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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 December 9, 2019

    15 Brain Foods That Will Super Boost Your Brain Power

    15 Brain Foods That Will Super Boost Your Brain Power

    These days, there are so many food choices. Every marketing trick is used to make you buy brain foods, all-natural, fat-free or gluten-free products.

    Could you blame them? They need to make a profit to keep existing and delivering their goods to the consumers.

    But does this mean that foods with these labels are just regular products or do brain foods really exist?

    That’s when research came in and proved that brain foods (meaning: foods that have a positive effect on the brain) really do exist.

    In this article, you will find 15 brain foods you should be eating to keep your mind sharp.

    1. Blueberries

    One of the greatest gifts of Mother Nature — blueberries. Blueberries are known as the king of antioxidants[1] and are used to detox the body.

    There are not a lot of studies that tried to prove the relationship between blueberries and the improvement of brain function. But there’s one study that consisted of 9 elderly people. They found that consuming blueberry juice on a daily basis for 12 weeks improved memory function.[2]

    If this is not reasonable enough to include blueberries into your diet, you should read the following article on other benefits of blueberries: 10 Benefits of Blueberries That Will Impress You

    As with every single one of the brain foods listed here: Consuming more than necessary can also lead to side effects, this is the same with blueberries.[3]

    When including blueberries in your diet along with other brain foods; make sure to eat no more than 0.5 cups (4 oz./113 grams) a day.

    2. Broccoli

    The first vegetable on the list, broccoli. Whatever you do with it; roast, steam, blanch or saute.[4] It will still improve the sharpness of your brain.

    There are two main nutrients in broccoli that makes it one of the brain foods on this list. Vitamin K, which is also found in lower amounts in blueberries, helps strengthen cognitive abilities.[5] The nutrient Choline improves your memory.[6]

    There’s six times more vitamin K in broccoli than in blueberries. The downside is that blueberries are a bit tastier.

    Include some broccoli with every warm plate you eat in a day, and your brain will turn into a SUPER brain.

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    3. Walnuts

    Walnuts are the best choice of all the nuts when it comes to improving cognitive function. They have the same benefits as every other nut, but walnuts also contain omega-3 fatty acids.[7]

    Beside the improvement of heart health,[8] walnuts also provide a sharper memory (at least to women).[9]

    Consuming walnuts also help slow mental decline[10] because of the Vitamin E that is found in walnuts.[11]

    Next time you crave a snack, buy a bag of unroasted and unsalted walnuts. In the future, this will be the replacement of all unhealthy snacks like Twix.

    Brain foods are not brain foods because they contain a lot of sugar. Brain foods usually consist of a high amount of vitamins and antioxidants. That’s how you can recognize them.

    4. Green Tea

    Some of us are coffee drinkers while others prefer tea. You don’t have to choose one or the other because both of them made it to the list (you’ll read later about coffee in number 11 of brain foods).

    Green tea contains more than just caffeine; it contains L-theanine which essentially lowers the anxiety levels.[12] It also increases the levels of dopamine and alpha wave production (relaxation).

    The lower levels of caffeine in green tea compared to coffee makes this a perfect brain function drink. Caffeine and L-theanine show synergistic effects that work best with the amount of caffeine found in green tea.[13]

    People who drink green tea have proven that they have a more stable energy level and increased productivity compared to when they drink coffee. So, if you’re looking for brain foods that will enhance your productivity; green tea is the way to go.

    5. Oranges

    Orange has a high amount of Vitamin C in it. One large orange is enough to fulfill 100% of your daily Vitamin C intake. Vitamin C has a lot of benefits:

    • Vitamin C reduces the risk of chronic diseases like heart disease[14]
    • It may help fight against high blood pressure[15]
    • Vitamin C boosts immunity by increasing the production of white blood cells[16]
    • The most important of all: high levels of Vitamin C are found to be related to the improvement of memory and thinking. People suffering from dementia has been shown to have low levels of Vitamin C.[17] This may mean that by consuming enough Vitamin C, you will be able to prevent dementia.[18]

    To learn more about everything related to Vitamin C, read the following article: All You Need To Know About Vitamin C Benefits (and Recipes To Boost Your Daily Intake)

    6. Avocados

    Avocados fit very nicely in your salad, or you may even like it on toast.

    Avocado is a source of healthy fats; monounsaturated fat. Monounsaturated fat is believed to contribute to healthy blood flow which in turn means a healthy brain.[19]

    Besides that, avocados also lower blood pressure which will prevent a decrease in cognitive abilities.[20]

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    Adding 1/4 or 1/2 avocado daily should do the trick and help your brain function as a superhero.

    If you need practical ways to include avocado in your daily diet, check this out: 50+ Super Easy Avocado Recipes At Home Now

    7. Coconut Oil

    Coconut oil is a multi-functional oil; some bathe in it, some put it all over their skin, and it’s also used for cooking. To get the following benefits out of it; you should consume it orally (but that’s up to you of course).

    When it comes down to improved brain function; coconut oil has proven to boost brain function in Alzheimer’s patients.[21] Although it isn’t shown to work on people without Alzheimer’s; it can never hurt.

    Besides that, there are many more benefits to coconut oil.

    8. Spinach

    One research found that when elderly consumed one (or two) daily serving of spinach (or other leafy greens for that matter) for an average of 5 years had the same cognitive abilities as someone 11 years younger who never consumed leafy greens.[22]

    This all is thanks to Vitamin K that is found in leafy greens like spinach, kale, collards and mustard greens.

    Popeye looks impressive from the outside, and you will look impressive from the inside once you consume your daily spinach: 6 Mouth-Watering Spinach Recipes You Should Not Miss

    9. Oatmeal

    Known for its use as breakfast, oatmeal is one of many kinds of cereal that contains more than just sugar.

    There’s a reason why oatmeal is often used as breakfast. It is because of the many carbohydrates that are in it which act like a shot of glucose that spikes your blood sugar levels.

    Glucose is sent immediately to the brain to help it function. In essence, this means that the higher the concentration of glucose in your blood, the better you can focus and remember things.[23]

    If you suffer from low blood sugar levels in the morning and can’t function without having a big breakfast immediately upon waking, oatmeal is going to be your best friend.

    10. Raisins

    Children often consume them as healthy snacks because it’s sweet. But did you know raisins promote brain function?

    Raisins are the number one source of boron of all brain foods. The research found that the level of boron is related to hand-eye coordination and short-term memory.[24] Increased levels of boron improves both.

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    Besides that, raisins also heal wounds faster and prevent deficiency in Vitamin D.

    11. Coffee

    We touched on the benefits of green tea earlier, but that doesn’t mean coffee can’t serve its purpose to brain function as well. If you prefer coffee over tea; listen (actually read) closely.

    There’s something about coffee that most people don’t even know. The point is that most of us consume more antioxidants through coffee than any other of the mentioned brain foods.

    This is not because there are more antioxidants in coffee; it’s because coffee is consumed the most of all brain foods.

    These antioxidants protect your brain from cell death which in turn protects you from dementia and related diseases.[25]

    Not to mention that caffeine may also prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s.[26][27]

    You don’t have to give up your coffee; except for all the sugar and milk you put in it. Drink your coffee black and keep it to a maximum of 3 per day and you should be okay.

    12. Almonds

    Earlier we touched upon walnuts, but most nuts are generally good for your health (as long as you don’t overdo it).

    Almonds are most known for their potential of enhancing memory and delaying Alzheimer’s progression.[28][29] Of course, they share the same benefits with the walnuts, but almonds are lower in omega 3 fats.

    If you forget things on a daily basis, maybe a handful of almonds per day can help you.

    Five to six almonds a day should do the trick. If you’re not watching your weight, you can just grab a handful. But don’t overdo it because there’s a lot of fats in nuts.

    Here’re more benefits of almonds you should know: 10 Benefits of Almonds That Will Surprise You (+Healthy Recipes)

    13. Lentils

    Lentils for the vegans among you is one of the best sources of protein among legumes. Besides that, it is a rich source of various essential nutrients like iron, Vitamin B6, and folate (Vitamin B9).

    Besides the fact that they make a terrific combination with rice; lentils also serves its purpose in the brain. All the essential nutrients improve brain function in their own way:

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    • Folate (Vitamin B9) keeps your mind sharp while you get older.[30]
    • Iron plays an essential role in cognitive functioning with pregnant women.[31]
    • Zinc is well known for boosting memory.[32]
    • Vitamin B6 and thiamine give you more energy and focus.[33][34]

    As you can see; lentils make up one of the best brain foods on this list. But this also depends on your preference as some of you might’ve never even eaten lentils.

    14. Strawberries

    Most berries and other related fruits like strawberries (which are technically seen not berries) are all known to have beneficial effects on the brain.[35] They help prevent age-related memory loss and may even slow the progress of Alzheimer’s.[36]

    Another thing that is more strawberry related is the amount of potassium in it. Potassium is related to increased blood flow thus improved cognitive function.[37]

    Eight strawberries per day should do the trick and give you many benefits besides these brain-enhancing benefits: 10 Amazing Benefits of Strawberries that You Probably Never Knew

    15. Red Wine

    Last but not least, red wine. Although alcohol itself is not related to any improvement in brain functioning; some studies show that there are benefits to drinking lightly or moderately.

    Out of all the alcoholic beverages, red wine is the one with the most favorable results. Research shows that red wine may even slow aging[38] and it can also decrease the risk of dementia.[39]

    Although these results are based on research, the researchers don’t recommend that any non-drinkers start drinking. Especially younger people shouldn’t aim to drink red wine as the most benefits (or no increased risks) are found in the elderly.

    If you think about drinking red wine, you should drink maximum 1 glass of red wine per day as a woman and maximum of 2 glasses of red wine per day for men. One glass of red wine should contain 175ml, don’t overdo it.

    Keep in mind that there are also potential risks to drinking alcohol. Such risks include addition, depression and weight gain when you’re not drinking carefully.

    Conclusion

    “You are what you eat.”

    One of the oldest sayings ever expresses all you need to know.

    Every food on this brain foods list is put on this list because it enhances brain functioning in some way. So, whichever food on this list you choose to eat after reading this article doesn’t matter.

    What matters most is that you read everything closely and choose one of the brain foods that fit your goal the most.

    Enjoy eating your next brain food!

    More About Boosting Brain Power

    Featured photo credit: Melissa Belanger via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Wild Blueberries: Wild Blueberries Antioxidants
    [2] NCBI: Blueberry Supplementation Improves Memory in Older Adults
    [3] Good Health All: 8 Major Side Effects OF Eating Too Many Blueberries
    [4] Skinny Ms: How to Make Broccoli Taste Good, Each and Every Time
    [5] Wellness Resources: Vitamin K Enhances Cognitive Function During Aging
    [6] The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: The relation of dietary choline to cognitive performance and white-matter hyperintensity in the Framingham Offspring Cohort
    [7] The Journal Of Nutrition: Role of Walnuts in Maintaining Brain Health with Age
    [8] NCBI: Cardiovascular risk factors and cognitive function.
    [9] NCBI: LONG-TERM INTAKE OF NUTS IN RELATION TO COGNITIVE FUNCTION IN OLDER WOMEN
    [10] NCBI: Vitamin E and cognitive decline in older persons.
    [11] NCBI: Vitamin E-gene interactions in aging and inflammatory age-related diseases: implications for treatment. A systematic review.
    [12] NCBI: The neuropharmacology of L-theanine(N-ethyl-L-glutamine): a possible neuroprotective and cognitive enhancing agent.
    [13] NCBI: L-theanine and caffeine in combination affect human cognition as evidenced by oscillatory alpha-band activity and attention task performance.
    [14] NCBI: Effect of five-year supplementation of vitamin C on serum vitamin C concentration and consumption of vegetables and fruits in middle-aged Japanese: a randomized controlled trial.
    [15] NCBI: Effects of vitamin C supplementation on blood pressure: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.
    [16] NCBI: Association between nutritional status and cognitive functioning in a healthy elderly population.
    [17] NCBI: Dietary antioxidants and dementia in a population-based case-control study among older people in South Germany.
    [18] National Institute of Health: Vitamin C
    [19] JOURNAL OF NEUROCHEMISTRY: Dietary intake of unsaturated fatty acids modulates physiological properties of entorhinal cortex neurons in mice
    [20] National Institute on Aging: High blood pressure is linked to cognitive decline
    [21] NCBI: Effects of beta-hydroxybutyrate on cognition in memory-impaired adults.
    [22] News Wise: Eating Green Leafy Vegetables Keeps Mental Abilities Sharp
    [23] PNAS: Stoichiometric coupling of brain glucose metabolism and glutamatergic neuronal activity
    [24] NCBI: Nothing Boring About Boron
    [25] NCBI: Neuroprotection and antioxidants
    [26] NCBI: High Blood caffeine levels in MCI linked to lack of progression to dementia.
    [27] NCBI: Hypoxia/reoxygenation impairs memory formation via adenosine-dependent activation of caspase 1.
    [28] Science Direct: Repeated administration of almonds increases brain acetylcholine levels and enhances memory function in healthy rats while attenuates memory deficits in animal model of amnesia
    [29] Science Direct: Almond, hazelnut and walnut, three nuts for neuroprotection in Alzheimer’s disease: A neuropharmacological review of their bioactive constituents
    [30] NCBI: Folic acid, ageing, depression, and dementia
    [31] The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Iron treatment normalizes cognitive functioning in young women
    [32] ResearchGate: A potential medicinal importance of zinc in human health and chronic disease
    [33] ORA: Vitamin B6 for cognition
    [34] Springer Link: Thiamine supplementation mood and cognitive functioning
    [35] J. Agric. Food Chem: Berry Fruit Enhances Beneficial Signaling in the Brain
    [36] NCBI: Dietary intake of berries and flavonoids in relation to cognitive decline
    [37] Science Direct: Potassium 2-(1-hydroxypentyl)-benzoate improves learning and memory deficits in chronic cerebral hypoperfused rats
    [38] NY Times: New Hints Seen That Red Wine May Slow Aging
    [39] NCBI: Moderate alcohol consumption and cognitive risk.

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