Dopamine, a banana yellow car and my friend.

I am narrating, slowly but surely, Becoming.

I record little chunks and send them to my very dear friend, Linda, in Melbourne, Australia. I have been doing this pleasurable task since the end of March.

I have not seen her in over a decade, she lives alone and was not able to talk with me due to a procedure. I tend to send her very long messages on WhatsApp, the kind that need a cup of coffee and a sit down to listen to-all of my friends have to get used to this loquacious manner of mine!

She has always appreciated these long messages and loves my voice, saying that she feels as though we are sitting together again.

This gave me an idea to surprise her along with giving my day some focus during this challenging time.

We both admire, Michelle Obama, and yes, Mr. Obama is not half bad either! Or as my friend exclaimed in her message after he finally surfaced in Chapter 8, ”Oh, he sounds delicious!”.

The next morning, when I woke up after sending her the first chapter, was just incredible. Her joy and gratitude spilled out in her messages of thanks to me.

The dopamine was overflowing for both of us!!

When your brain is happy, dopamine flows and you glow !

When our behaviour is of an altruistic nature and when we are on the receiving end, we activate brain regions linked to:

⦁ pleasure

⦁ satisfaction

⦁ bonding

⦁ social connection

As these brain regions become denser due to neuroplasticity-cell growth, we are:

⦁ feeling connected

⦁ feeling supported

⦁ increasing our mental resilience

⦁ more in control

⦁ producing feel good neurochemicals

When we have compassion and empathy for each other, we are literally changing our brain, the pre-frontal cortex. PFC, becomes denser. This is the most advanced region of our brain and responsible for things such as:

⦁ fear and emotion regulation

⦁ error detection

⦁ focus

⦁ goal setting

⦁ risk evaluation

⦁ memory

⦁ awareness of unconscious bias

Compassion enhances your immune system and reduces the effects of stress.

One of the emotions felt by many right now is fear.

When fear dominates your thoughts, it drains your mental energy both consciously and unconsciously.

Become more aware of your emotions so that you can stop yourself from spiralling downwards.

Remembering what you are grateful for can help you to mange your thoughts, emotions and flow of energy to your PFC.

Gratitude also changes your brain!

I am so grateful for this enduring and nurturing friendship. As I think of my friend, I remember our conversations, the laughter and tears, the support and so much more. I feel love and compassion for her and I know that she feels the same. The regions in my brain linked to pleasure are strengthened as the connections between the neurons grow.

Plus that dopamine keeps flowing!

The banana yellow car reference, I hear you ask!

Michelle was picked up by Obama, after work in his rather noisy, mechanical mess of a car with a hole in the floor!! I laughed as I read this and told my friend of a similar story where for one job, I had to drive a blue van with a hole and dubious mechanics-until my boss upgraded!!

My friend and I have bonded on a deeper level by ‘reading’ this book together and sharing our experiences similar to Michelle’s.

I invite you to think of how you can show compassion & empathy for someone in your life or by volunteering. What are you grateful for in your life? Write down those things daily and refer back to when you need a reminder.

You can literally change your brain for the better!

Thank you for reading !


Published by Naiyer Sultana Qureshi

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