Brain Health Kuel Category Expert: Patricia Faust, MGS
Creating an ageless brain involves lifestyle habits created to support healthy aging. No matter how much you practice this healthy lifestyle (physical exercise, mental stimulation, nutrition, socialization, and sleep), if you are so stressed out by current events, you will decrease the effectiveness of all your healthy brain efforts.
I am deeply concerned about the state of affairs in which we find our world. And of course, I have trouble understanding the positions that some people take when they are more concerned about money and power than the effect all of these catastrophes have on people’s lives.
Empathy Is Key:
“The state of the nation and our environment reveals another skill that women more frequently use – empathy.”
Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. The term, empathy, is also considered an umbrella term that captures at least three ways that we connect with another’s emotions. One is emotional empathy – we ‘catch’ the feelings of another. Two, cognitive empathy is an attempt to understand what someone else is feeling and why. And finally three, empathic concern or compassion is our motivation to improve others’ well-being.
Women in midlife have an exceptional ability to influence younger people of both sexes. Our fortitude to keep pushing forward against obstacles thrown in our way increases the meaning and purpose in our lives. The state of the nation and our environment reveals another skill that women more frequently use – empathy.
Empathy Can Be Practiced:
Like resilience, empathy is a skill that can be honed and refined. In this time of social unrest, political upheaval, climate change, and economic challenges, people are being torn apart by the contradictory views and actions they are grasping for. People are actively embracing anger and rejecting empathy. We are divided into two camps – us versus them. Leadership, whether in an organization or political office, is sometimes judged by the empathy they exhibit. People who are empathic are often thought of by their peers as natural leaders. However, as they gain more power, they often shed their empathy.
COVID has brought all of these feelings of anger, intolerance, fear, stress and even empathy to the forefront. In that regard, there does seem to be a gender bias toward women. In all of the discussions about the outcomes we have experienced with COVID to this point, women appear to be far more concerned for their families and society around them. Men tend to look at the impact on business and financial recovery. These two different perspectives on the same problem begs the question – Are women biologically prone to empathizing more deeply and naturally? Or, is it a lifetime of social training that lead women to generally be more pro social as a natural response?
Differences Between Men And Women’s Brains:
“ Listen, instead of thinking of a response.”
There are physiological differences between a man’s brain and a woman’s brain. Hormones override the processes of the brain. The hormone, Oxytocin, is found in higher levels in women than in men. Oxytocin can make people more empathic, while Testosterone, found in higher concentrations in men, can have the opposite effect. If you find yourself in a sparing match with someone, try to see their opinion through their eyes. Listen, instead of thinking of a response. This intentional listening raises our consciousness and closes the gap between us and them. Once you activate your neurobiology by sending messages to your brain to activate the neurons responsible for mirroring and empathizing with those around you, this becomes an increasingly natural response.
What will become of our culture with all of these divisive splits? Will there be enough people to make efforts to close the empathy gap so that the future is kinder to all of us? We need to keep honing our empathy and resilience skills to make the future look brighter.
About the Author:
Patricia Faust is a gerontologist specializing in the issues of brain aging, brain health, brain function and dementia. She has a Masters in Gerontological Studies degree from Miami University in Oxford Ohio. Patricia is certified as a brain health coach and received a certification in Neuroscience and Wellness through Dr. Sarah McKay and the Neuroscience Academy. My Boomer Brain, founded in 2015, is the vehicle that Patricia utilizes to teach, coach and consult about brain aging, brain health and brain function. Her newsletter, My Boomer Brain, has international readers from South Africa, Australia, throughout Europe and Canada. She has also been a frequent guest on Medicare Moment on WMKV and Cincy Lifestyles on WCPO.