Absolutely everything I think seems to be both obvious and profound to me.
When I was younger I was a fat, heavy, cigarette smoking, alcoholic. I strategically induced dopamine releases dosed out over time to stay in a perpetual state of spike with no crash......over time I proved this doesn't work. I now know there are no cheats. The lows always balance out the highs. This is a universal law you cannot get around. Guess what is on the other side of the mountain? A valley...consistently. Now that you know, you can enjoy the hike and realize that change is the only constant, and thank god or else we would be faced with the one problem that nature or god or whatever you'd like to call it has, which is boredom.
I could talk about this forever but a part of me doesn't want the secret to get out because if too many people figure out that everything that exists will swing back the other way, then there will be no fear, no villain, and no fun for the universe to play the hero.
So regarding neurogenesis: I have spent a great deal of time and energy learning about fractals. I often think of the brain an our nervous system as a tree in our body. When I was an alcoholic I was unknowingly chasing dopamine and destroying my neurogenesis and ultimately my brain. Alcohol stops the dopamine blocker in the brain (that normally shuts off when it's supposed to) so that you feel good along with a slew of other symptoms: vision issues, inhibited motor function, slurred speech, black outs, etc. This is really neurotoxicity or short term brain damage. I did not know this. I just knew that I didn't feel good sober and that certain behavior made me feel better. It was a self-medicating strategy. I didn't have enough neurological margin to make it through the day to invest in long term happiness, so I had to settle for short term highs. I was depressed. Think about the word depression. Here is the definition:
Take note of the 2nd definition listed above: a sunken place. This is a depressed brain. The point is, a shirking brain feels depressed and a growing brain feels happy. A depressed brain relies on short-term dopamine highs and a long-term happy brain has sustainable serotonin. Dopamine and serotonin are neurotransmitters. They are always changing and I'm not trying to absolutize one over the other, but I will say that SSRI anti-depressants stand for Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors; meaning that the re-uptake of serotonin is stopped so there is more of it.
So why is it so hard to break free of depression? Lots of reasons, but the one I want to point out is that neurogenesis refers to a growing brain. This is common in kids because they are learning so much so fast. It's also common in people who are engaged in multiple engagements and activities. Happiness is reserved for people that can handle change. The reward of being open to learning is a brain that grows, which equates to a happy person. Here is the hard part: when the new pathways in the brain are emerging, it is like the birth of a new version of you. Giving birth (I've heard) is very challenging and painful, yet rewarding. Giving birth to new ideas and in turn a new brain is no different. If you are a visual learner, watch the 2 videos below: one is neurogenesis and the other is a seed growing over a 21 day period.
21 days is significant because that is about how long it takes for new neuro pathways to form. When I was drinking, I was just trying to make it through the day. I could never seem to get far enough ahead to make it the 3 weeks to learn and in turn be happy, so I just kept living pay check to pay check in my depressed brain.
It's important to understand that you are both the roots growing and the grounds surrounding the roots so to speak, and that is why it is so painful to learn and change. Wether conscious or subconscious, a part of me worried that if I became a happy person I wouldn't be me anymore. I was a drinker, I was a punk and city boy, a smoker. At the time I didn't want to lose myself and turn into some hippy, nature buff, typing on a health blog while intermittent fasting. I didn't know any better. When you see the plant grow, at no point do you think it's no longer the same plant even though it changes as it grows. If you have similar thoughts, trust that it is safe to change. The change will take time (at least 3 weeks), and you won't hardly notice it.
So growing brains are happy. In part 2 I'll tell you the things I did to get the margin to make it through my days and the weeks required for me to grow my brain along with what you can do to break out of any rut you find yourself in. Just be willing to give birth to those new ideas about becoming a happier version of yourself. Alcohol and other chemicals stunt and kill the idea babies the same way they do real babies. Part 2 is on the way. Until then, think about growing your brain and being happy. What would that look like?
Rob Alexander is on a journey to learn not just about health but everything else.
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