How to deal with a global pandemic?
- Neuroplasticity– It’s true that the brain and the nervous system function like an adaptive machine. If you drive on a gravel road, the car will mentally turn into a jeep and on a Formula 1 track it will turn into a racing car. This property of neuroplasticity is, without question, why we are the stewards of the planet and the dominant species. Thanks to our ability to change, we can also deal with severe crises. We just need to be aware of our awesome powers that manifests as neuroplasticity.
- Finding Purpose during a Crisis – As humans, we have the conscious ability to dose these dopamine rewards ourselves in a very subjective way, and Huberman thinks this is where the importance of dopamine levels in times of crisis comes into play. He mentions the famous examples of Viktor Frankl or Nelson Mandela who, under terrible circumstances, had to suffer very much, but they found internal mechanisms that enabled them to prevail and not only to survive, but also endowed them with the ability to thrive in the face of extreme adversities. People who overcome adversity, and the Corona Pandemic is the perfect example, learn how to self-dose their dopamine rewards, which will benefit them later in life.
- Finding meaning in life and during the pandemic
Right now, we are in the middle of the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and we should all congratulate ourselves every morning because we’re still alive, we are able to breathe, we win every day, we will prevail in the end. Not just because we want to feel good, which is a by-product of this way of positive thinking to reward ourselves, for it pushes back those damaging circuits that force us to put strain on our immune systems. Huberman doesn’t see this positive thinking as a trick, because to him a trick is something that uses an existing thing for another purpose.
- Living with disappointments and setbacks – Huberman explains what a mistake in reward prediction is and how it applies to situations where a person feels disappointment after an expected outcome. Especially now, when the pandemic gets worse again, we have to learn to live with setbacks. The amount of dopamine we get before we reach the end goal must be less than the amount of dopamine we get when we reach the goal. The dopamine that gets us to the finish line has to be produced at a higher quantity than the dopamine we had on the way to our goal. This universal truth also applies during global pandemics.
- 5. How friends and family affect our brains to make us feel better even in tough times like a pandemic– There are a number of chemicals, such as serotonin and oxytocin, that help create a sense of well-being and reward for doing things that aren’t beyond our reach and that, in the future are within reach for us because they are part of our personal sphere of existence. These chemicals are released when we meet loved ones, when we see close friends, and sometimes even when we look at objects that are important to us. They tend to be heart-warming because they trigger the activation of some of the neural circuits that connect the gut and the brain, and they create a feeling of warmth in the upper body. They are extremely important during the pandemic.
- Stress and the Coronavirus– Some people feel overwhelmed and exhausted, and that’s because we do a lot more each day, what is known as serial processing. We used to get up, brush our teeth, check our phone, and tackle the day. Now we need to think about whether or not we can touch a door handle when we do grocery shopping. There’s a lot more planning involved in out lives … we think a lot more about things that we just didn’t have to think about before the pandemic. Currently, we exist in a state of deep uncertainty. Usually, the brain wants to know three things: duration of the crisis, the right path through it and the end result. The nervous system works 100x or 1000x more intensely during times of crisis for most people to find out what will happen next and what a person can do to control and navigate his or her own behaviour. Events like a pandemic cause the nervous system to become much more irritated. Because of this stimulus, you can also use this intensification for other, positive aspects because our nervous system has already been provoked!