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How Stress Wrecks Your Brain and What To Do About It

Did you know that chronic, unresolved stress can create an imbalance between the self-aware, rational, decision making, and problem-solving parts of your brain (the pre-frontal cortex) and the emotion and memory controlling parts of your brain (the amygdala and hippocampus)?

Long-term (chronic) stress alters your thinking, emotion, and behavior and over time changes the size, structure, and function of parts of your brain. Chronic stress also shortens the length of your chromosomes and interferes with how your genes express themselves, making you more vulnerable to disease.

How your ability to learn and remember shrinks

The hippocampus, the learning and memory center of the brain, shrinks as a result of chronic stress. Neurons die and the connections between neurons in the hippocampus become weaker, which is detrimental to your memory. Memories become fragmented making it hard for you to keep track of what you are doing. You might have brain fog and be unable to think creatively.

Amygdala-hippocampus
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Pursue Your Purpose As Though Your Life Depends On It, Because It Does!

Medical science proves that purpose keeps you young, fit, and ALIVE!

One of the great satisfactions in life is to be fully aware of your life’s purpose. Equally, one of the great sufferings is to be ignorant of it.

Although the latter is far more common, many people give up pursuing their purpose too early and settle for less.

The question, ‘what is your life purpose’, can overwhelm us with anxiety, self-doubt, and existential angst.

People can become embarrassed and bewildered when the topic arises. Memories of failed efforts, regrettable life choices and a low opinion of potentialities can make us reluctant to venture there.

It can feel easier and safer to remain gilded to our habits, psychological patterns, and external structures even if they’re working against our best interests.

And it can feel destabilizing and risky to respond to the subtle voice of our inner calling because it almost always wants us to change and grow in an uncomfortable way.

You can resist your life purpose for years (or a lifetime) but, as many wisdom-keepers have advised over the centuries, a higher purpose can revolutionize your life.

Now medical science is substantiating this old wisdom and proving that life purpose directly impacts health and wellbeing.

Purpose as medicine

Various studies over the last decade show that a purposeful life positively influences:

  • Psychological well-being
  • Healthy brain function
  • Cardiovascular health
  • Muscle strength
  • Sound sleep
  • Immunity
  • Longevity
  • Satisfaction
  • Happiness
  • Mortality

The message is clear, life purpose is not something to be pursued at a (leisurely) later time.

Nor is it a luxury or indulgence only available to a talented few.

Life purpose is your individual gift. When discovered and expressed, it brings vitality, meaning, and satisfaction.

Here’s proof:

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7 Potent Ways To Live And Die Without Regret

Add up all the stories told from deathbeds; the regrets, confessions, sorrows, secrets, petitions for forgiveness, and desperate calls to turn back the clock, and we have an infinite library of tragedy.

I must change my life so that I can live it. Not wait for it.
—  Susan Sontag

Death’s Day is coming — today, tomorrow, or it could be decades away.

Good health and youth do not protect anyone from death’s decision.

When death calls your name, you must go.

In my late teens, I almost died in a car accident, but death let me off the hook.

Not long after, death called my best friend, then my father.

I pushed their deaths into the shadow and ran into the light but soon discovered that chasing light created too many fears and even bigger shadows.

Then I found a wise teacher and teachings that led me back to the darkness to befriend death. Since that time I have allowed myself to remain with the awareness of death and this has driven me to interact with life more purposefully and joyfully.

In this essay, I reveal the 7 things I have learned about regret and death:

  1. Take a leaf from the Top 5 Regrets
  2. Explore other cultures
  3. Break the silence around death in daily life
  4. Learn the skill of change and letting go
  5. Meditate on death
  6. Interact with myths, art, and symbols of death
  7. Express your experience of death

1. Take A Leaf From The Top 5 Regrets

What we can learn from those near death, is that regret is the greatest pain.

Nurse Bronnie Ware spent 12 years working in palliative care, caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives. She collected stories and published a book, The Top Five Regrets Of Dying.

My friend Ann Marie is a nurse who worked in palliative care for twenty years. She carries her patient’s stories so deeply that being with her is sometimes heartbreaking.

Together these nurses have thousands of stories, and yet their top 5 regrets are identical.

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Living Well Dying Well

Dr Swami Shankardev reflects on a powerful new book about the challenges of ageing and how we regard dying in our society.

I have recently read a wonderful book called Being Mortal and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande, a Professor in both the departments of Health Policy Management and the Department of Surgery at Harvard Medical School. I found the book well written, lucid and riveting.

Professor Gawande describes the problem of ageing in our technically advanced world, in which we have achieved greater quantity of life but perhaps at the expense of greater quality of life. He examines the evolution of the nursing home and describes how, for many people, the experience of dying has become something abhorrent and something to be avoided in conversation because we have seen so many people endure distressing deaths.

Ageing, a taboo topic

Perhaps we are ageing and dying poorly due to the fact that we as a society are unable to discuss or deal with the subject of our own mortality and thus we are not taking intelligent steps to create a better old age and a better death for ourselves.

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