Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Loving your brain

by Gaetan (via Wikipedia)
We're reminded almost constantly to treat out bodies right. We're told to exercise so our muscles stay strong, eat healthy foods so our bodies get the vitamins and minerals they need, to protect our skin from the sun and make sure we get regular dental checkups.

When we get sick, injured or just achy, our co-workers tell us to go home and take care of ourselves. Get some medicine. Have someone cook you some chicken soup. Give your body the love and attention it needs to get well again.

Our brains, however, don't get nearly so much love and attention. We're constantly making demands out of the thing, insisting that it perform perfectly at work, remember the kids' schedules when we get home and think up something brilliant for our anniversary. We get mad at it every time it forgets something, and when it feels things we don't want it to we bottle the emotions up and pretend they're not happening. We're expected to be able to work forever, shake off negative feelings, and constantly achieve more.

But it's just as important to take care of our minds as it is our bodies, maybe more so. Our bodies may be what keep us alive, letting us do all those wonderful things like walk, talk and breathe on a regular basis, but the brain is the switchboard that makes it all happen. You wouldn't lovingly take care of a sports car only to mistreat the engine, would you?

What people tend to forget is that our minds are just as fragile and just as prone to injury as our bodies. That organ that allowed Beethoven to write symphonies that outlasted him my centuries, or Einstein to discover things about the universe that no one had ever imagined before, is just a small, wrinkled organ that's so complex internally that scientists are only beginning to understand it. If something as relatively simple as an arm or a leg can get damaged so many ways, imagine the trouble that the brain can get in to.

But we shouldn't be ashamed of our brains for getting tired, or even breaking, any more than we are when our muscles and bones do the same thing. We should learn to accept its frailties the same way we accept that we'll never be a size six, no matter how many diets we go on, or that we'll never run as fast an as Olympic sprinter no matter how hard we train. Sometimes we get a cold, no matter how hard we try to protect ourselves from germs, and sometimes we feel sad for no reason we can explain.

Once we can accept that our brains aren't perfect, then maybe we can start learning to take care of them as well as we do our bodies. Addiction can have as many effects on the mind as it does the body, and seeking treatment can improve your life on more than just a physical level. Taking breaks, and not being quite so hard on yourself, can help lower potentially damaging stress levels. Seeking treatment for depression can help you reclaim the life you no longer feel like you have the energy to maintain.

It's normal to take vitamins to improve our bodies, or medicine when we're sick and need to feel well again. It's normal to pamper aching muscles for a little while, giving them the chance to heal. We need to learn to treat our brains the same way.

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