Why Understanding The Brain Is Important: Part 1

We, humans, are social species. We have evolved to be a part of tight-knit social groups. That is how we thrive even in our roughest patches. It could be all good and fun, but we are no animals with pure emotions; It is not either love or hate that we feel. We are more complex, and that could be a problem.

Relationships

As Lisa Feldman Barrett Ph.D. put it, we make deposits into each other’s body budgets, as well as withdrawals.

Friends, family, and even strangers contribute to the structure and functioning of your brain. It constantly changes its wiring; Called Plasticity. Dendrites become bushier; Neural connections become more efficient the more we interact with each other.

This process even has measurable effects. In one-on-one conversations, our breath rate and heartbeats synchronize. A slight tonal shift in your voice or raising an eyebrow can affect what goes on inside other people’s bodies. The effects include changes in heartbeat, chemical flow in their bloodstream, etc. One can even reduce pain just by holding the other’s hand.

In close, supportive, intimate, caring relationships where life seems enjoyable, despite each other’s problems, people are less likely to fall sick and have longer lives together. This a concept immaculately explained in the book IKIGAI by Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles.

Like everything, this comes with disadvantages.

Not everyone has a supportive family. Those that do not tend to be bad at building other meaningful relationships, leaving them feeling lonely. Lonely people are likely to fall sick easily and may even die years earlier!

Ever felt like you had lost a part of yourself when someone you loved died, grew apart, or went through a breakup? That is because you have lost a source that literally kept your bodily systems in check.

So we tend to create Echo-chambers; Surrounding ourselves with information sources that reinforce our beliefs because it reduces the metabolic cost and the unpleasantness, making us oblivious to new, possibly life-changing knowledge.

A kind word, compliment, supportive statement at the end of the day would mean the world, but something hateful makes the brain predict threat and flood your bloodstream with hormones.

Lisa Feldman Barrett says, “The Power of Words is not a metaphor; It’s in our brain wiring.”

Why words affect such wide-ranging reactions.

Regions of the brain that understand language also control major organs and systems in our body. Scientists call it Language Network; Guides heart rate, adjusts glucose entering the bloodstream and chemical flow that supports the immune system.

Words affect each other whether you deem it relevant or not.

Things like rejection, aggression, neglect, etc., in small doses, can make you mentally stronger, just like physical exercising. However, overtime anything that contributes to stress can gradually eat away at your brain. We can get sick. Scientists do not yet understand the mechanisms, but we know it happens.

If you are exposed to chronic stress for long periods, words can physically damage your brain — not because you are weak or glass-like, but because you are human.

The best thing for our nervous system is another person, but that can also be the worst thing.

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