April 9, 2021

4 Fun Ways to Develop a More Resilient Brain

A better environment makes a better brain.

Resilience is having a moment. Every self-help publication is praising its life-changing powers, and we're all hooked. It's hard to resist the allure when we imagine how much better we'd be if we just had a little more resilience. We imagine gracefully managing crises after crises, all our days ending with smiles and every box checked off the to-do list.

Environment and genetics contribute to developing a resilient brain.

But being resilient, unfortunately, doesn't just happen after reading a few books and meditating. A new study shows that resilience is a product of several factors. More specifically, our environment and genetics contribute to developing a resilient brain.
The study published March 2021 in NeuroImage aimed to determine how much our environment and genetics contribute to our brain's resilience. They used data from two different databases, with a total of 916 adult twins analyzed. Twin subjects were studied because of the similarity of their genetic makeup and the environment they were raised in.
scans of the brain

The connections of our brain may be inherited. Photo Credit.

The researchers discovered that genetics plays a part in creating a more resilient brain, though the effect was mild to moderate. The different parts of our brain connect to and work with one another. These connections, the researchers found, can be inherited. When certain connections are damaged, the brain's resilience may be unaffected because the brain can work around it. But in more severe cases, these lost connections can lead to Alzheimer's disease, schizophrenia, depression, and other mental conditions.

A variety of experiences is critical for developing a strong and flexible brain.

Environment, on the other hand, seems to contribute more to developing resilience. A variety of experiences is critical for developing a strong and flexible brain. Another article published in Neurobiology of Stress noted that stressful experiences make our brain release certain hormones. These hormones can affect the brain's structure in the long term and subsequently how the brain will respond to future events.
Animal studies have shown that chronic stress can shrink certain areas of the brain. The brain seems to recover after the stress goes away, but its shape and resilience are never quite the same. In humans, chronic stress has been shown to increase inflammation and aging.

Growing a Resilient Brain

Is there a way to reverse the damage and make the brain more resilient? The same study notes that the damage done may not be reversible. But, there are ways to re-train the brain and compensate for the past damage.
Even as adults, our brain is growing and changing. This gives us plenty of opportunities to feed it with rich experiences that will help it grow more resilient. Here's a list of activities that do just that:
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