How regularly do you floss your mind?

How regularly do you floss your mind?

Image courtesy of artur84 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

No one questions the need to brush our teeth each day, but how much care do we take to regularly floss our minds?

Whenever we eat, little pieces of food get stuck between our teeth. If we didn’t brush, they would build up and cause rot. Similarly, we consume vast amounts of information throughout the day, processing thoughts without paying any attention to them. These thoughts can be good or bad, healthy or destructive.

Whatever their nature, our thoughts also leave behind little fragments that build up over time and tinge our subsequent thoughts with their flavour, changing our ability to digest information and interpret the world.

If we are to protect ourselves from psychological cavities that poison our perceptions and cause us pain, we must take care to debrief regularly before an abscess develops and the rotting path needs to be extracted at the root.

Are you trained in emotional first aid?

An article published in the February 2015 issue of Molecular Psychology discussed a research study which found that the brains of people with major depressive disorder (MDD) produce less natural painkillers in response to rejection.

The brain’s μ-opioid receptor (MOR) system dampens physical pain and is believed to also dampen “social pain”. In the research, which compared the responses of medication-free MDD patients with those of healthy people, it was found that during social rejection, the MDD patients showed not only reduced MOR activity, but also slower emotional recovery. During acceptance, only healthy people showed increased social motivation, which was associated with a reward structure in the brain.

In conclusion, the study proposed that these weakened brain functions in MDD patients reduce enjoyment of positive interactions and impede emotional recovery from negative social experiences, thus reinforcing depression.

Our attitudes and beliefs shape our thoughts, so if we perpetuate them over time we will change the way our brain functions and behaves, thus influencing processes like that of the MOR system in the research above. We should all therefore take care of our minds by encouraging good thought patterns and curtailing bad ones. It is also vital that we teach our children from a young age to care for their psychological well-being as conscientiously as they would their physical health.

I highly recommend watching the TED Talk below, by a psychologist who explains how to practise emotional first aid and why we should take our emotional hygiene seriously.

Negotiating with the Sorting Hat

Everyone has a favourite Hogwarts House (don’t deny it, I’ve seen you waving your wand and muttering spells). Everyone secretly hopes the Sorting Hat will choose them for that House when it slips onto their heads and over their eyes. Why? Because they know that is where they will fit in – or where they want to fit in.

What’s in a House?

Generally, members of each house are known for possessing some common characteristics. They are known for being courageous or clever or crafty or kind. And so it is with great trepidation that each first-year stumbles over to the little stool in the Great Hall and settles the Sorting Hat on his or her head on the first night at Hogwarts, hoping that the Hat will place them in their favourite House.

So pretend this hat is black and pointy. Use your imagination.

So pretend this hat is black and pointy. Use your imagination.

As a first-year, you believe that the Sorting Hat is all-powerful and that its word is law. Only later, after discussing it with others, do you realise that most people negotiated their way into whichever House they ended up in. Harry convinced the Sorting Hat he belonged in Gryffindor, not Slytherin; Neville narrowly avoided Hufflepuff; and Hermione almost went to Ravenclaw. That conversation with the Sorting Hat’s little voice in your ear is one of the most personal of your life, as the hat looks into all your potential and you persuade it one way or another.

Other people are hats

Every one of us has some idea of how we want to be thought of and remembered. Throughout our lives we are labelled, tempted and excluded by different groups of people and societies, as we achieve certain goals and make various decisions. Many of those decisions are very, very difficult, but there is usually no right or wrong choice (although it certainly feels that way at the time). The paths you choose, like the House you’re Sorted into, will influence how you are remembered by others, however, so try to imagine where each road will put you in ten or twenty years’ time.

It is very easy to go along with other people’s ideas of who you are and what you should become. Always remember that you have the power to decide your House and whatever it is you want to be known for. You can negotiate with the Sorting Hat.