Bring Up Biophilia—What makes us particularly attracted to nature

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Staying locked up inside our homes during this dreaded pandemic has made us realized that we definitely need to spend more time in our outside world. Not only to socialize but to get in touch with our natural environment. But unfortunately, even when we are deciding to play in the dirt or choosing to have our ears filled with bird songs, we are mostly unaware of what it does to us. Yet, we are just beginning to understand that nature can do way more for us than the other way around. As soon as we allow ourselves the satisfaction to immerse in any natural environment, we can observe physical and psychological benefits. It only begs us to wonder why outdoor activities are not persistently on our minds. And although we have been aware of our profound relationship with nature for a while now, there were still no words to describe it. More specifically, the term biophilia was, until recently, to some degree foreign to us. Just in case you still don’t know what biophilia might mean, it is a word used to describe our innate instinct to connect with nature.

Nobody ignores the positive effects present in our bodies when we spend time in nature. That’s why many people opt for outdoor destinations for their planned vacations. And one might believe that the relief we feel after those vacays can be the result of the time taken off work and it could in part be true. However, we should not underestimate the impact of natural input on the body and mind. Even short exposure to any of these inputs can produce a wide range of positive influences. Actually, a mere 30-min exposure can be sufficient to produce sensations like lowered anxiety, improved focus, increased productivity, heightened creativity, greater happiness, and more. Personally speaking, the addition of biophilic elements in my writing routine has definitely been a tremendous help. Especially the addition of nature soundtracks for my audio input has proven itself the most significant improvement. It certainly was the best tool to keep my focus on the task at hand, improved my creativity and reduced the anxiety that I was facing.

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Most people believe that our personal health is essentially synonymous with physical health. And even if this is not thoroughly wrong, it is a gross overestimation. Health researchers are busting their backs trying to popularize the notion that we need to do drastically more to preserve our health. Gone are the times when exercising and eating well were the fundamental guidelines. We most promptly need to consider our mental health as well. That begins with making sure to take advantage of all the tools at our disposal. Most of you might already be fervent adherents of meditation, and that is absolutely great. Meditation is very challenging, and if you can find success in the practice, I am most definitely impressed. However, caring for our mental well-being doesn’t have to be a demanding activity. The simple act of deciding to add a plant to your desk office can already help. Also, they, fortunately, don’t even need to be alive. The implementation of artificial elements reminding us of nature also produces some significant impact. Albeit, the results are more modest than when genuine natural components are involved. 

Interestingly, adding biophilic elements to your meditation might be a great way to enrich your experience. We don’t even need to go overboard with it. Adding a simple nature soundtrack as our background music might be entirely sufficient. The music may allow us to relax and relieve the underlying anxiety that is keeping our minds hostage. To some extent, we may even include more senses into our practice. We could involve our sight by imagining a forest, a beach, a mountain, or any other landscape for that matter. This approach is already so rampant in visualization exercises to promote relaxation and mental stability. Touch might also be a very remarkable way to stimulate our senses. Holding a sea shell or touching grass is a great way to connect with nature. The smell can also be a powerful ally. Adding some nature-inspired essential oil can be a very affordable and easily accessible way to remind ourselves of our natural world. At last, we could also include some tasting elements, such as fruits, veggies, nuts or any raw food. 

To this day, nobody has come to any solid conclusion to explain why biophilia has such a critical impact on our lives. Nevertheless, the strongest argument relies on evolutionary pressures. We feel more relaxed just by hearing a waterfall because access to water is essential. Through generations, we have integrated the sound of water as comforting and restoring music. The sight of trees can remind us of the possible access to food sources, either from hunting, fishing or gathering. Touching grass or a plant’s leaf might remind us of our proximity to nature. And I think that smelling and tasting natural elements doesn’t need any comment about their positive impact on our mood. What drove evolution was our need to survive, and being in proximity to nature provided us with the safest way to succeed. And even though, technically, an arid desert is still natural, it doesn’t seem to provide as much relief to us. We have probably learnt through our ancestors that nothing can abundantly grow there.  We have learnt through generations and generations not to feel at ease in those environments because staying there could result in death. 

Another possible explanation for the reason we seem so particularly drawn towards living elements might reside in how these things are anything but static. We don’t quite like how things change so abruptly; it is anxiogenic. And yet, we still strive for change, a slow sluggish change, to be exact. And that is doubtlessly provided by most living biophilic components. A plant will always look like the same plant, more or less, but its leaves will change. Some will die and fall, and then some new may appear. Some new branches may emerge. The plant might also grow taller if its pot is big enough and has enough water and nutrients. All this to say that living things provide us with a slow but steady change that kindly reminds us of time and guides us into making the best of it. 

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Domestic animals are also fantastic biophilic elements, which might partly explain why zootherapy is so effective. Having pets does not only engage one sense, our sight, but all of them. We most certainly can see them zooming around, we can smell their breath, we can pat their fur, we may haphazardly taste their saliva, and we most definitely can hear them barking, meowing, chirping and more. And strangely enough, the benefits from being around animals are very similar to the ones observed from us being in nature. Amongst many benefits, we can notice lowered blood pressure, lightened breathing, increased mood and release of oxytocin which can promote calm and encourage attachment. Nevertheless, assuming that all the perceived positive effects relied on their biophilic aspect would be unfair. Being in the company of animals has also shown great help to maintain physical health by promoting physical activities and motivating their owners to get going. 

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Considering the importance of biophilia, we can now understand the need to incorporate some elements into our daily lives. And some changes don’t need to be extreme. As for me, I have decided to change the background for my desktop for a natural landscape which supplemented the nature soundtracks very nicely. I would like to include more biophilic elements in the future for my home, such as plants and maybe a pet someday, but they can be expensive. Right now, I prefer spending some valuable and wholesome quality time in the great outdoors. I honestly love the occasional hike, or sudden walks, or even spending time on our porch. The more important part is the do it consciously and mindfully. Whenever I’m outdoor, I seek anything that might remind me of nature. I particularly like hearing the birdsongs, seeing the occasional spiders, smell the decaying leaves on the ground or the freshly mowed lawn and holding rocks in my hands. 

Whatever you might choose to include, I approve of your change. These changes might not mean much to most people, but they mean a great deal to me, and I hope for you too. So, if you decide to make this move, please let me know about your journey. I would absolutely be delighted to hear about it. 

I thank you infinitely for reading this post and if you would like to know more about the mysteries that surround us, please join my subscription list to keep up with my newest content. If you have any questions, please add them to the comment section and I’ll make sure to answer them as soon as humanly possible.

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Bring Up Puberty—When a Transition to Adulthood Becomes Unavoidable

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For the sake of being completely honest with you, I don’t remember much of my puberty. Nonetheless, there is one particular element that will be forever in my mind, my first period. Being a girl, you know menstruation is taboo. We all know it exists, even boys, but for heaven’s sake, we should never mention it, ever. Well, sorry everyone, I cannot help but mention it. Yet, even though I don’t entirely remember the full extent of my puberty, I can recognize that I have gone through all of its associated symptoms, except for acne. My situation is really not that different from the experience shared by so many other girls. I started having breasts, developing hair in places where I had none before, growing taller and even more. This story is from my point of view, a girl’s point of view. As for the boys, despite not sharing entirely the same experiences, there are still some evident similarities. 

My first period happened about 18 years ago, and if my memory is anything reliable, that day started like any other day. It was a beautiful, sunny and warm summer day. It was during the weekend, and as such, my family and I had to do chores. Mowing the lawn seemed especially fun, but my parents would never agree to let me use the lawnmower. They told me that the machine was too dangerous for a young girl (it was probably a wise decision). However, after months of begging, they finally gave in. On that beautiful sunny day, my dad finally showed me how to use the lawnmower. My mom looked particularly pleased as she didn’t especially like completing this task. 

I proceeded to mow the entire front yard, and I had lots of fun. Only once I began to mow the backyard did I realize that I was feeling a bit different. I was feeling all grown up, adultlike. A moment later, as I was finishing up mowing under the only apple tree in my yard, I started feeling something wet in my panties. I immediately dropped what I was doing and went to the bathroom to have a look. If earlier, I just had the feeling of becoming an adult, then looking at the wet brownish-red spot at the bottom of my underwear was the confirmation. My body was violently agreeing with me.

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I didn’t particularly feel like sharing the news with anyone, not even my own family, including my mother or sisters. I was planning on padding my underwear with toilet paper. Then, my mom came and knocked on the bathroom door. She was wondering what was happening to me since I had stopped mowing. I was so close to being done with the task entirely. Also, the fact that I didn’t put away the lawnmower was decidedly out of character for me. From inside the bathroom, I proceeded to tell her what was happening to me. I knew perfectly what that blood was. I have had sex education classes in school before, and I knew that this was my first period. I don’t remember my mom saying much. She frankly made me feel okay about this whole situation. I cleaned up my underwear while my mom brought me another pair. I padded the clean underwear with toilet paper (my mom did not have any period supplies) and pursued on with my task. A couple of days later, my mom presented me with a humongous pack of menstrual pads. I didn’t know exactly how I was supposed to use them. 

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Too shy to ask, I tried figuring it out on my own. The basic concept was quite simple. You first remove the protective sheet. Then you stick the pad at the bottom of your panties. What I had the most trouble with was finding how high or low I had to place it. Any slight misplacement would mean a massive overspill, which would have to be cleaned. After a week or so, I had become adept. For years, I kept using pads that were working fine with me. Yet, one day going on a camping trip with my oldest sister, I got my period, and it was utterly unanticipated. My menstrual cycle was still pretty irregular at that point. I had no pads on me. I asked my sister to hook me up, but the only thing she had was tampons. I had to use them, but I did not know how to, and I was way too shy to ask for help yet again. I knew that I had to insert the tampon into my vagina, but I wasn’t sure how far. I was afraid, afraid it was going to stay stuck if I inserted it too deeply. Also, when I first started inserting the applicator in, I started feeling pain. I was only more worried about going too far. It turns out that, in the end, I didn’t insert it far enough. The tampon, after a few hours, started leaking down onto my underwear. Many tampons later, I figured out how they worked (the instructions on the box helped). Until recently, tampons were my preferred tool to use. 

Even though most people consider puberty to really start once you’ve had your first period, menstruation is just the tip of the iceberg. A lot of other physiological changes are going on way before your first period. For instance, girls start to develop breasts which at first are called breast buds. Typically this development occurs around two years before the first menstruation. Although I am not sure about the exact moment when this all started, I can accept this timeline. My first menstruation occurred in the summer, just before I entered high school. However, I clearly remember having breast buds in elementary school. 

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One day in elementary school, I decided to wear a new silky shirt that I positively adored. I remember my young self feeling truly stunning in that shirt. Regardless, while waiting for the bus to bring me back home when school was over, some boys cornered me. Earlier, the boys had seen my buds peaking through my shirt as I didn’t have a training bra yet. They felt as if it was their duty to point it out to me. They probably hoped to embarrass me, which it did. Once I got back home, I told my mom about this encounter. She told me that I was too young to need a bra and to ignore those boys. I remember at this point feeling weird and ugly. I wanted to hide, which is what I mostly ended up doing in the end. I started wearing a camisole under my shirt and a sweater on top. 

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I had learned to hide any changes that I was going through. My newly acquired armpit hair was no different. From this moment on, I had stopped wearing tank tops in school. My mom, with her best intention at heart, forbade me to shave before my 14th birthday. Even though this restriction was in effect for all of my sisters, I still felt like an outsider. All my friends had training bras, razors and parents that would throw them parties for their first periods. I could not wait long enough for me to be fully grown up. I believed that only then would I be able to buy myself anything I needed. And growing up happened, not necessarily in terms of maturity, but in terms of length. By the end of puberty, I was 165 cm (5’4’’) tall, which is right on the woman’s median average height. Also, my hips and thighs got wider, which I interpreted as a sign that I was finally becoming a woman. 

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At last, there was finally one change that occurred but didn’t need concealing. It was plenty invisible in itself. That change was the size of my uterus. It was becoming larger to make room for future offspring. Fortunately, the increase in the size of my reproductive organs is not unique to me. Most girls and boys will also experience similar alterations. Yet, for boys, it will be more apparent since their reproductive organs are essentially external. Their penises and testicles will grow bigger. From the moment their reproductive system matures, they get susceptible to having wet dreams. During wet dreams, boys will ejaculate in their bed, which can cause, in some cases, embarrassment. In the beginning, boys will also develop some breast buds, but they will disappear entirely by the end of puberty. They will gain muscle mass and also get taller. They, like the girls, will have an increase in body hair quantity. So, for both sexes, most changes are the same. However, for males, there is one main difference, the deepening of their voice. 

You can observe the change starting with voice cracking as if it couldn’t pick a tone. It is, in truth, pretty much what is happening. Once a boy reaches puberty, we can observe an enlargement of his larynx and his vocal folds getting thicker and longer. Meanwhile, before the change gets completed, the boys must learn to use a new instrument every day. This challenge can account for the weirdness of the sound they produce, and I can now fully understand how stressful this might be. However, this will never get as stressful as getting a massive burst of acne. I was fortunate enough as a teen to have avoided acne altogether, but I knew some friends who were not as lucky. They would go to extended lengths to hide the pimples away. Anyway, we can all agree that puberty is an awkward period, and as adults, we should all aim to be a bit more supportive and present for all teens around us. 

I thank you infinitely for reading this post and if you would like to know more about the mysteries that surround us, please join my subscription list to keep up with my newest content. If you have any questions, please add them to the comment section and I’ll make sure to answer as soon as humanly possible.

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Bring Up Biophilia—What makes us particularly attracted to nature

No one can dismiss the amazing feeling we get after spending some time in nature. We instantly feel relaxed and reinvigorated. Some might attribute this effect to time spent far away from work, and even though they could be correct, it is not the whole picture. Biophilia is a relatively new concept that brought the…

Bring Up Blood—How our oxygen gets carried throughout our body

Good evening my dearest followers, Please, take a moment to enjoy this excerpt for my newest post (Bring Up Blood). We could most certainly not live without blood. It is absolutely essential for the survival of our most distant limbs and organs. Even though almost all of our respiration is thanks to our respiratory organs,…

Bring Up Perspiration—How I Am Regulating My Temperature

If you have read my post from two weeks ago, then you would know almost everything there is to know about water (See Bring Up Water). Water is really important and is essential for the good functioning of many biological processes. With the arrival of summer and its associated high temperature, you will need a lot of it. You will especially need water to ward off any potential heatstroke that may affect you. Its cooling-down action is due to perspiration. Water is such a powerful ally, so much so that it prevents us from being found burnt to a crisp, like earthworms in the street after a massive rainfall. However, its cooling mechanism might not be so well understood by everyone. It is not like putting out a fire, where we just hose down the heat we are emitting. However, it sure is as effective, if not more.

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I love playing Beach Volleyball, especially during the summer. I am not personally too fond of cold weather. The heat emitted by the sun feels wonderful on my skin. It seems to get immediately absorbed, even though the transfer is more gradual than immediate. This heat makes me want to have more, and physical activity is a nice way to fulfil this desire. During strenuous activities, our muscles work so hard that they produce heat as a byproduct. They produce, in fact, an enormous amount of heat. Both our physical heat and the ambient heat can work in synergy to provoke alarming body heat levels. To survive, we must get rid of a great amount of it and fast.

This is where perspiration comes into play. As easy as it would seem, water doesn’t just passively pass through our skin. This permeability is quite impossible since the outer layer of our skin prevents such crossing. Our outer skin layer, the epidermis, is actually responsible for the prevention of dehydration. Our body needs to keep as much water as possible because of its use for more functions than just sweat. Also, perspiration needs to be a controlled process. It should only be active when our body heat levels get above our basal thresholds. This is where sweating glands become highly relevant. In humans, we can find two kinds: eccrine and apocrine glands.

So, where do we sweat? The armpits, for sure. Where else? The feet, OK! I can see that. Our back? Yeah! That happens quite often to me after long walks. The inner thighs? Ouch! And yes! The chafing can get pretty bad sometimes. If it may seem like there is not a single area spared from sweating, you are completely right. We sweat everywhere on the body, and this is mostly thanks to our eccrine glands. They can release a saline solution that is mostly composed of water. Even though we can find eccrine glands anywhere on our body, their distribution is denser on our feet and our hands, followed closely by our heads.

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Eccrine glands, sometimes called merocrine glands, are releasing this solution through sweat pores. You may already know what sweat pores are, but in case you didn’t: they are holes found in the epidermis where we can find our dear eccrine glands. Here, given the very high concentration of eccrine glands on our palms and soles, you may be wondering why we don’t sweat much there when we get too hot. The answer resides in how they get activated. Most eccrine cells connect to cholinergic nerve fibres activating, in turn, the glands for heat regulation. However, the glands found in our palms and soles are connected to adrenergic fibres. These fibres can activate the glands in the presence of high physical and emotional stress.

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Apocrine glands are different from the eccrine glands by both their secretion and how they deliver it. Contrary to eccrine glands, apocrine glands release an oily and opaque substance containing proteins, lipids, and steroids. Instead of delivering their secretion through sweat pores, they deliver it through hair follicles. Hence, the substance usually ends up being mixed with sebum as the hair follicles also host sebaceous glands. You most probably know sebaceous glands from the substance they release, particularly on your face. They produce an oily substance responsible for the waxy finish you get on your skin after a long day. 

Now we can’t talk about perspiration without mentioning the infamous odours it seems to carry. The odours, however, are not caused by the sweat itself but by the bacteria that feed off the sweat. It is the waste products, resulting from its metabolism, that produce distinct repulsive smells. There are three main prominent populations of bacteria on our armpits: Staphylococcus, Corynebacterium and Propionibacterium. The resulting metabolite produces a molecule called thioalcohol. Alcohols are highly volatile compounds that can be quickly diffused in the air. Thus, not only do thioalcohols smell horrendous, but also the smells get carried to our nose very quickly. 

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There exist many approaches we adopt to achieve neutralizing the smell. One of them might be to keep our armpit hair as short as possible. However, shaving might be more culturally acceptable for women than men. If, despite our convention, you decide to part ways with your underarm hair, then you may help to decrease the production of horrid smells. While shaving won’t stop you from sweating (fortunately), it will help reduce bad smells. The presence of hair may help create odours in two ways. First, it helps trap moisture, diminishing heat elimination. This excess heat stimulates the production of even greater amounts of sweat, which provides even more food for the bacteria. Secondly, the hair increases the area where bacteria can accumulate. More bacteria mean even more smelly molecules. Moreover, shaving might not only help in reducing smell, but also help to make the antiperspirant and deodorant products adhere better. This enhanced adhesion can help to curb those nasty smells for good. Yet, even though you finally decided to keep your dear armpit hair intact, using antiperspirants and deodorants can still prove themselves powerful allies.

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At this point, you probably realize the importance of keeping the amount of sweat we produced in check in order to keep these odours at bay. Simple strategies can be implemented in our daily routine to help us in that regard. You can start by showering every day to remove excess debris and bacteria on your skin causing the odours. You should also pay extra attention to especially clean the area where you tend to sweat more. If you want to amplify even more the impact of your shower, then you could use an antibacterial soap to wash away as many bacteria as possible. Beware that I am not very fond of this strategy as it may strip away the good bacteria too, leaving your immune system potentially damaged. After your shower, make sure to dry every area, especially your armpits, as humidity makes for the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. 

Certain foods and drinks might also induce some bad smells. For instance, spicy foods cause stress on your body and increase perspiration as a result. The aroma of foods, such as onion and garlic, can also be carried in your sweat. Drinking alcohol and coffee also increases perspiration. Intense physical or emotional stress will also intensify sweating. If you think this might be an issue, you might contemplate adopting activities like yoga or meditation to release some of this anxiety. Studies are indicating that these relaxing activities, in some cases, can effectively reduce sweating.

I thank you infinitely for reading this post and if you would like to know more about the mysteries that surround us, please join my subscription list to keep up with my newest content. If you have any questions, please add them to the comment section and I’ll make sure to answer as soon as humanly possible.

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Bring Up Tattoo—How it can be possible to mark our skin permanently

Not all appearance alterations are created equal; some may be more short-lived and others more permanent. If you think of tattoos, they mostly belong to the second category. So thinking carefully about certain aspects of the tattoo becomes imperative. Things like the symbolism or the artistry behind your new piece shouldn’t be random. Choosing a…

Bring Up Grad School—What Is the Reality Behind Higher Education

For people who want to pursue studies after completing high school, university studies may look very attractive. So, undergraduate studies may lead to graduate studies. However, undergraduate studies are not the same as graduate studies. The latter is not only more complicated, but it is also very different. First of all, contrary to your undergrad,…

Bring Up Touch—How do we perceive tactile stimuli

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From all senses that we develop, touch is the first one to form. During pregnancy, fetuses will begin developing feelings of sensations on their faces at week 8. Yet, the nose and the lips will be responsible for processing nearly all sensations. A month later, feelings on the palms and soles will develop, and if we wait for an additional five weeks (week 17), the abdomen will start sensing too. Interestingly, our brain will devote a majority of its attention to those parts especially. It is relatively easy to test this. Try prodding someone else’s back, with their consent, and ask them to evaluate how far two prods are from each other. Then do the same again, but this time over their palm. Were the results similar? Hopefully, the palms results should be unquestionably more accurate than the back results. This effect is possible through the bulkier number of neuronal endings found on the skin of our palms compared to those on our back.

Speaking of neuronal endings, we cannot avoid talking about the many specialized sensory neurons that form the somatosensory neural pathways, which get completed by the middle of the third trimester. From this point on, the baby will feel a more integral range of feelings. Each specialized sensory neuron has, on its endings, receptors that are enabling the perception of different sensations. Mechanoreceptors will provide detection for pressure, light touch, tearing or vibration. Thermoreceptors are sensitive to temperature changes. Chemoreceptors will detect chemical changes, and nociceptors are responsible for transmitting pain signals. It is intriguing to note that pain is the last sensation to develop and appear through the formation of totally different pathways (read https://bringupscience.com/2021/01/23/bring-up-pain-2/ for more). In sum, all specific tactile inputs have distinct neurons responsible for their detections. This statement also applies to touch in social interactions. As opposed to ordinary touch, the tap that we receive on the back of our shoulder, as praise, elicits an emotional response. This particular tactile sensation makes up what we now describe as social or emotional touch. It recruits a different somatosensory system than the one involved in conventional touch.

A piece of evidence supporting the idea that social touch involves the activation of different pathways comes from studying people affected by primary sensory neuropathy. Individuals affected by this disorder are known to display touch blindness, i.e. they cannot feel any tactile input coming from neither their hands nor their bodies. They are even incapable of reading braille, where each letter corresponds to a dot pattern, and all dots are embossed. This adaptation, commonly, grants people who cannot read solely based on their sight the ability to read through touch. Thus as already mentioned, individuals affected by this neuropathy cannot read, nor can they feel the object coming in contact with their skin. However, they strangely can feel a touch from another person and attribute it an emotional value. They, indeed, can feel the gentle touch of someone stroking their arm and communicate that the touch felt pleasant. However, this theory is currently based on anecdotal evidence only, and thus we shouldn’t jump to any conclusion just yet.

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Even if social touch turns out to have no different pathways than conventional touch, it would be reasonable to keep in mind the importance of its impact anyway. Indeed, some orphan children, who grew up in an orphanage, received so little social-emotional interaction that it hampered their growth dramatically and, in some instances, even led to death. I should disclose that customarily the orphanage staff was conveying proper treatments with absolutely no intention of neglect. Unfortunately, they were often too few and could honestly not care for more than the children’s most basic needs. Those needs were thought, at that moment, to be strictly drinking, feeding, sleeping and occasional physical activity. As long as these aspects were all taken care of, they genuinely believe that they tended well. Only now we know that social touch is amongst those basic needs. The lack of it will downright kill a kid. Current studies have demonstrated that social touch enables growth hormone release and will stimulate the immune system. Researchers have found similar findings to support the reciprocal, i.e. that a lack of social touch hinders growth hormone release and cripples the immune system. Moreover, children who were unfortunate enough to have been placed in such an institution were found at an elevated risk to develop behavioural, social and psychological problems.

Additionally, social touch occupies such a meaningful place in our life that, as a result, we may mistakenly associate general tactile inputs to our impression of a person. To illustrate this idea, let us consider this well-known experiment conducted by social psychologists. The psychologist asked the volunteers to describe their first impressions of a stranger. Every subject of the study had the same task, to relay their general impression. The only difference between all the volunteers was the drink they were holding while meeting this other person: Half held a cold drink and the rest a hot drink. We would all think that the beverages they were holding should have no impact on their impression of another individual, but that is not what happened. Curiously, people holding the hot drinks described their new acquaintance as “warmer”; the inverse was also true for the cold drink volunteers. Another experiment tried a different approach through evaluation of the same resume but on two differently weighed clipboards. It seemed that the resume attached to the heavier clipboard made the candidate seem more serious and competent than the individual whose resume was attached to the lighter clipboard.

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Despite social touch playing an integral role in our life, it is not the only factor that can interfere with our touch perception. Emotions play a considerable role in how we interpret touch or pain. The feeling we bear in a particular moment (good/bad mood, relaxed/scared, rested/tired, etc.) may considerably impact how we will perceive that tap on our back. The same tap may feel like an assault or an encouragement, depending on your emotion at the time. If you hate the person, you might think of that tap as an assault, but if that person is a friend, then you could have perceived it as an encouragement. Additionally, when we feel happy, pain does not seem as terrible as when we are sad or depressed. We can only say that touch and emotions are in a very intricate relationship, indeed.

Now, I cannot write about touch without talking about tickles. I honestly find them somewhat intriguing since no one has yet to come with an irrefutable explanation as to why we feel them. There are many theories, however. My favourite one introduces tickles as an evolutionary mechanism that leads to more capable offspring. Tickles are, in the simplest terms, the results of neuronal overexcitation. We, as adults, can feel tickles in only our most sensitive areas, but as a kid, that surface can be as great as the entire space occupied by your skin. Sadly, our sensitivity, as we are ageing, seems to decline progressively. The duality of tickles (being felt as both unpleasant and pleasant) supposedly serves as both an incentive to protect the sensitive areas and encourage wrestling and fighting. Those two consequences force offspring to prepare and practise both their offensive and defensive strategies to better cope with inevitable future threats. It seems such a no-brainer that the more you practise, the better you become, and this is why I genuinely value this idea.

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I thank you infinitely for reading this post and if you would like to know more about the mysteries that surround us, please join my subscription list to keep up with my newest content. If you have any questions, please add them to the comment section and I’ll make sure to answer as soon as humanly possible.

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Bring Up Cryptography—How to Hide your Messages

To ensure our privacy, we must be careful about what we share and how we share it. Most often, your personal information, like your passwords, we’ll be hiding from everyone. But that only happens if we transmit the data through a secured channel. Unfortunately, you can be as careful as possible, some people can still…

Bring Up Fireworks—How Do We Make Colours Explode

Summer festivals are not only fun for all the foods they’re providing and the activities they’re offering, but also because of their well-anticipated fireworks. Those orchestrated explosions are so grandiose that most can’t help but feel moved by the spectacle. Some may even start wondering what makes those magical displays, and I am for sure…

Bring Up Working Out—How It Can Benefit Our Entire Body

Staying active is hard, and we may very well feel tempted to give it up entirely. However, there are some good reasons why health professionals advocate adopting a more active lifestyle. Beyond the most apparent argument, weight loss, there are other advantages to moving out of your couch and grabbing those neglected sneakers for a…

Bring Up Sleep – How can I increase my overall well-being

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Today sitting in front of my laptop writing to you, I can think of only one thing, sleep. It’s been on my mind for the mere reason that over the last few weeks I’ve had bouts of insomnia. When people say things like “We don’t truly appreciate what we have until it’s gone”, for insomnia, you can really take a moment to acknowledge how accurate this is. Every day we sleep, as we should. If this does not apply to you, I’m compelling you to reconsider your life habits. Since sleeping happens on a regular basis, we tend to disregard giving it the particular attention it deserves. For as far as I can remember, I’ve always loved sleeping, and thus I’ve continuously pursued a good night’s sleep of at least  8 hours. However, generally, I need well over 8 hours of sleep to be completely refreshed. Personal factors are at play and it’s important to consider individual differences. We have to be open to listen and adapt to what our bodies are trying to tell us.

What happens during sleep is a question that many scientists have dedicated most of their lives trying to answer. For the longest time, research was fruitless. Scientists had barely any clues as to its function, but everyone had at least a hypothesis as to its purpose. Researchers, despite their visible lack of results on the nature of sleep, knew that it was at the very least essential for our survival. We didn’t have to stretch our thinking to its limit to accept this. Simply looking at data, people who tended to neglect their sleep, aged faster than those who pursued a good night’s sleep on a regular basis. Also, you may already be aware that being completely sleep deprived for more than a couple of days may lead to the development of psychological disturbances like paranoia and hallucinations. In comparison, good sleepers may seem to benefit from more resilient metabolisms which provides a lower risk for obesity, cardiovascular diseases, anxiety, depression and much more.

Knowing about its importance is still not sufficient to have everyone adjusting their sleeping habits. Many of us have reasons supporting our systematic neglect against fulfilling the required amount of shut-eye hours. Those reasons could range anywhere from having young children to the affliction of sleeping disorders. As such, at different moments in our lives, we may notice our sleeping habits beginning to change. In fact, the changes that we undergo are not always conscious. As a baby, for example, we have to sleep for a hefty total of 18 hours. Luckily for us, it doesn’t remain as such for too long, otherwise, we wouldn’t be able to get anything done. Gradually as we age, the sleeping requirements decrease and come to a plateau at 18, to an acceptable 7-9 hours of sleep. It only seems to slightly fall again after 65 years old at a requirement of 7-8hours. 

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Even though we robustly half the amount of sleep needed by the time we reach adulthood, many people won’t follow the guidelines and will find themselves sleep-deprived. One issue could be that we typically find that sleep is a waste of time and that it is solely meant to make us feel rested. However, researchers have been able to come up with theories supporting other importance of sleep. Amongst many theories, four of them seem to stand out: inactivity theory, energy conservation theory, restorative theories and brain plasticity theory. For the moment, none of them are proven to be the unique explanation for the role of sleep. Moreover, researchers are currently agreeing that the answer is more likely to involve many of these theories and not only one. 

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Considering sleep as a survival mechanism, we can easily do a parallel with other survival mechanisms. Anxiety is there as a warning sign to alert us and enable the use of flight or fight when danger is detected. In most situations, we tend to use flight, in other words, we prefer avoidance. If we are able to fight, then the situation is of no corporeal danger. This reasoning supports the implication that anxiety serves to avoid danger. The same reasoning can also be transposed to pain; pain serves to avoid physical harm. Hunger, another survival mechanism, serves to avoid the lack of nutrients. Similarly, all survival mechanisms can be reduced to such basic instruction: to avoid. This is exactly what the theory of inactivity used to justify the need for sleep. The theory states that through many generations, we developed sleep to keep us out of harm’s-way during our most vulnerable time, at least that’s the essence behind this theory. However, some might say that being totally unconscious would render us more vulnerable, not less. 

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Despite having objections to this theory, there still exists some advantages to being almost completely still. By limiting movement, thinking, and perception, you are significantly reducing your individual energy demand and expenditure. In fact, compared to our awakened state, we consume 10% less energy than when asleep. This has led to the energy conservation theory, which some consider a branch of the inactivity theory, and in some cases, the same. However, the explanation is different. Energy conservation means that we need fewer nutrients to survive, which is an essential advantage when living in a world where access to food is limited. It did not only prolong our supply but allowed us to share the supply with more people. However, nowadays we live in a world where food supplies seem endless, and simultaneously people are sleeping less. Meanwhile, researchers are coming to terms with accepting that sleep deprivation, as well as overeating, are both factors contributing to the development of obesity.

Major and noticeable consequences of sleep deprivation are diminished mental acuity, memory and learning capacity. These consequences lead us to ponder over the significance of such findings. One interpretation supports the idea that sleep has restorative functions, conveniently called restorative theories. Interestingly, while looking closely at different restorative mechanisms such as muscle growth, protein synthesis, growth hormone release and tissue repair, we can observe that these seem to happen mostly, and sometimes uniquely, at night. Like adenosine, which accumulates progressively in the body directly following awakening, which seems to promote sleep after a certain concentration has been reached. Every night, an adenosine clean-up is known to take place, restoring the initial level observed in the morning. 

At last, in the last few years, a new theory has been emerging: the brain plasticity theory. This theory seems to hit the nail on the head when trying to explain the influence of sleep on human cognition. Brain plasticity is known to be responsible for brain structural and organizational changes. Intriguingly, brain plasticity seems to be halted, or at least slowed, when sleep duration becomes insufficient. Lower brain plasticity is linked to reduced memory and learning. 

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Sleep is such an important tool that we must come to respect in order to remain healthy, and for a longer period. In sum, it helps us fight off our daily stress, supports our immune system, promotes better cognition and stabilizes our mood. To significantly ameliorate your sleep, we don’t need to sacrifice anything more than a round or two of your favourite game.

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Bring Up Inflammation – How does it help

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This summer something happened to me. As I was walking down a scenery path, something hit me. It happened so quickly that I felt as if I had been hit by a drop of burning oil that I could not manage to wipe away. Turns out that the culprit responsible for my pain was a bee, or a wasp, I never actually saw it so it could really be either one. What I was certain of, however, was the amount of pain I was experiencing. My body didn’t like it one slightly bit. I was also very confused, why did this insect decide to sting me? Why me? Why on my hand? I had to find answers. I actually had never been stung before. That was my very first encounter and I really didn’t know what to do. 

My fiancé, having been stung many times before, was kind enough to inform me to raise my hand above my heart line until we reached home. Once there we would finally be able to put some ice to soothe the pain. Thinking about it now, I realize there were actually two actors at play in this scenario: pain and inflammation. They were interrelated. Inflammation caused pain and pain caused inflammation. It’s a truly terrific vicious cycle we got there. As previously mentioned in the Bring Up Pain article, pain is an adaptative mechanism that forces us to take an adequate action to free us from danger or from something the body interprets as potentially harmful. Where inflammation, also an adaptive mechanism, is there in contrast to provide an ideal environment for healing. One way it achieves this is by sending chemicals to the skin to increase sensitivity. This is the component responsible for the pain we feel when dealing with an inflamed body part. This is also why just the mere rubbing of our clothes after a sunburn is nearly unbearable. We call this increased sensitivity, allodynia. This is meant as a way to keep us from making the injury worse.  

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Apart from the aforementioned insect sting and sunburns, there are many more events that can lead to development of inflammation. Think about blemishes (pimples), injuries, headaches, arthritis, only to name a few. All of us at one point or another has, or definitely will, experience inflammation. There is absolutely no way around it. Well, not naturally at least. So I believe it’s essential to know how to recognize it. To do this, experts rely on a principle called the five cardinal signs of inflammation. Here, even though you might not know them in terms of their names, you know them at least from experience. So there is really no need to get scared!

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The first sign, you guessed it, is pain. This is a necessary step, but still a dreadful step. This is the most obvious sign. It’s a major warning that signals us to pay attention to what’s actually going on. Without it, we would probably carry on with our days with absolutely no knowledge that something wrong is happening. This is also the main, if not only the only sign that transpires when we get a headache. Not that all headaches are signs of inflammation, it’s still a common source. We often get them when we don’t get enough oxygen to our brain cells. That could be caused from a bad sitting position, anxiety or even other health problems. You can discover that the only act of massaging the back of your neck can prove itself sufficient to relieve a headache. This happens because you are restoring blood flow by relaxing muscles that can compress the blood vessel walls. By putting a stop to the compression, enough blood can finally reach your neurons and deliver the oxygen it so dearly wants. Now that your brain cells get enough oxygen, there is no more need for inflammation and thus no need for pain.

The second sign is redness. This is a visual cue that you probably got to experience last time you got pimples. I’m talking about the one that hurts, the one that seems all perky and purulent. They are not only painful, they are also obviously visible by their coloration, red. If you want an additional example of this, think about sunburns. The lobster shade that you adopt after taking that extended sunbath is definitely a manifestation of inflammation. This should be taken as an unquestionable warning sign to get the Fick out of the sun, or pursue at your own peril. Taking in too much ultraviolet rays (mostly from the UVB type) will cause damage to your outer skin layer which will lead to inflammation. To avoid this, it’s really easy, use a proper sunscreen. This tiny bit of advice is so well known that I don’t even know why I bother repeating it here. We know that we should do it, but we don’t. Thus, I am here taking a pledge that I will, from now on, use sunscreen before lengthened sun exposure. Are you brave enough to join me?

Now if you fail to protect your skin after it has turned red, by running away from the sun to the shade, you will probably see soon enough blisters appearing. These are also called edema, which is the third cardinal sign. They contain something we call the inflammatory soup. That soup contains pain mediators, hormones, chemicals, and immune cells. They all contribute to different functions of inflammation, which some of them were mentioned earlier. The immune cells are the one responsible for protecting and defending the affected site against outside invaders, think about that venom from the insect bite I spoke of at the beginning. Some chemicals and hormones will be involved in stimulating cell reproduction (or multiplication). This will help heal wounds, like the skin you damage with the sunburn. 

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As a fourth sign, we get increased heat. This is not only really obvious when we touch ourselves after a sunburn, it is also really evident when we get a fever. That fever appears because the body, or more precisely your immune cells, perceived a widespread infection with an external agent. It could be from toxins, bacteria, parasites or viruses. By itself, a slight fever is often sufficient to kill living organisms like bacteria and parasites, but it’s completely useless against things that are not alive, like toxins and viruses. This is why fever that gets really intense is frequently associated with viral infection or toxin exposure. If we fail to care for the fever in these cases, it might cause us harm and this is why medical experts give us medication to quench the fever. In most cases, it actually targets inflammation directly which ends up also alleviating pain.

At last there is the loss of function that marks the final signs. This takes the longest to settle in but is, nonetheless, one of the major drivers for hospital visits. This is the less evident sign, as it bears somewhat of a very confusing title. Don’t worry this will be made very clear with examples. If you consider sunburn, the skin is so damaged that it can’t serve as the ultimate barrier anymore; therefore it has lost function. The hypersensitivity we experience is actually a testimonial to that. It is screaming to you that you have to keep all things away from it as it can no longer protect you by itself. Now if you consider a twisted ankle, the loss of function manifests itself through the near inability to walk over it. Your ankle which normally allows you to perform a walk, now pains you anytime you use it. This pain prevents you from performing the exact action it was meant to accomplish. 

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Now that you’re familiar with the five cardinal signs of inflammation, you may feel comforted in knowing that there exist some ways to help reduce the inflammation responses. Probably none of them will come as a surprise to you. When the inflammation is localized (only in your foot, for example), external (not in your airway or other internal organs) and acute (not a long-termed response), you can refer to the acronym RICE for treatment. “R” stands for rest. Reducing movement will prevent more stress from damaging the tissues further and help the healing process. “I” is for ice, placing ice indirectly (not straight on your skin) on the affected area will slow down the immune response. This will reduce swelling and pain. “C” corresponds to compression, by exerting pressure on the skin you are reducing the volume available for the inflammatory soup to occupy. This should lead to reduced swelling and increase mobility. Finally, the “E” refers to elevation, by lifting your body part slightly above your heart you are improving blood circulation in the area, leading perhaps in the loss of swelling and increased mobility as well.

If ever you are faced with a situation that is so bad that none of these helps, you may require medication. Ibuprofen, commonly known in North America as Advil, is an over-the-counter openly available anti-inflammatory medication that you may want to use or at least keep in your cabinet. If Ibuprofen fails to help, there are more anti-inflammatory medications, some of them even stronger, that require a prescription for procurement. In these cases, you will need to set a visit with your family physician or go through an emergency clinic to obtain the prescription.

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Bring Up State of Panic – What makes us completely lose it

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Waking up in March 2020, while the whole COVID-19 pandemic was unravelling, was no cup of tea. I was foolishly thinking at first that this pandemic wouldn’t change much in our daily lives. After a couple months, I got hit really hard by the observation that things couldn’t be further from the normal we used to know. I was forced to realize that this situation would remain so for a very long time. Given that I had to plan my wedding for summer 2021 and manage a website by myself which got launched no earlier than January 2020, I found this situation considerably troublesome. I won’t hide that this ordeal was a huge anxiety trigger for me. My biggest concern was especially the difficulty getting food. Before the pandemic started, I usually proceeded to order my groceries online, but now it was simply impossible to find an available delivery slot. My fiancée and I came to realize that we had no other choice than to walk down to the grocery store ourselves. 

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Yet our troubles were still far from over. Before we could even see the entrance of the grocery store, we were forced to notice the interminable lineup. I’ve heard that Montréal got hit pretty hard on that front compared to other regions in Quebec, and from what I experienced, I couldn’t agree more. The lineups were often so long that it would typically take us, my fiancé and I, well over an hour to simply get into the store. At the entrance, we were informed that only one of us could enter. So naturally I went in. I only started picking up the grocery to discover suddenly that most essentials were out of stock. Think about flour, sugar, eggs, canned foods, toilet papers and more. This was all so far out of my already established habits that it was sufficient enough to trigger an unbearable anxiety episode. It got so bad, at one point, that I had totally given up on even contemplating being productive. Watching Rom-Coms was my main distraction and was definitely what kept me going day after day. Months into the pandemic, with the help of my already busy fiancé, I decided to kick myself in the rear and do something about it.

The change of mindset was accompanied by summer and its relaxed restrictions. The possibility to see friends and family was more than welcome. Altogether, it was sufficient to have me overcome the anxiety which made me go through somewhat resembling more of a normal life. With perspective, I can say that my anxiety had manifested itself through avoidance and immobility, often referred as Freeze when we talk about this topic. There are, nonetheless, other possible reactions when faced with this same situation. The reactions can be so different that if we compare two of them, they may look completely contradictory. For example, some may become slobs, not doing much really, and some might develop a full-blown panic, hoarding everything on their paths. From a narrow point of view, we may interpret the latter reaction as selfish; however selfishness is not the driver behind this behaviour, fear is.

I feel confident enough to state that most of us have never experienced anything similar to this before. The closest thing that we may have experienced are natural disasters, accidents and attacks. All of those are very localized and in all of those situations we might expect help from outsiders. In the case of this pandemic, everyone was affected. We could only seek help from within us. A lot of people were quick to jump to the most horrific conclusion. Without toilet paper, what would we do? People got so afraid of missing essentials that they hoarded as much as was possible creating a massive shortage in grocery. This was perceived to be enough to validate their actions when in fact it was just the result of a self-fulfilling prophecy. In other words, this shortage may have been avoided if people kept their buying habits unchanged and not going full rampage mode on the grocery aisles. 

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When we learn to understand the elements that contribute to the development of anxiety, we are in a better standing to act in a more moderate way. A way that doesn’t give in to a state of panic, or even fear for that matter. Truly enough, years ago, I thought that anxiety merely originated from being overwhelmed for a very long time. It was only from one of my university courses that I discovered that anxiety was truly more complex than this. I found out that much like pain, anxiety is an adaptive response that is meant to protect us. It was so finely tuned to detect potential threat, that even now in the absence of significant threat to our life, it still fires up. After much research on the topic, experts came to determine very specific factors that can trigger anxiety, which they summed to the term “NUTS”. NUTS is an acronym for Novelty, Unpredictability, Threat to ego and finally Sense of control. Typically, the more of these elements are present in a situation, the more anxiogenic (causing anxiety) this situation is said to be.

Let’s use this current pandemic as an example to illustrate these elements. The novelty aspect speaks for itself. We have never encountered anything even slightly similar in our life. The pandemic was the result of an exposure to a new strain of coronaviruses (Sars-Cov-2) that, even though was not very deadly, was efficiently spreading. When we came across this virus last spring, we knew barely anything about it. This brings me to the second aspect, unpredictability. We certainly didn’t know what the proper protocol was to apply when dealing with this, nor did we know how long this pandemic would last. We clearly didn’t know if we were in contact with it or not, viruses are invisible to eye scrutiny and this particular virus could even be spread by asymptomatic people. Also unknown was what our immune reaction would be if or when we came in contact with it. This last unpredictability was also appealing to the third aspect of anxiety, threat to ego (self). At last we have the sense of control aspect of anxiety which in this case is not very impressive. The only real control we have over the situation is our reaction, which we don’t have much control over to begin with.

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With all that said, it’s not surprising that the anxiety triggered may have been intense for many of us. Sometime so intense that it would have translated into fear in some and panic in others. Panic is often accompanied with emotionally compromised decisions that are taken in the spur of the moment and wouldn’t be repeated in normal circumstances. This brings me back to the toilet paper hoarding problem I’ve mentioned earlier. This behaviour is not very popular in our everyday life, but in times of panic, it is widely common. People momentarily stop thinking about the wellbeing of others and primarily think about theirs. Considering that when anxious people are easy to jump to the worst-case possible scenario, rumours about possible toilet paper shortage is enough to instigate fear in people’s mind and react accordingly. Hoarding also proves to be a way for people to gain a sense of control over the situation.

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In a couple of months, we will be marking our first year into this pandemic. Things have now begun to feel like a new reality. We still would prefer our life to go back to normal, but this new everyday existence has now become more bearable. Without the common state of panic that many experienced early on, people have currently resumed to think about the wellbeing of others. We can again observe acts of generosity and compassion to others. We have come a long way and, as long as we remember to look for the components of anxiety, we can learn to better cope with what life decides to throw at us. 

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To help you respond better when anxiety starts to hit, you need to wonder about NUTS and ask yourself how you can decrease novelty (e.g. Reading, be careful not to become obsessed, which you exacerbate anxiety), diminish unpredictability (e.g. plans for as many scenarios as you may be able to come up with), lessen the possible threat to ego (e.g. set measure to protect yourself, for COVID-19 pandemic, it could be distancing, wearing protective equipment or even staying home) and finally increasing control (e.g. learn ways to control what you can, could be trying to moderate emotion, maintaining relationship, fixing a work schedule, etc.).

I thank you infinitely for reading this post and if you would like to know more about the mysteries that surround us, please join my subscription list to keep up with my newest content. If you have any questions, please add them to the comment section and I’ll make sure to answer as soon as humanly possible.

Bring Up Pain – Where all of this hurt comes from

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I hurt myself constantly and I am certain you do too. I am so clumsy, though I am not sure why. Maybe I try to hurry up a bit too much, I hate wasting time by lingering on any task for too long. So, for example, I often end up hitting my big toe on one of the corners of the bed base trying to get out of bed in a hurry or cutting myself on a razor haphazardly left in the bathroom drawer when trying to find my eye cream. Other than hurtful to my ego, those experiences hurtful to my body, which leads to pain. Pain is always taken for granted. You are hardly waking up every morning dreading the idea that you’ll eventually experience it, but when it does finally happen you are neither surprise. Pain is experienced by most of us, but despite its universality, very few understand how it works. Actually, can someone please tell me what the heck is pain and how can I fricking get rid of it?

It took me many years of undergraduate studies and then graduate studies to finally understand its main mechanisms, which I will now share with you. I hope that by the end of this article, you not only come to understand pain, but to appreciate it for its complexity and its vital necessity. 

When you think about pain, probably you are thinking about it the same way I did before starting my post-secondary studies. I thought pain was the result of injury. You break your skin; it hurts. You hit your foot; it hurts. You fall; it hurts. You get my point. But that doesn’t explain the headache you got last week, nor does it explain the heartburn you got last time you ate greasy food. It’s easy to point fingers at possible culprits for our pain, but it’s not really clear why it causes the pain in the first place. Why does not drinking enough water causes me headaches?

So, let’s break everything into small steps. The very first thing your body does is feeling things, this is called perception. But when the body perceives something that may be hurtful to you, it becomes known as nociception. The body can sense things that are called stimuli (plural of stimulus) which is a fancy word for sensations. Those stimuli can be of thermal (heat or cold), mechanical (pressure or tension), or chemical (inflammation or toxins) nature. Then considering our example giving earlier, hitting my big toe, and cutting myself led to nociception of a stimulus of mechanical nature. As for the headache and the heartburn, it was from chemical nature. For the headache, there was probably not enough oxygen and for the heartburn, too much acid. 

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Now let’s look at this nociception closer. The changes are perceived by some detectors that we call pain receptors, or more specifically nociceptors. Those nociceptors can differ greatly from each other. They can have different endings which make them able to detect specific types of stimulus or they can also vary in size. The latter will influence how fast the nerve will carry the signal to the brain. It’s this difference in size that makes you sense two pain waves. For example, when you hit your toe. You first grab your toe, but it really was a few seconds after you grabbed it that the intense and sharp sensation started kicking in. This is because the large nerves carried the information related to location and nature of the pain faster than the smaller nerves. It’s those smaller nerves that were responsible to carry the information related to the intensity and emotional nature of the pain and is delayed. This whole process that we just went through is called transduction. 

After transduction there is conduction, which is for us step 2. This step explains how the signal is actually sent to the brain. It will probably not be any news to you, the signal is carried by nerves, or neurons. All these neurons are organized into something that resembles a family tree. In your family tree there are your siblings, your cousins and obviously yourself. All of them serve as an analogy for the first-order neuron or most commonly called primary afferents. As suspected, they stem from wherever you can feel (skin, ears, organs, etc.), and they end at the spinal cord. In your family tree, there are also your parents, your aunts, and your uncles. Those are like the second-order neurons, there are generally fewer than the previous group. They are located in your spinal cord. Then, you have your grandparents. Those are like the third-order neurons and are present from the end of your spinal cord to your brain. Simple, isn’t it? 

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After the signal has reached through all the three levels of neurons and finally the brain, then there is transmission. Transmission refers to the mechanism to which all different information will be sent to their appropriate processing section. Then an output signal will be produced and will be modulated depending on its intensity and its relevance. If the intensity is too much and is not relevant, the signal may be tuned down, or reciprocally up if the situation is reversed. So that makes up two steps: Transmission and Modulation.

The very last step is Perception, and it relates not to the initial perception we introduced when we talked about transduction, but to the final products that leads to a reaction. It is at that moment you grab your toe

So, if I try to summarize everything, first you feel; secondly, the signal goes through three levels of neuron up to the brain; thirdly, the signal is interpreted by the brain; fourthly, the signal is tuned by the brain and lastly it is sent back to the appropriate location to create a reaction. Normally, it takes all those steps to induce pain, but there are some cases where the pain seems to appear out of thin air. That pain is often said to be neuropathic. Where signals are generated in the absence of stimulus detection which is common in chronic muscular diseases. 

Reversely, there is another disease that leads to the inability to generate pain. Doesn’t that sound wonderful, right? People affected by congenital insensitivity to pain with anhidrosis (CIPA) would disagree. Pain is a protective mechanism that forces you to have a reaction when faced to a potentially harmful stimulus. Without pain, most people with CIPA will die before the age of 25. They usually end up burning themselves seriously, biting off their tongues or scratching to the bone, which could eventually lead to infection, which can also lead to death. These are only examples of things that may happen to you without the ability to generate pain. Pain is so important since it is there to avoid putting yourself under unnecessary harm. 

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Pain can also be split into two categories: acute and chronic. We talk about acute pain when dealing with a situation that is sudden and ephemeral (that doesn’t last in time). In contrast, we talk about chronic pain when it’s persistent in time, usually more than three months. So all previously mentioned pain examples were actually all acute, apart from chronic muscular disease. It’s neuropathic nature which tends to be difficult to treat, renders it a chronic disorder. Fibromyalgia is a good example for this, to learn more read Bring Up Fibromyalgia. 

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Now to avoid pain you have different strategies. You can simply take some analgesics like acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil), and if the pain is really intense, morphine. There is also the placebo effect that is really strong in helping face pain. Grabbing your foot when you hit it also greatly helps since it creates some natural inhibition of the pain through a process called the gate control theory. Mindfulness has also been shown to be helpful by redirecting our attention to external stimuli. Obsessing over our pain is detrimental. At best, it blocks the downregulation of the pain and at worst it promotes its upregulation.

Now that you know where pain comes from, my advice to you is to accept it, to cherish it, to listen to it and to respond to it with kindness. Pain is a necessary evil that is an intricate part of life. Whenever you feel pain, remember that you are living, and most important, that you are living science. 

I thank you infinitely for reading this post and if you would like to know more about the mysteries that surround us, please join my subscription list to keep up with my newest content. If you have any questions, please add them to the comment section and I’ll make sure to answer as soon as humanly possible.