness, a holistic pediatric practice, in 2005. She graduated with distinction from Stanford University. Dr. Song attended NYU School of Medicine and trained in Pediatrics at UCSF Medical Center. She earned a Master’s degree in public policy from UC Berkeley. Dr. Song has additional training in Functional Medicine/Holistic Nutrition, Homeopathy & Bio-therapeutic drainage, Traditional Chinese Medicine, and Herbal Medicine. She is board-certified in Pediatrics and Holistic Medicine and is a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Dr. Song is a DAN! practitioner.

Dr. Song integrates allopathic (conventional) pediatrics with complementary & alternative medicine to meet the unique physical, psychological, social, and spiritual needs of each child. She believes in the innate healing capacity of each child’s body and mind, and that her role is to facilitate this process through a holistic, integrative approach.

If you’re enjoying the Essential Alchemy podcast, please leave Jodi a review on iTunes.

Jodi: Hi, welcome to the Parasympathetic Summit. I’m your host, Jodi Cohen. And I’m so excited to be joined today by Holistic Mama Doc, Elisa Song. She’s a holistic pediatrician, a pediatric functional medicine expert, and a momma to two crazy, fun, gorgeous children. In her integrative pediatric practice for whole family wellness, she’s helped thousands of kids get to the root cause of their health concerns. Ranging from frequent colds, ear infections, asthma to eczema, autism, ADD, ADHD, anxiety, depression, and autoimmune diseases so they can thrive. And she does this by integrating conventional pediatrics with functional medicine, homeopathy, acupuncture, herbal medicine, and essential oils.

And today, she’s going to share with us some information on the parasympathetic state and the cell danger response. Welcome, Elisa.

Dr. Song: Thanks Jodi for having me with an important topic, especially for this time.

Jodi Cohen: I know. I know. So, I’m wondering for people who don’t really know what the cell danger response is and how that relates to the vagus nerve, and the parasympathetic state. If you could just lay that groundwork for us.

Dr. Song: Absolutely. So, the cell danger response, it’s a primitive cellular response that we developed, our cells developed, way back in a caveman days, to really deal with any threat to our survival. Beautifully described by Dr. Robert Naviaux down at UC San Diego. And I would highly recommend, if you are a practitioner or parent who’s really curious about the science, to read his seminal papers in the journal, Mitochondrion. He is a beautiful writer. The material is very dense.

I’m not going to lie. Every time I read it, I glean a new factoid because it’s just so dense. But I’m going to try to describe it in a nutshell, because I do believe that understanding cell dangerous response and the work of Dr. Robert Naviaux has described for us, is life-changing. It will change the way we think about chronic disease. It will change the way we think about how to prevent and reverse chronic illness in our children and in adults. Which right now, with the COVID-19 pandemic, we are realizing it is lifestyle and chronic diseases that put us and our children at the highest risk for complications. So, especially now, we need to understand this.

So, the cell danger response, as I mentioned, is a primitive cellular response to any threat to our survival. But what’s really important to understand is this threat to our survival can be physical and psychological. It’s a very same response, whether it’s to an infection, to an environmental toxin, or to a psychological stressor, right? Our cells didn’t have the opportunity to create, you know, a hundred different cellular responses to different threats. And so, it’s the same cellular response.

So, what happens is, you know, in a day to day normal state of good health, we are living in what’s called the health cycle. Where we’re awake, we have our normal wakeful metabolic activities. In the ideal state corresponds with our seasonal environments. And then, we sleep. And sleep is restorative. Sleep is essential to having this proper health cycle. When there is a threat to our survival, let’s say there is an emotional trauma or a serious infection that triggers the cells to enter the cell in response. And the cell danger response has three distinct phases that our cells have to move through and successfully pass each stage in order to get back to the health cycle.

So, I’ll briefly describe each stage. In the first stage of the cell danger response, what happens is that injured cell or those cells, they release something called ATP, also histamine into our environment. And wall themselves off from the rest of our body. They become independent, right? Our cells normally communicate with all the other cells in our bodies. But those cells become independent, walled up because they want to protect us from further damage. In that phase, our cells are trying to neutralize that threat. They are kind of recruiting all of our other immune cells to the area and say, “Hey, whatever that threat is, whether it’s psychological or physical, let’s get rid of it.”

Psychological stress creates the same amount of cellular inflammation as physical stress. Really important to know. Now, once that threat is neutralized, our cells enter past the cell danger response phase one. And enter phase two. If that can’t be successfully neutralized, then what happens is that that threat is then walled off even further and kind of tucked away so that our immune system can be protected.

In the second phase of the cell danger response, our cells start to repair. And that’s where if you know functional medicine, that’s all of our functional medicine tools that we have to support the gut microbiome, support nutritional deficiency, support mitochondrial health. You know, reduce histamine and mast cell activation, to really repair cells. And also, create new cells. So, stem cells are recruited to create new cells. So, now we have these healthy cells in place.

Once that happens, our cells can then enter phase three. This is the critical phase. In phase three, those cells, remember in phase one, those cells became independent from the rest of our body. While our cells can’t operate independently from the rest of our body forever. So, in phase three, those cells need to reconnect back to our body, back to our brain, back to the rest of our cells. And that happens through the vagus nerve. Really, really important. If our vagus nerve is not functional, then those cells can never reconnect back to our brain and body. And our cells then, cannot then enter into the health cycle of normal wakeful activity and restorative sleep activity.

Now, why is that so important?

Jodi Cohen: That is beautiful.

Dr. Song: It’s really a powerful thing to really understand because what Dr. Naviaux has also identified is, you know, really any of our chronic illnesses. Whether they are autism, ADHD, rheumatoid arthritis, type one diabetes, other autoimmune phenomena, he’s identified that many of these conditions are really a factor of being stuck. Our cells being stuck in certain phases of the cell danger response. And virtually, all of our chronic illness, you know, bipolar disease, mental health illnesses, physical and psychological illnesses. They are a matter of our cells being stuck in phase three. Unable to connect with the vagus nerve, which is why your Summit, this Summit, talking about the parasympathetic state, and really how to engage our vagus nerve at all stages of health and at all ages is so important to really stay healthy. And also, to get out of being stuck if we are sick with any chronic illness.

Jodi Cohen: Yeah. And you said so many things that are so valuable that I think people don’t realize. Like so many adults and parents of young children are like, why? “Why are they not getting better? Look, I’m doing everything right. What am I missing?” And this is what they are missing.

Dr. Song: And what I also see for a lot of kids, you know, when you start to practice functional medicine and really get to the root cause, root causes, the triggers, identifying the triggers of illness, we can get so many incredible results. But what I see is we can get kids better. We can get kids almost, you know, actually in remission or we think they’re in remission. But then they keep getting sick again. They keep going back.

Jodi Cohen: The story is not over.

Dr. Song: Yes. And just because you are in that state of remission and you think, “Wow, I’m there.” If we don’t engage the vagus nerve fully, if we don’t know how to maintain that parasympathetic state, we’re going to keep sliding back, right? Adults see this, right? Adults with chronic, you know, Lyme, candida, or with depression. And when they finally come out of it, and then something happens and they slide right back. So, we need that cellular resilience that occurs through the vagus nerve and the parasympathetic state to maintain our health.

Jodi Cohen: Yeah. And you said something that I really want to land on for a little bit. Just this idea of anticipatory stress, psychological stress, and how that can set you off. Because, you know, back in the early days, we needed to anticipate danger in order to stay safe. And now, that’s almost like a runaway train. Can you speak a little bit to how kids who had psychological trauma, how that can set off the cell danger response?

Dr. Song: Yeah. So, you know, we have to think about and I’m glad you put as psychological trauma. Because when we think about stress, you know, stress is not a bad thing, right? Just as you mentioned, stress, you know, let’s take the caveman days right. Everyone’s heard of the saber tooth tiger analogy. When a saber tooth tiger was charging at us, we should be stressed, right? We should think, “Okay, do I run? Do I stay and fight?” You know what happens, right? Or do I just freeze.

Jodi Cohen: Do I play dead?

Dr. Song: Do I play dead, right? So, you know, in that moment that stress triggers reaction. We all know, right? As adults, when we have a deadline and we’re stressed about it, that’s what triggers us into action. And it gets stuff done. Same thing with our kids. If we had no deadlines, if life was, you know, free of stress. Would we ever get anything done? Probably not, right? I mean, we would just be kind of sitting there.

And so stress can be adaptive. Stress can be helpful. In fact, the cell danger response that Dr. Naviaux described is every time our cells successfully go through the cell danger response, they actually develop something called, it’s a long work, mito-cellular hormesis. We have a memory of how to handle that stress for the next time and do it even better.

Jodi Cohen: Cellular resilience.

Dr. Song: Cellular resilience, right. You know, when we think of resilience in our kids, we think of emotional resilience. The ability to bounce back, right? And the ability to be stronger for the next hit. That’s exactly what our cells are doing when they go through the cell danger response.

So, for our kids and for us, when we have acute stress, it can be adaptive. The problem is when we have so many stressors coming at us. The soccer game, the exam and, you know, the chores at home, the friendship drama, and the social media drama, all of that. And our body and brain feels like we are constantly facing 24/7 that saber tooth tiger. And it’s not letting up. So, that’s one thing. It’s the number of increased stressors.

The other factor, too, is the fact that we as adults, many of us have not learned how to develop emotional resilience. So, we have not been able to teach and model for our kids that cellular resilience. What’s the number one coping mechanism that most adults have?

Jodi Cohen: Avoidance.

Dr. Song: Avoidance, right? It’s avoidance. Brush it under the rug. I’ll deal with it later. It’s not that big of a deal. It’s okay, it’s just in my head.

Jodi Cohen: Yeah. And there are healthy avoidance strategies, like being a workaholic or over exercising. And less healthy ones, where you get into substance abuse or you are attached to your device. And are distracting, yeah.

Dr. Song: That’s right. And then, when we model that behavior, even if it’s unspoken, right? And for momma’s, if you are a momma listening, what happens when your kids are crying, and they are frustrated? The first thing you want to do is make it right. ‘It’s okay honey. Let me fix it for you. Oh, you can’t get that block into the shape sort of. Let me do it. Let me show you how.”

It starts from when they are toddlers that we are showing that it’s not okay to be frustrated. It’s not okay to be sad and upset. It’s not okay to be angry. We just have to, you know, put on a happy face and move on, right?

And so, we’re not serving our children because we’re not allowing them opportunities to face these stressors and frustrations. And learn how to manage at a cellular and an emotional level and bounce back. And so, then we talk about, you know, chronic multiple stressors. And also, the inability to develop emotional and cellular resilience. And on top of that, we have the trauma, right? We have the trauma of maybe, you know, divorce. My parents had a really not pleasant divorce when I was 12.

You know, we have the trauma of living in poverty, the trauma of witnessing violence in our homes or in our communities, right? We have all of these traumas that can be defined as adverse childhood experiences, ACEs, right? That are from the outside, look like emotional traumas. But we know that these ACEs, there are many, many studies that these ACEs, adverse childhood events in childhood can set the stage for increased risk for pretty much every single chronic illness in adulthood.

Jodi Cohen: Because they throw us into the cell danger response and we never complete. So, our bodies never able to regenerate.

Dr. Song: That’s right. I mean, that’s where the cell danger response is a unifying factor in understanding why these ACEs set that stage. Because at an early age, our cells had so much trauma that they weren’t able to successfully go through the cell danger response. And perhaps, remember phase one, if that that cellular insults, the toxic insult is not dealt with. That toxic threat, even that toxic psychological threat is not dealt with. In order to move to the second phase, that threat becomes walled off. So, what happens when you have these multiple emotional and cellular infectious traumas that are walled off? Eventually, your immune system can’t handle it anymore.

And so, this is where understanding the role of psychological and emotional trauma in setting the stage for chronic illness is really, really key. And I do worry in this time right now, where we’re going through the pandemic, we are going through the-

Jodi Cohen: The isolation.

Dr. Song: The isolation, the social isolation, right? And also the upheaval of really unearthing, you know, racial injustice, racial violence, and understanding our role, you know, in either subtly reinforcing this or coming out and saying we’re going to make a difference. We are in this strange, strange time that no one has ever come before.

Jodi Cohen: But we might feel disempowered. Yes, yes.

Dr. Song: But we have this opportunity, right? We have this opportunity now where we can make that shift for ourselves, for our families, for the community, for the world. It’s a time of disequilibrium. And, you know, we have a lot of discomfort right now. But it’s in that zone of discomfort where we can choose, you know, to really kind of move forward in a way that serves not just us, but, you know, we’re a community.

Jodi Cohen: Humanity. Well, that was actually my why for this Summit. You know, my son died. He was 12. It was sudden. It was horrible. And in realizing that I couldn’t stay stuck because I had a daughter. And I had to figure out how to move through hard things. It was not fun. It was not comfortable. Helping to balance and activate the vagus nerve seemed to make the biggest difference. Once I was on the other side, or a little bit better able to navigate through pain, everything else felt easier. It was like the whole world shifted and my health improved.

I had Hashimoto’s that went into remission. All of these things that I didn’t realize were psychological at their roots started to get better. And I realized to your point, you know, there are certain things that are outside of our control. But what’s inside of our control is how we respond to these emotional threats and build cellular resilience.

And I’d love for you to talk about, I know you have so many tools that you use with your children. What do you like to do? What can people do right now for themselves, for their families?

Dr. Song: There are so many tools. And, you know, as a mom and a pediatrician, you know, and during this time where we are in social isolation, social distancing. We are not any less busy than we were before the quarantine, before the pandemic. In fact, many of us are even busier, right? Managing many more jobs than we certainly had anticipated.

Jodi Cohen: Yes. We are suddenly the cleaning lady, the cook, and the tutor.

Dr. Song: That’s right, that’s right. On top of our other full time, you know, trying to sustain our family financially. And so, yes, we need to have tools that are easy to do, practical, and also inspiring, right? Who wants to do something that’s just not fun and there’s no way you’re going to get your kids to do something that’s not fun? For your older kids, you know, your middle schoolers and your high schoolers, this is the time to really educate them about the vagus nerve, the parasympathetic.

You know, I could tell my kids and my kids are entering fifth grade and fourth grade in the fall. And in elementary school, I mean, they have their social, emotional learning. They have yoga in school. You know, they are taught breathwork. But it’s more of a fun like, “Oh yeah, let’s get Zen.” They are not understanding. They do it and they love it, right? But as they get older, it’s really helping them understanding, it’s not just to feel happy. It’s literally to be healthy, strong, and vibrant.

Jodi Cohen: Yes.

Dr. Song: And for your teenagers especially, having them understand the physiology and what it’s doing, is really important. Because that’s what’s going to engage them to want to do this.

Jodi Cohen: But feeling happy, feeling safe, feeling grateful, all of those things allow yourself to relax and complete the cycle.

Dr. Song: That’s right. That’s right. So, one of my favorite tools, and I usually have it right with me. And I can’t find it. But it’s called Hearts Math. So, Heart Math is a tool you can purchase on the Heart Math website. That’s Heart Math website. It’s an ear clip that clips to your ear, attaches to your smartphone, and detects something called heart rate variability. Now, heart rate variability is really key when we’re thinking about how to really engage our parasympathetic. It is one of the best measures that we have from an outside kind of objective standpoint that we’re in a good state of heart rate variability, that our parasympathetic is engaged.

What does that mean? So, one way that I assessed heart rate variability, because there are some fancy machines to do that. But I don’t have that fancy machine. And most people don’t at home. So, it’s something that we call respiratory sinus arrhythmia, RSA. So, you can easily do that. You can have your kids check that. You can check that. You just feel your pulse. I do this when I’m listening to a child’s heart. I’m listening to their heart, but at the same time I’m having them take a big breath in. And then a slow breath out.

Jodi Cohen: People can do this at home. Follow along.

Dr. Song: Right. And as you take a deep breath in, your heart rate should speed up. And as you exhale slowly, your heart rate should slow down. Easy tool. You don’t have to measure it. You can feel it though. You can sense it.

Children always have a pretty significant respiratory sinus arrhythmia, a gap between how fast the heart’s beating when they’re breathing in and how slowly the heart’s beating when they’re breathing out. Adults should it too. It gets less and less as we get older. But, you know, if you have heart rate variability or respiratory since arrhythmia, that’s decreasing and there’s certain numbers that are lower. That’s not good, right? We want to make sure that we maintain that.

So, Heart Math has an ear probe that detects your heart rate variability. You attach it to your smartphone, whether you’re an Android or an iPhone. And automatically has you to download the Inner Balance app, which is a free app. And there’s a beautiful rainbow flower that expands and contracts. And as it expands, you inhale. And as it contracts, you exhale. And you will see this little dot on top that turns red, blue, or green.

If you’re in the red zone, which often times you are when you first start, it means you’re a little bit, you might not even feel anxious, but just kind of like go, go, go state, right? Blue means you are kind of getting into the parasympathetic.

Green is when you have good heart rate variability. You’re in coherent. Some people call it the zone. You know, athletes use this in sports psychology. You get to that state where you just feel clear. You feel calm. You feel really coherent. And the key is to get into that green state.

Kids love it. The probe itself, it’s not terribly expensive. I believe it’s $125 or so. But anyone can use it in the household. And again, children love. Kids, adults, teenagers. They love that visual feedback. That constant immediate feedback, that immediate that they are in that state.

Jodi Cohen: Breathwork is so immediate. You know, my daughter gets anxious starting projects because she gets overwhelmed. And once she actually starts her homework or starts her work out, she’s fine. It’s just that getting started energy. So, we do a lot of that. Even if you don’t have the app, just the practice of making the exhale longer and more relaxing.

Dr. Song: And so, this is the diaphragmatic breathing, which is the next piece, which you don’t need any tool for. But it really is a way to you know, you can call it belly breathing or diaphragmatic breathing, where we’re really filling up our entire lung, from the top to the bottom of our lung. We’re not breathing with our shoulders. We’re allowing our diaphragm, which is just below our ribcage, to pull down with an inhale, filling our lungs up, filling our belly up. And then, as we exhale, the diaphragm moves up and releases all the air.

And a true diaphragmatic breath, we’re going to take a deep breath in slowly. Have the balloon in your belly expand, hold it at the top for a brief moment, exhale slowly letting that diaphragm, that belly balloon deflate. And then, hold it at the bottom. And that has also been shown in studies to increase heart rate variability and absolutely increase your parasympathetic state. And breathing is free, right? We have to breathe all the time. So, we might as well breathe in that parasympathetic way. But what you want to watch, and I’ll teach kids belly breathing in the office, and the parents will do it with me. So, many adults can’t do it either. They have forgotten how. They are breathing with their shoulders. Like they are trying to focus on their belly and then their belly is going up when they are exhaling or going down when they’re inhaling. And so, you know, we want to practice that together.

There are also and I think that really having some apps as much as I don’t want kids on screens that much. There are some really good apps to really help with that. For your young kids, you can watch a YouTube video with Elmo. He’s singing with Colby Kelly, beautiful singer Colby Kelly and rapper Common. And they’re singing the belly breathing song. And my kids, you know, I taught a class, like a five part gut, body, mind class for their third or fourth grade class. And it was so fun. Even the fourth graders really got up and danced to the Elmo song. We practiced our belly breathing.

For your older kids or children who well, let’s say your toddlers and your elementary school kids. There is an app called Stop, Breath, Think, which is beautiful. There are all these different missions. They are just minutes long. But they are animated with these cartoon characters that take them through a calm down mission. Or you know, there’s one called square breathing.

Square breathing, you see this fish moving up and down in a square. And so, as the fish is moving up, you inhale. And then, as it goes across the top, you hold your breath. And as the fish goes down, you exhale. Then across, you hold your breath. So, this square breathing up, you know, my son had COVID and was hospitalized for about a day and a half. And I tell parents this because, you know, during the whole experience where he was sick and I was worried, it was anxiety that was the worst piece of it. Not just because I was scared and worried, but literally physiologically. You know, I had him on a pulse oximeter at home to measure the oxygen levels. When we were in the hospital, he was on a pulse oximeter 24/7.

When I would get kind of anxious and worked up, “Oh, my gosh, is he going to get sicker? Oh, my gosh. Is he going to need the ICU?” And then, he would sense my anxiety, and he’d say, “Mommy am I sick? Mommy don’t ask me these questions. I’m worried. Am I going to have to go and stay in the hospital? Am I ever going to leave?” So, we would kind of amp each other up, right?

Jodi Cohen: And they are looking and making sure if we are okay. They could be completely bleeding from the face. And they don’t feel it. The minute we let out of fear, they pick up on it.

Dr. Song: That’s right. So, I would see as I got ramped up and get ramped up, his oxygen levels drop, drop, drop, drop, by several points. Sometimes five or six points. And I would have to force myself to stop, calm, and then help him. We would pull up the app, do the square breathing. We would sit together. I would have him repeat our healing mantras. Like literally we would just shout out, “My body is strong. My lungs are strong. I’m getting better and better.” And he would just breathe into it. And within, literally, seconds of doing that, his oxygen levels would go up. We did nothing different with his oxygen. He was receiving the same. And sometimes it would go even higher than it was before. So, the breathing is so important, the relaxation, getting to the parasympathetic.

Now, for your older kids and for your teenagers, there’s an app called OAK, like the oak tree. And that’s another great app. Because I just want kids to do it. And sometimes when you start, especially for adults, sometimes you just need a little prompt. You need a little, okay, let me just passively, you know, look, see, and get into this until I learn how to do it myself, right?

In the office, for kids who have smartphones and for adults, I’ll have to pull out their phone and download an app called Insight Timer. Which a lot of people know about already. It’s a free meditation app with meditation experts around the world. But there’s one app, one a meditation I have them bookmark. It’s by Meghan Winckler. It’s a five minute breathing meditation. Only five minutes. I start every morning with this five minute breathing meditation. On the mornings when I’m rushed and I think I don’t have the time, it sets a totally different stage for the day.

Jodi Cohen: And it makes more time, it’s amazing.

Dr. Song: Yes, makes more time. And I said, when I think I don’t have more time, because if you think you don’t have time to do it or you don’t want to do it and spend the five minutes. It’s because you really don’t want to. It’s because you don’t want to carve out that time. Everyone has five minutes. And just getting that going can be really helpful.

You know, the other ways to really engage your parasympathetic, I mean, one of the simplest ways is laughter. They have even found that forced laughter can engage your parasympathetic, right? So, you know, finding something really silly, you know. Watch silly movies together, read silly books, and we find something every day to have a really good belly laugh over. And if you don’t feel like laughing, let’s say you really did have a rough day. And there’s nothing you find that humorous. There is actually something to the phrase fake it ‘til you make it.

There was a study of college students, split them up into three groups, and had them each do the same unpleasant, demanding task. One group, they didn’t give any instructions on making any facial expression. The second group, they said, “Okay, you are going to make, force a real smile. Something called the Duchenne smile.” A real smile of happiness, where your crow’s feet wrinkle up, your cheeks go up, and you’re using all of your muscles around your mouth. And they just had them do that. The next group, they actually had them hold a chopstick in between their teeth to fake that Duchenne smile. They didn’t say what they would do. They just said hold the chopstick and keep it straight.

They found that the groups that had the real smile and the fake smile with the chopstick, they both found the task much less unpleasant. They found the task easier. They found that the time went by faster. They found that they were in a much better state of calm than in that first group. So, even in the group that was faking it.

Jodi Cohen: Probably puts you in your heart space. Whenever I have to answer difficult emails or make difficult phone calls, I always force myself to smile because I feel like I come through more kind and genuine that way.

Dr. Song: Well, you can feel that smile, you know, over the phone, right? You absolutely can. And then, the final piece that I’ve talked to parents about and kids about, it’s not final. There are always different ways to engage your parasympathetic. But another way that we can easily do this, and I think is really important during this time when we feel so disconnected for others is practicing gratitude.

And the reason why that is so important, studies have found, of course during this time when we feel so socially isolated. You do get a greater sense of connectedness, greater sense of joy, a greater sense of being bonded with others around you. From a physiologic standpoint, they found that practicing gratitude does increase your heart rate variability. It also increases your white blood cells ability to fight infections. I mean, so all of these amazing benefits.

Jodi Cohen: And looping back to the psychological. If you’re worried about something that causes stress response, if you are grateful for something that calms you down.

Dr. Song: Yes, yes. So, you can see, it’s an infinite loop, right? You just have to start somewhere. And you’ll keep going in that positive reinforcement pattern. Just like if you stay in the negative, your brain actually reinforces the negative. We want to make sure that we are trying to reinforce the positive. Acknowledging that there are tough times, there are times that just really suck, right? There are things that happen that are just terrible and shouldn’t happen to anybody.

Jodi Cohen: Agreed.

Dr. Song: But we acknowledge that. And then, as you said, we have the power to choose how our brain interprets that and how we then move on. And then, you know, with this gratitude, what we can do for our children, especially as we were trying to navigate this this craziness in this world right now. We teach our kids that first and foremost, we extend gratitude to ourselves. This is really key. Because, you know, our children learn early on and they watch us, often as moms and as dads. That very often, we are not kind of ourselves. And some of the meanest, most cruel words that you can hear are the ones that our own voices tell ourselves.

And so, we step back. We extend love and kindness to ourselves. We just repeat these four simple sentences. May I feel safe? May I feel happy? May I feel healthy? May I live in peace?

Jodi Cohen: Love that.

Dr. Song: Right? And then, you stop and you extend that loving kindness to whomever you want. Think about all of your friends, your family members. You know, think about your neighbors, think about your community. Think about your country and the world. You know, think about our healthcare workers on the front lines, whomever you choose to extend that loving kindness out to. What I love to do is really spend time thinking individually about everyone that I can, holding them in my heart, you know, thinking about my community and the world. And then, you extend that out to them. You know, may you feel safe, may you feel happy, may you feel healthy, may you live in peace. And you could even end with, may we feel happy, right?

So, that you’re all in this together. Because we really are all in all in this together. And it’s time now, this is our awakening. This is our time that we have to realize it’s not just about us. It’s about really working collectively, right? Engaging our collective parasympathetic response. So, that we don’t have these moments in history where there’s so much grief and so much violence. You know, we need to collectively understand how to take that pause. Take that breath. And really be able to engage each other in that loving kindness.

Jodi Cohen: And hold space for each other. Like I’ve noticed, even on social media, some people go, they say mean things. And I have chosen that, I’m not responding to anything unless it’s kind and supportive. Because I think we need that balance right now.

Dr. Song: Yes, we so need that balance. We need it. Our children need it. The world needs it. You know, this is really the time. And Jodi, I’m just so glad that you have brought this Summit out for the parasympathetic in all of us to teach us, teach our children, teach our leaders, you know, the importance of this. Because this this pivotal moment, in this time, we need our parasympathetic. And your Summit is helping to really pave the way to engage us and understand how to do that.

Jodi Cohen: Yes. And everything you shared, all of these tools, can you tell people your website? Because you have so much more information there if they want to go deeper.

Dr. Song: Yeah, yeah. So, my website is Healthy Kids, Happy Kid. That’s my online holistic pediatric educational site where I write articles for parents and practitioners. It’s www.HealthyKidsHappyKids.com. What I try to post is very valuable information, not a lot of fluff on my Instagram.

Jodi Cohen: You are very valuable. And you are very well researched, very well supported.

Dr. Song: Yes, yes. I try. I like to be as evidence-based as possible knowing that we are limited to the evidence that we have, right? But, you know, we do that. And evidence-based also means your clinical experience. So, I share all my experience of my 20-years as a holistic pediatrician. And then, also on Instagram, it is HealthyKids_HappyKids. And my Facebook page, you can just search Healthy Kids, Happy Kids, or Dr. Elisa Song. And I share, you know, as much information as I can there, as well.

Jodi Cohen: Well, I am so grateful to you in general and to all the information you shared today. Thank you so much, Dr. Song. This was fabulous.

Dr. Song: Thanks, Jody. I can’t wait to be with you on the Summit and learn from all the other experts.

About The Author

Jodi Cohen

Jodi Sternoff Cohen is the founder of Vibrant Blue Oils. An author, speaker, nutritional therapist, and a leading international authority on essential oils, Jodi has helped over 50,000 individuals support their health with essential oils.