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How to Thrive, Not Hurt, as a Highly Sensitive Person (Part 1/3)

How to Thrive, Not Hurt, as a Highly Sensitive Person (Part 1/3)

The Highly Sensitive Person

    A three-part series on how to thrive as a Highly Sensitive Person. This is Part 1.

    At any given time, 1 in 5 people in the room is experiencing the moment with greater emotional intensity than the other four. And since moments make up life, in any given moment, 1 in 5 people is experiencing life itself more intensely than others.

    This person knows it. And he is pissed off.

    “Why do I take things so seriously? Why do I care when others don’t seem to? Why do I feel more intensely than others? Why am I so sensitive?”

    Up to 20% of the population come with a personality trait that makes them more sensitive: The Highly Sensitive Personality Trait.

    Among many  things, this trait makes you more aware and process stimuli more deeply than those who do not have the trait (80-85%).

    A large chunk of HSPs have come to equate this as a fatal flaw in their inherent makeup.

    And that is a very sad conclusion.

    The trait has so many benefits and advantages, but because it’s often misunderstood, many of those advantages never get a chance to come to the surface.

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    We remain so locked up in trying to fight our sensitivity with a goal to get it to go away. Why? What has caused us to be so upset with the way we are that we actually want to be someone we’re not?

    I think because we don’t understand sensitivity holistically, we’ve made some serious errors in interpreting what it means to be a sensitive person.

    Can we try to clear out some misunderstandings?

    In this three-part HSP series, we’re digging deeper into what it means to be an HSP, what misunderstandings of the trait we’re caught up in and how we can become more at peace with ourselves.

    This is Part 1.

    ***

    You have an innate ability to see more. Are you happy about that?

    The Highly Sensitive Personality Trait is characterized by a high awareness, particularly of subtleties in the environment.

    We’re not just highly aware of our external environment (people, the world, what we take in through our senses), but we’re also highly aware of our internal environment (our own thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations and memories).

    So you’re not just faster in noticing the more obvious things, such as how many people there are in room and the way the furniture is arranged, but also the subtleties happening among these things, such as the body language of people, their energies and shifts in moods.

    And it doesn’t stop there. While you’re aware of what’s outside of you, you’re also aware of what’s happening inside of you. “My heart is racing while talking to this standoffish woman.”

    This means that 80-85% of the people may not have seen Rita’s face slightly drop at the mention of Sharon’s job promotion, but you did. Why? Not because you’re a hyper vigilant, people obsessed maniac, but more because your brain is wired to pick up the subtleties.

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    This is a good point to introduce the research that shows the HSP brain.

    Brain scans show how HSPs are more aware and attentive to subtle stimuli. 80-85% of the population doesn’t have this kind of awareness of subtleties. It has nothing to do with preference or intention, but just because their brain areas that respond to subtleties don’t fire up in the same way as HSPs.

    The first misunderstanding to drop right of the bat is that you cause your own awareness.

    No you don’t. You do not make yourself see the negative in life, such as Rita’s face dropping at the mention of Sharon’s promotion.

    Your high awareness is automatic and it comes with your trait. It’s your brain.

    The irony is that this should make us ecstatic about ourselves. Think about it. If you can pick up the subtleties that go missed by most of the people around you, doesn’t that provide you with more opportunities to be novel and creative?

    The well-adjusted HSPs of the world tend to think so. It’s not like they don’t have strong feelings arising from the awareness of all the subtleties they pick up . They just intentionally elect to not be ashamed of their intensity, but on the contrary, comfortable with it. They use their sensitivity to intentionally live in ways that give their life more meaning.

    The brain scan research also shows that compared to non-HSPs, HSPs are

    1. More reactive to both positive stimuli (love, empathy, music, arts, nature etc) and negative stimuli (fear, distress, pain, cruelty, injustices
    2. More empathetic (affected by and responsive) to other peoples’ emotions, feeling states and energies

    Is this a surprise?

    “You live with a lot of complicated emotions as an actor, and they whirl around you and create havoc at times. And yet, as an actor you’re consciously and unconsciously allowing that to happen… It’s my choice, and I would rather do it this way than live to be 100… Or rather than choosing not to exist within life’s extremities. I’m willing to fly close to the flame.”  – Nicole Kidman

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    On the other hand, non-adjusted HSPs have experienced their awareness as a problem.

    Without the understanding that awareness is automatic and not within their control, many HSPs who pick up subtle social clues of their environment assume that they do so because of their own dirty, bad habit.

    “Karen is right. I always find the negative in a situation. Like Jessica had a frown on her face and looked upset.”

    Maybe you’re just noticing Jessica’s frown for what it is. And maybe Karen is one of those 80-85% non-HSPs who just doesn’t see it.

    So what are we supposed to do then? We come with a trait that makes us see more, but others don’t see it and tell us we make this shit up.

    And this is where the gift starts converting into a curse.

    When others don’t validate me? No.

    It’s when I assume that I need their validation of me, in order to experience me.

    More specifically, when I ask non-HSPs for validation.

    If we try to force non-HSPs to experience life as an HSP, we are surely going to fail. They are not going to see what you see. They are just not wired to. Think about it, can they force you to not be so aware? Can you not see Jessica’s frown when it showed up? No right? Your awareness is part of your innate trait. It’s automatic for you. Exactly in the same way, non-HSPs lack of awareness of subtleties is automatic for them. Their brains do not pick up the subtleties the way yours does.

    It’s time we stop taking this so personally and try to drop the anger.

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    The non-HSPs are the majority. They are 80-85% of the population. So for every one person who sees something, there may be four others who don’t.

    The best way to be happy about this is by stop asking for validation from the four others. Most likely, it doesn’t come the way we want it to come. And that makes us bitter and angry. How dare they tell me I’m too sensitive.

    Your awareness is a gift only when you start treating it as one.

    Here are eight ways to start.

    1. Accept that you are an HSP, and that makes you have a depth of awareness of subtleties that 80-85% of the people around you don’t have. If you’re unclear whether you’re and HSP, take the test.
    2. Accept that you don’t create your awareness. It comes to you. It’s your brain. It’s your trait.
    3. Try to trust that awareness. You don’t need non-HSPs to give you permission to experience your awareness.
    4. Don’t force your sensitivity on others and make it anyone else’s problem. There are 4 out of 5 people who don’t see what you see. Why would you assume they should?
    5. Try not to be so bitter at non-HSPs. Let them be. You can learn how to coexist together but you don’t have to get each other. Also, temperamental differences between people doesn’t mean one side is better than the other. The world needs both HSPs and non HSPs to be a fully functional place.
    6. Realize that you are still a minority, and the temptation to think something is wrong with you can indeed come up. A 4:1 ratio between non-HSPs and HSPs seems overwhelming, particularly if non-HSPs tell us our intensity is abnormal. No it’s not. The 1.4 billion or so HSPs in the world don’t think so.
    7. Try to find more HSPs who get what it means to be an HSP. These are people who will normalize sensitivity for us, giving us the validation we’ve been looking for. But minimize your interaction with bitter people – HSP or not.
    8. Experience your awareness as an advantage. There are HSPs who love their life because of what their sensitivity brings to them. Famous artists, actors, entrepreneurs share how none of their art would be possible without their sensitivity to nuance. This makes total sense, doesn’t it? How can creativity exist without sensitivity to nuance?

    We want to appreciate our awareness as a gift, so let’s learn to stop fighting it as a curse. The world needs your sensitivity, not you running away from it.

    Recommended Reading
    Book: The Highly Sensitive Person
    Comfort Zone: Dr Elaine Aron’s deep dives into the HSP trait, coming to your inbox as a monthly newsletter

    ***

    In Parts 2 and 3, I dig into more confusions HSPs have about their trait that prevent them from living more authentically. High awareness of subtleties makes you see more, but all this seeing overloads our nervous system. The overload can make us shut down or react in ways we don’t want and come to regret. The challenge is even harder when all of this happens to us mainly at a subconscious level. How should we enjoy our trait when the overstimulation from it leave us exhausted, tired and angry at ourselves and the world that doesn’t understand us? Stay tuned by signing up.

    Featured photo credit: Chan Y., unsplash.com via unsplash.com

    More by this author

    Namita Gujral

    Anxiety Coach

    HSP, Highly Sensitive Person 6 Decisions a Highly Sensitive Person MUST make (Part 3/3) The Biggest Fight of the Highly Sensitive Person (Part 2/3) How to Thrive, Not Hurt, as a Highly Sensitive Person (Part 1/3) 5 Reasons to Quit Intellectualizing Your Emotions How to Overcome Anxious Thoughts With Milk, a Hat, and a Post Office

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    Last Updated on August 8, 2019

    How to Improve Your Brain Memory Naturally: Foods to Eat And Skip

    How to Improve Your Brain Memory Naturally: Foods to Eat And Skip

    Staying focused and maintaining high performance in a hectic work rhythm leads to stress and mental exhaustion. So how to improve brain memory naturally?

    The good news is that the negative effects of increased cognitive efforts can be prevented: brain foods, combined with healthy sleep regime and exercise, improve memory, concentration, and intellect.

    What’s more, cutting many foods that we consider “generally harmful” out of the diet improves brain function and reduces brain health risks.

    How does food improve brain health? Research proves that specific elements contained in the food positively influence molecular systems and support cognitive function.[1] Here’s how:

    • Amino acids support neurotransmitters, endogenous chemicals that transmit signals between nerve cells. This helps keep the brain sharp.
    • Glucose is the main source of energy for human brain. Almost all energy that the brain consumes is derived from glucose.
    • Fatty acids strengthen nerve cells. They bring essential nutrients into brain cells and keep harmful toxins out.
    • Antioxidants protect brain cells by inhibiting oxidization, reducing its negative effects, and removing oxidizing agents from the body.

    Knowing what substances are good for brain health, it’s easier to choose a diet that improves memory, maintains brain health and protects it from damage factors. Many foods are known to have positive effects on cognitive health, so anyone can choose their favorite ones to include in their daily diet.

    10 Foods That Improve Your Brain

    1. Nuts and Seeds

    Nuts, such as walnuts and almonds, contain fatty Omega-3 acids that the brain needs for its healthy function, and antioxidant vitamin E that protects nerve cells and reduces brain health risks.

    Whole grain, beans, and seeds – sunflower, pumpkin and others – are also a great source of amino acids and zinc that improve memory and contribute mental clarity.

    Nutritionists recommend consuming nuts and seeds as a healthy snack – a handful of them is enough to satisfy midday hunger and to cover your daily requirement of brain-supporting substances.

    2. Salmon and Other Fatty Fish

    Salmon is another source of omega-3 fatty acids that maintain brain health. Essential fatty acids contained in fatty fish, such as tuna, herring and sardines, have a protective effect on brain in the aging process by reducing the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

    In a shorter-term perspective, they show positive effects on cognitive-behavioral health: they significantly reduce the risk and the symptoms of depression, ADHD, and anxiety.

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    3. Dark Green Vegetables

    Rich in antioxidants and vitamin C, green leafy vegetables are known for their positive effects on general well-being and sharpness of mind.

    Additionally, such veggies as broccoli, avocado, or kale are powerful cancer fighters. They contain vitamin K that fights lack of concentration, prevents Alzheimer’s disease, and works as an anti-aging substance.

    Spinach, kale, and chard also contain brain-boosting vitamins B and iron that helps transfer oxygen to the brain.

    4. Dark Chocolate

    We often assume that healthy food is not tasty and our favorite sweets are unhealthy, but that’s not quite true.

    Combining the useful with the pleasant is possible when it comes to chocolate – and the darker the better: the best choice is 70% cocoa and more. Dark chocolate is rich in flavonoids that stimulate blood flow to the brain, and such elements as iron, manganese, copper, and magnesium that boost energy and support many body functions.

    Consuming cocoa improves cognitive function , reduces stress, and protects mental health.

    5. Tomatoes

    Tomatoes are packed with carotenoids that safeguard fat in the body. As brain is mainly made of fat, this function is especially important for it.

    Tomatoes are a great source of two carotenoid types: lycopene and beta-carotene. They are powerful antioxidants that protect brain cells from free-radical damage, regulate cell growth, have anti-aging effects, and improve memory.

    6. Eggs

    Many of us mostly consume eggs as a source of proteins, but they have much more value for our health. They contain choline that regulates enzymes essential for mental health.

    Eggs are a safe way to consume cholesterol that strengthens brain cells and structures. Apart from that, eggs are packed with antioxidants and healthy fats that nurture and protect the brain.

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    7. Berries

    Berries are a great source of vitamins that help our body function properly. They contain vitamins C and K, antioxidants, fiber, and many other important nutrients.

    Dark berries, such as blackberries, blueberries, and cherries, are a source of flavonoids that improve brain health and boost memory.

    And while fresh berries are usually a seasonal treat, dried and frozen ones are also rich in healthy nutrients and can be consumed throughout the entire year.

    8.Green tea

    Green tea has been being used as a medicine throughout the centuries.[2] The list of its benefits for health and well-being is very long – but we’ll focus here on its positive effects on brain. It is extremely rich in antioxidants that protect brain from harmful free radicals and reduce the risk of cancer.

    In 1494, Japanese scientists identified in green tea an amino acid called L-theanine. It promotes relaxation and facilitates sleep, helping maintain concentration, regulating emotions, and boosting cognitive abilities.

    9. Sage and rosemary

    Adding these herbs to your favorite dishes not only improves the taste, but also sharpen the mind, alleviate fatigue, and increase mental clarity.

    These herbs contain over 40 active compounds that benefit brain health and enhance cognitive activity. They promote focus, concentration, and calmness, which is essential for alertness and long-term memory.[3]

    10. Red wine

    While high levels of alcohol are destructive for overall well-being and for brain health in particular, small amounts of red wine are refreshing and vivifying for brain.

    Studies have shown that red wine, alongside with it relaxing effect, also improves the brain’s ability to remove harmful toxins by regulating the glymphatic system, reduces the risk of inflammation, and improves cognitive abilities and motor skills.[4]

    5 Foods That Harm the Brain

    We’ve figured out what food is healthy – but knowing what is to avoid is also essential for maintaining brain health, good memory and sharp focus. Here’s a list of the most harmful foods that impair memory, impact mood, and increase health risks:

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    1. Sugary Foods and Beverages

    Studies prove that higher sugar levels in the blood not only result in excessive body weight and increase the risk of diabetes – they also expose you to the risk of dementia.[5] That’s why rep lacing sugary drinks and foods with healthier products is essential.

    Consider consuming unsweetened tea, water, vegetable juice, and unsweetened dairy products instead.

    2. Trans Fats

    Trans fats, or unsaturated fatty acids, in small amounts occur in natural and healthy products, such as dairy and meat, where they’re are not a major concern. Much more harmful are industrially produced ones, which are used in snacks, packaged baked goods, and fast food.

    As there’s a relation between the intake of trans fats and the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, World Health Organization introduced a guide to eliminate trans fats from the global food supply.

    3. Refined Carbohydrates

    Refined carbs include sugar and highly-processed grains – for example, white flour. Due to their high glycemic index (GI), they are considered harmful to brain: foods high in GI impair memory in both children and adults, increase inflammation risks and can cause degenerative diseases.

    A healthy alternative is whole-grain foods, vegetables, and fruits.

    4. Aspartame

    A thing that is considered “better than sugar”, but in fact is not better at all. It is efficient for losing weight because it has zero calories, but its components – phenylalanine, methanol, and aspartic acid – have negative effects on cognitive abilities, mood, and alertness.

    A healthy choice recommended by experts is reducing the amount of sugar and artificial sweeteners in your diet, or cutting them out altogether.

    5. Alcohol

    While experts mention positive effects of moderate amounts of red wine on brain health, the excessive consumption of alcohol can cause severe problems that everyone needs to be aware of.

    Reduction in brain volume, metabolic problems, disruption of neurotransmitters are the most frequent negative effects. They cause memory loss, behavior disorders, and long-term brain damage.

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    Keep alcohol consumption moderate, or avoid it at all, especially if you already have any health risks.

    Bonus Advice…

    Just eating healthy food sometimes is obviously not enough for improving cognitive performance in the long-term perspective. The key to achieving the best result is getting healthy nutrients consistently. That’s why carefully balancing your daily meal is essential for staying focused and productive.

    Here’s some advice on what foods you can choose for your daily diet to boost your memory, concentration, and brain health:

    Breakfast

    A full and healthy breakfast is an efficient way to start your day productively – so never skip it!

    Oatmeal, berry smoothies, and eggs are traditional breakfast meals, and they are a great source of memory-boosting nutrients.

    Lunch

    It’s sometimes tempting to opt for fast food or packaged baked goods, but stay away from them if you want to stay healthy and energized.

    Sandwiches and salads with fish, green leafy vegetables, whole grain and chicken are a great choice for a light and healthy lunch.

    Dinner

    Again, don’t turn fast food into a habit – such options as seafood and fish, salads with tomatoes and green vegetables, kale, and whole-grain products energize your body and are a better choice for brain health and overall well-being.

    Snacks and Desserts

    Cookies and candies are a popular (and not really healthy) option for a snack or a dessert. Instead, try choosing healthier meals for your snack. Walnuts or almonds, fresh fruit or berries (depending on the season), or fruit and nut mix give a powerful energy boost.

    And don’t forget that dark chocolate is also a healthy choice for a dessert!

    The Bottom Line

    Improving and maintaining memory, focus and cognitive abilities is crucial for a full and active life. Choosing healthy foods and avoiding unhealthy ones helps support brain health in both short-term and long-term perspective. Keep your diet consistent, and combine good food habits with exercise, healthy sleep regime and reasonable work-life balance to achieve best results.

    Featured photo credit: Thomas Evans via unsplash.com

    Reference

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