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Immerse Week 18 – Who Lives in Your Brain?

People who live in your brain change it.

Dear friend,

In my home I invite the kind people, the people I enjoy and consider my friends. In my thoughts, however, I invite the unkind people more often—the people who hurt me, judged me, or made me feel small. Further, the unfriendly and unkind people stick in my head much longer.

Each person who visits my brain carves a unique space. Under the direction of the hippocampus, a seahorse-shaped structure in the inner part of the brain, my brain stores memories across its multitude of networks. Memories that are of immediate survival value, physical or emotional, are deeply integrated and more easily accessible. I can’t forget people who hurt me in the past or could hurt me in the future. Memories of past injuries and concerns about future injuries hurt my present.

When my brain hosts unkind people, it suffers damage at their hands. Initially, the damage is subtle, and it goes unnoticed. But over a period of time, the microinjuries deplete my life of vitality and predispose me to anxiety, depression, and variety of chronic medical conditions. Such cumulative damage degenerates my brain, predisposing it to dementia. (Research shows that excessive cortisol and related chemicals, which are released by chronic stress, cause loss of neurons in the brain.)

My brain’s penchant to spend an inordinate amount of time with unkind people is its default setting. I need to choose otherwise. I need to remember that when my brain hosts kind people, it feels secure, worthy, and loved. Kind people help me build a stronger brain. (Research shows that feeling nurtured and loved releases endorphins, oxytocin, and growth factors such as BDNF, which cause neuronal growth in the brain.)

Since I can choose my thoughts, I can choose whom to invite and give residence in my brain. I just need to remember and exercise that choice.

May you not need to visit the hurt-filled corners of your brain today; instead, may you frequent the brain’s rest areas, resorts, and sacred places.

Take care.

@AmitSoodMD (on Twitter)

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