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Brain Poison

We have so much information about how we’re supposed to take care of our bodies----what we’re supposed to feed them, how we’re supposed to keep them moving, how we’re supposed to relax them, etc. We know that some foods take a negative toll on our bodies, like certain fats or sugars, and our bodies let us know this through symptoms of tiredness, stomach pain, or even serious disease. Some of us are even allergic to certain foods, like peanut butter, and when exposed to it, may experience breathing issues, rash, or other serious consequences. We know that too much sitting and not enough exercise can result in loss of muscle and/or heart problems, while at the same time too much physical exertion without sufficient rest can result in injury and impeded longevity.

Might say that any lack of adequate nutrition, exercise, or rest is (in a sense) toxic to our well-being.

Regardless of whether or not we follow along with and apply this information in our lives, we still have it. The guidelines to leading healthier physical lives are readily available and can even be surprisingly straightforward when approached with a curious, open, and willing mindset. There are personal trainers and health coaches who make it their life’s work to customize exercise/dieting programs to fit our needs and to hold us accountable when it comes to our goals. There is even 24-hour gym access to allow for more realistic fitness planning within our busy schedules. Whether we do it or not, we’re pretty clear on what our bodies need and how/where to get it.

Is it the same when it comes to our brains though? Do we really know how to feed them, when/how to stimulate them, or when/how to rest them?

Unfortunately, there is still so much unknown about the brain. What it requires for optimal performance, or what its optimal performance potential even is. For instance, how many memories is it supposed to be able to store? How many facts is it supposed to be able to learn? How many emotions is it supposed to be able to experience/process?

Luckily, throughout my work as a therapist, I have found it encouraging to witness my clients improve their minds without needing such concrete answers to these questions. One way they achieve this is by limiting/avoiding what I like to refer to as “brain poison.” Much like the toxic sugars, fats, or allergens our physical bodies are hurt by, brain poison is anything we “take in” and “absorb” that causes us mental pain/discomfort. Now, of course limiting or avoiding all mental pain/discomfort in our imperfect world is not possible as it is simply an unfortunate part of being human. The idea, however, is to focus only on the areas of our lives we can best manage/control in an effort to at least decrease such negativity.

The challenge is that whatever is experienced as brain poison can vary greatly from person to person. Take a minute to consider these popular examples of brain poison: Social media, world news, and verbal abuse.

Despite the benefits of social media, many have found it detrimental to their lives. Consider, for instance, how it allows for such easy access to an ex’s profile page. Not only does this profile access make it more difficult to get over a breakup, but worse, it puts us at risk for seeing pictures of that ex with a new (and attractive) partner posted all over it! Poison.

Similarly, when it comes to world news, many of us rationalize the repeated intake of such violent/frightening images and stories of war, death, corruption, and alarmist weather reports with the idea that we need to remain “informed.” The truth, however, is that the daily news really has nothing much new to tell--- each story is pretty much just a different version of one of those same categories above that we are already all too familiar with. We get it! With this, it’s important to realize that we are no longer “informing” ourselves and instead, we are simply bombarding ourselves with sadness and fear--- poison.