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My top 3 recent learnings

My top 3 recent learnings
By Beautiful Voyager • Issue #62 • View online
“We have to continue to learn. We have to be open. And we have to be ready to release our knowledge in order to come to a higher understanding of reality.” — Thich Nhat Hanh, You are Here: Discovering the Magic of the Present Moment

Hello beautiful voyagers!
I’ve taken 2022 nice and slowly so far. I’ve meditated most days and followed my curiosity, letting go of things that aren’t serving me (like constant Instagram story posting). I’m doing both less and more.
As some ideas have quieted down, others have continued to hold my attention. Here are three — maybe they will capture yours as well?
Learning 1: The brain is biological.
My colleague Altay Sendil shared this podcast interview with science writer Annie Murray Paul and I can’t stop thinking about it. The premise: Our brain is a biological, evolved organ that’s very different from a computer. People who can tune into their bodies can more effectively use their brains.
Annie cited studies of Wall Street traders who seem to make more money when they’re more “interoceptively” attuned — meaning, when they’re better at reading their own body signals. 
This Conversation Will Change How You Think About Your Brain
In other words, when I use my body, my surroundings, and my relationships to “think outside the brain,” I can make better decisions than people who don’t know how to do the same. Listen to the interview to learn more.
Learning 2: There is a "context-setting" part of the brain.
This one really blows me away. I heard about it from Pinterest CEO Ben Silberman who recommended that I start listening 27 minutes in to this podcast episode by Dr Andrew Huberman, neuroscientist at the Stanford School of Medicine. In this talk, Huberman describes that there is a part of the brain whose job is to set context. It’s called the medial prefrontal cortex.
Imagine, for example, that you are suddenly thrown into an icebath. You’d probably scream in shock and all of your muscles would tense up in a strong physiological response.
Now imagine you choose to enter that same icebath because you’ve heard how good it is for you, and you’ve researched the science to understand why that is. When you enter the icebath of your own volition, the medial prefrontal cortex actually changes your physiological response, adjusting your serotonin levels and other neurochemicals based on context.
Context is crucial, eh?
Huberman goes on to describe the role this part of the brain plays in how we experience gratitude. To create a high effective gratitude you must engage the medial prefrontal cortex. For example, you could listen to a story about a challenging time in the life of someone you can relate to. They make it through that struggle by getting help from someone else. As a listener, when you hear that person express gratitude, your medial prefrontal cortex kicks into action, setting the same context in your own life, too. Your brain is flooded with “happy” chemicals. Listen to this podcast to learn more.
Learning 3: A good wellbeing framework is helpful.
In my work at Pinterest I’ve spent time exploring many wellbeing frameworks, and I think this is one of the best. It’s from the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and takes a cross-disciplinary approach to its subject.
The Plasticity of Wellbeing: A Cultivation for Human Flourishing
When I think about my future, for example, I “check in” using this framework, making sure I am addressing all four areas. You can also use the app they’ve created to do the same. It will take you through daily surveys and give you scores on the areas of awareness, connection, insight, and purpose. Give it a try and see if thinking in this way helps you, too.
Quick bonus learning: Coexist with emotion.
I can’t recommend my friend Amanda Stern’s newsletter How to Live enough. Each issue digs into some new facet of mental health and psychology history. The back issues are fantastic and cover a wide array of ideas in clear, easy-to-understand language. It’s opened me up to new schools of thought I hadn’t known about before — for example, the Morita Method.
The Cure for Feelings
Found in the same era as Freud, Dr. Masatake (also known as Shoma) Morita lived in the early 20th century in Japan. His approach is best described by Amanda, so I will quote her here:
When we try to change our feelings, we thwart the natural flow of emotions. Each time we try to avert an uncomfortable truth, we are stunting our growth. To exist means to experience the ups and downs of daily life. When we find creative ways to avoid feeling overwhelming sensations, we create tension where it shouldn’t be; and this makes existing harder…
You don’t have to like something in order to accept it, but you cannot practice Morita Therapy without coming to peace with things as they are.
Thank you Amanda, for sharing your learnings with the rest of us in such a great way.
And thank you to you all for reading! I hope you have a great weekend,
Love, Meredith
Love, Meredith
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