What weighs three pounds, runs on 12 watts of power (enough to power a living room lamp), and can operate at speeds of up to 250 mph like a high speed train?
Yes, the human brain is quite amazing. It controls memory and learning. It controls your senses of hearing, sight, smell, taste, and touch. And it controls your body — your muscles, organs, blood vessels. The brain is the powerhouse for your body.
Here are some fun facts about the brain that’ll give you food for thought.
#1: In love? MRIs can tell
Who doesn’t love a good romance novel or movie with a happy ending? Romantic love is a pretty powerful force. So powerful that researchers studied the brains of people in love and those of people who had recently ended a relationship or were not in a relationship. The imaging studies found that the areas of the brain related to reward, motivation, emotion, and social functioning showed heightened levels of activity.
What’s more, those who were in long relationships with loved ones showed even more activity in those brain areas. That’s why having loved ones and a support system of people around you is important for your mental and physical well-being.
#2: There’s no pain in the brain
“My head hurts.” Yes, we’ve all been there. You might not know this, but the brain does not feel any pain. That’s because the brain has no pain receptors. When you have pain from a headache, for example, that pain is coming from nerves in other parts of your body that are sending pain signals to your brain to alert that something is wrong. That’s why someone who’s having brain surgery can play an instrument during the procedure, all while being fully awake.
So what about when you have that ice cream that’s so cold it gives you an intense pain in the head called “brain freeze”? That’s not really brain pain. When your body feels extreme cold in the mouth or throat, the blood vessels in that area constrict in reaction to the cold. Then, they expand to let more blood through. This expansion and restriction of your blood vessels is what causes the sensation of pain that you call brain freeze.
#3: Brains are super busy
Imagine having 70,000 tasks to do a day and never getting rest in between those tasks. That’s an almost impossible thing to do. Yet our brains are so powerful that the average person has up to 70,000 thoughts every day. The brain requires constant stimulation in short intervals. Research suggests our attention span is capped at ten-minute intervals. So think about a time when you attended a lecture that was many hours. It’s probably no surprise that you were exhausted by the end of it.
With such a busy brain, getting it to “slow down” is hard. But a practice like meditation has been shown to have huge benefits for mental and physical health. You don’t have to do it all at once. Start with small steps and slowly build up to longer periods of meditation and self-care practices for your body, relationships, emotions, and spirit.
#4: Your brain and alcohol are not always BFFs
It’s no surprise that drinking alcohol can impair decision making and functions such as driving or walking in a straight line. And long term, heavy use of alcohol can permanently damage the ability for your brain to perform basic activities such as attention and memory and more complex functions such as problem solving or planning. Other problems can include problems with sleep or mood.
Addiction (or substance use disorder) is a mental health condition that changes a person’s brain and behavior. It’s a complex part of a chronic, treatable condition. Overcoming addiction to a substance, such as alcohol, or a behavior, such as gambling, is possible with the right treatment.
#5: Your body talks to your brain
You may have heard the saying “you are what you eat.” Well, in many ways that is true. What you put into your body affects your brain. For example, if you don’t drink enough water, you can start to lose focus or have problems with memory.
Same goes for physical activity. Experts don’t know all the mechanisms that make exercise such a powerful protector of brain health. However, we do know that exercise:
- Boosts the chemical messengers in your body that send signals from cells to cells — so you’re happier, get more done, and can focus
- Sends more blood to your brain, which may help combat depression
- Triggers the release of endorphins — the chemicals that relieve pain and make you feel good in general
Care for your brain, care for your body
Your whole health includes the physical, mental, and social aspects of your life. And when you really think about it, it’s no surprise that your brain health and physical health are connected. In fact, research suggests that the two are so closely linked that they can even directly affect one another.
If you have a mental or physical condition, it’s important to pay close attention to both your mental and physical health. Talk to your therapist and doctor about all of your symptoms — mental and physical. This will help ensure you’re getting the whole-person support you need.
If you aren’t currently seeing a therapist but think it could help support your whole health, SonderMind can help connect you with a therapist who’s right for you.