How complaining affects the brain

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The positive brain versus the negative brain

“Don’t whine, don’t complain, don’t make excuses, just do the best you can do,” said UCLA coach John Wooden.

It turns out coach was on to something.

Recent studies show that complaining every day changes the structure of the brain.

Harmful behaviors such as complaining, if allowed to loop within the brain continually, will inevitably alter thought processes. Altered thoughts lead to altered beliefs which leads to a change in behavior.

Our brain possesses a something called the negativity bias. In simple terms, negativity bias is the brain’s tendency to focus more on negative circumstances than positive.

Dr. Rick Hanson, a neuroscientist and author of Buddha’s Brain, explains negativity bias:

“Negative stimuli produce more neural activity than do equally intensive positive ones. They are also perceived more easily and quickly.”

Fortunately, the brain is plastic, which means it can allow more positive emotions to work alongside more negative ones. Writes Alex Korb, author of The Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time:

“In depression, there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with the brain. It’s simply that the particular tuning of neural circuits creates the tendency toward a pattern of depression. It has to do with the way the brain deals with stress, planning, habits, decision making and a dozen other things — the dynamic interaction of all those circuits. And once a pattern starts to form, it causes dozens of tiny changes throughout the brain that create a downward spiral.”

Your hopes and fears may be in your genes, but that doesn’t spell doom. One of the most practical things we can do to counter negative thinking is practicing meditation. “Neurons that fire together, wire together,” said neuroplasticity pioneer Donald Hebb. 

If forcing positive thinking feels inauthentic, try watching your thoughts instead. Being a neutral observer will help you rise above the whole notion of emotional sidedness. As with any self-improvement mechanism, daily practice and momentum is the key to long-term success.

‘Short sleep predicts a shorter life’

I never sleep/because sleep is the cousin of death.

Nas, ‘New York State of Mind’

Everyone knows sleep is critical few people prioritize it. Some folks think it’s a badge of honor to get five hours a night. But your brain literally eats itself when you don’t sleep. 

Sleep is a ‘non-negotiable biological necessity.’

And why not get a few extra 💤? We’re all geniuses when we dream.

Nectar Summer Sale

Nature, man and woman

We fail so easily to see the difference between fear of the unknown and respect for the unknown, thinking that those who do not hasten in with bright lights and knives are deterred by a holy and superstitious fear. Respect for the unknown is the attitude of those who, instead of raping nature, woo her until she gives herself. But what she gives, even then, is not the cold clarity of the surface but the warm inwardness of the body—a mysteriousness which is not merely a negation, a blank absence of knowledge, but that positive substance which we call wonderful.

— Alan Watts, Nature, Man and Woman

Coffee made in sand

Fact: Turkey also built the first coffee houses in the 15th century.

Warm coffee ☕

Think of humans ‘as a little fish out of water’

There’s more than one theory of evolution, most notably Darwinian natural selection. But according to LSU biology professor Prosanta Chakrabarty, we’re still evolving.

We’re not the goal of evolution. Think of us all as young leaves on this ancient and gigantic tree of life — connected by invisible branches not just to each other, but to our extinct relatives and our evolutionary ancestors.

From pond scum to fish to humans

From fish to amphibians to reptiles to primates with big brains, every living thing today is the product of four billion years of evolution. The shared ancestry may appear linear (e.g. monkeys > chimpanzees > humans) but single cell organisms are still evolving to this day.

Meanwhile, ‘primitive’ bacteria and plants will be the ones that survive us all.

Earth stripped of water

Life as we know it can survive without sunlight and oxygen: witness the creatures that populate the sulfurous vicinity of submarine hydrothermal vents. Life as we know it cannot live without water, and where there is water, there is almost always life.“I discovered living creatures in rain, which had stood but a few days in a new tub,” Antonie van Leeuwenhoek observed in 1675 after peering through his invention, a new and better microscope. A grown man like Pablo Valencia can last three weeks without food; without water, at most several days.

Read Watermarks: Diving into the fathoms to find life’s fluency

Dozing off into the brief unconscious 😴

When the sleepy participants’ eyes closed in “microsleep,” a.k.a. dozing, the researchers saw reduced activity in the thalamus, the part of the brain responsible for relaying sensory and motor signals to other parts of the brain. The thalamus is also responsible for regulating sleep (and the same effect was found in the scans of rested participants) so this part isn’t very surprising.

But more surprisingly, the researchers saw increased activity in the parts of the brain associated with sensory processing, which could account for the vivid images that seem to spring up when you first drop off to sleep. The researchers also observed more activity in the frontal parietal lobe, responsible for helping you pay attention, likely as a result of the brain’s attempt (and failure) to obey the “stay awake” command.

Read Parts Of Your Brain Go Berzerk On Microsleep

The father of neuroscience was also an amazing artist

The father of modern neuroscience, Santiago Ramón y Cajal, drew masterful sketches of the brain.

He was an artist trapped in a laboratory.

But where the Renaissance master goes sensual, macro, and dynamic, the Spaniard zeros in, mapping the miraculously microscopic using new methods of staining slide tissues that isolated single cells under the microscope. In this way, Cajal drew the newly visible synaptic networks of the brain and discovered a breakthrough that proved that neurons are in touch without touching. These results changed neuroscience. His work is still widely used as a teaching device.

Read Santiago Ramón y Cajal, a Nobel Laureate in Medicine, Deserves a Place Next to Michelangelo and Leonardo As a Draftsman

The effect of expectation

The placebo creates a ceremony of expectation. It builds off novelty and reinvigorates confidence in the possibility of recovery.

We all fall victim to the soft mental implantation of a placebo, the oldest medicine in the world. One simple belief kickstarts a chemical revolution. But in reality, the answer just needed to be poked from dormancy.

Reawakened, the inner narrative thrives on hedonic editing.

We certify the belief in our internal storage. Over time, it gains credibility and records the transaction on the human block chain of the genetic code. Truth happens to the idea

If at first, we expect, then we can succeed. It is faith that moves mountains.

In fingerprints we trust

Your fingerprints are uniquely yours. No two people have the same friction ridges, not even twins. Writes The Paris Review:

“Scientists describe the basic patterns of fingerprints in terms of arches, whorls, and loops. (Seventy percent of a fingerprint is made up of loops.) Closer features include dots, lakes, islands, spurs, crossings, and bifurcations. It is true that every print is unique to every finger, even for identical twins, who share the same genetic code.”

Before the fingerprint became a forensic science, its original purpose was economic. Thumbs acted as a stamp of approval.

“Thumb marks were used as personal seals to close business in Babylonia, and, in 1303, a Persian vizier recounted the use of fingerprints as signatures during the Qin and Han Dynasties, noting, “Experience has shown that no two individuals have fingers precisely alike.” The Chinese had realized that before anyone: a Qin dynasty document from the third-century B.C.E, titled “The Volume of Crime Scene Investigation—Burglary,” pointed up fingerprints as a means of evincing whodunnit.”

Even more interesting is how fingerprints form, made permanent by Week 19 of pregnancy. “Fingerprints are formed by friction from touching the walls of our mother’s womb. Sometimes they are called “chanced impressions.””

Technically, your fingerprints or eyeballs could your access key to anything. You don’t need the phone to act as your digital keys or wallet. Logging into a smartphone with a thumb, the mobile device merely serves as an interlocutor for checking out at places like Starbucks or the bank.

“Wallets and keys might get lost for good if we can pay for cappuccinos and power up cars with our eyeballs or fingers. In the early aughts, when we were increasingly imagining a future where people moved through the world—for better or worse—without anonymity, those people were chipped. But who needs computer chips when you’ve got fingerprints? “The future of biometrics has never been better,” said Becker. “Biometrics have gone mainstream—now people have expectations and habits. People are checking into every Delta Sky Club in the country with biometrics.””

The grooves within your fingerprints can also predict your future.

“The patterns on our fingers do seem to correspond to the lobes of our brains. Some researchers are hailing fingerprints as blueprints. “Fingerprints are the mirrors to our inborn talents and potentials, knacks and likings,” write the authors of one recent paper, who believe people may be able to use their fingerprints to unlock their best selves.”

Fascinating.