Did you know that stress shrinks the brain?

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Joe Dispenza
@joedispenza
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Have you ever felt so stressed and exhausted that you can't think clearly? You probably already know that chronic stress, prolonged over time, is not good for you, but you must also know that it causes a decrease in volume in certain areas of the brain, precisely those involved in thinking, emotional regulation, self-control and the creation of new memories.

Stress plunges you into a cycle of negativity

Neuroscientists at Yale University found that stress reduces the volume of gray matter in areas of the brain responsible for self-control; in particular, it causes a loss of synaptic connections between brain cells. The data indicate that stress suppresses the expression of several genes that are essential for the formation of these connections.



In fact, these researchers saw that people who had suffered from chronic stress and had gone through numerous negative events in their lives showed less volume in areas such as the prefrontal cortex, insula, anterior cingulate cortex and hippocampus, regions that they regulate emotions and are linked with self-control, memory, learning and cognitive processing.

And as if that weren't enough, this reduction in volume increases vulnerability to depression, the development of addictions or other psychological disorders. The problem is that if the brain undergoes these changes it will be more difficult for you to deal with stressful situations, and this will plunge you into a negative cycle because it will also be difficult for you to take control and prevent situations and your reactions from getting out of hand.

A stressed brain has less data processing capacity and often handles it in a fragmented way. This explains why, when we are stressed, our thinking pattern is so negative and repetitive, because we cannot stop thinking about problems and worries do not make us sleep. In practice, it is as if the brain is trapped in a negative cycle that repeats itself over and over again.



5 scientifically proven ways to reverse the damage stress causes to the brain

Don't be discouraged. It is not impossible to reduce the level of stress and even reverse the damage to the brain. But the sooner you start the better, because even if the brain has an enormous plasticity that allows it to recover damaged areas, this is still not a magical mechanism.

How can this process be reversed?

William James gives us a clue: "The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another."

1. Say "no" more often. A study conducted at the University of California revealed that the harder it is for people to say "no" the more likely they are to suffer from stress, fatigue and even depression. Learning to say "no" in a determined way will allow you not to get involved in too many projects or take on commitments that are a source of additional stress.

2. Enjoy the silence. An experiment conducted at the Research Center for Regenerative Therapies in Dresden found that silence is an excellent tool for promoting neurogenesis in the hippocampus. Therefore, in addition to helping to relax and relieve stress, enjoying a few quiet hours a day is also good for the brain.

3. Practice mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness meditation not only reduces stress and eliminates ruminative thoughts, but also stimulates the growth of gray matter. This was demonstrated by researchers at Harvard University, who found that 27 minutes of meditation a day for eight weeks is enough for positive structural changes to occur in the brain, which also involve a less active amygdala, a sign that stress and anxiety decrease.


4. Run. Numerous studies, including one conducted at the University of Jyväskylä, confirm that aerobic exercise, running in particular, is very beneficial for the brain as it stimulates neurogenesis in areas such as the hippocampus. It has also been found that running relieves stress by promoting the production of endorphins and, last but not least, frees the mind and increases blood flow to the prefrontal areas of the brain, precisely those related to thinking and self-control.



5. Have more sex. Yes, neuroscientists at Princeton University have found that sex not only promotes neurogenesis, but also stimulates the growth of dendrites, which are essential for neurons to communicate with each other.


 

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