The practice of yoga teaches us patience, compassion and understanding, so that we can live in harmony with ourselves and those around us. Sometimes though, that can be really, really difficult….
When the actions and behaviours of others just don’t seem to make sense to us, we can find ourselves becoming frustrated and impatient with the people we’re closest to, thus putting strain upon our relationships. Understanding is the key to healthy relationships with our friends, family and loved ones. By knowing why your mum keeps forgetting things, your boyfriend doesn’t understand when you’re upset, your sister has crazy mood swings, or your dad’s midlife crisis has seen him take up some strange new hobbies; we can cultivate more love and understanding, ultimately making our relationships stronger.
So why do we do certain things – sometimes strange things – almost instinctively at times? Well, it has a lot to do with our minds, and even more to do with the structures of our brains and the chemical reactions bubbling away in there.
So let’s take a look at a few areas of the brain, difference between male and female brains, and what effects they have on us as we progress through life. Maybe then you’ll be a little more forgiving next time your husband seems to ‘zone out’ while your speaking, or your girlfriend takes three hours to get ready to go out….
The Amygdala: The more primitive part of the brain is very much related to aggression and fear, and is activated especially as we flip in to that ‘fight or flight’ response when we’re under stress. The amygdala is the one to thank for our emotional impulses when we’re scared or angry. It’s bigger in males than in females.
The amygdala is especially active during puberty, when we’re weighing each other up – and is also a time at which males are programmed to find other male faces a threat.
The Hippocampus: The memory center of the brain, responsible for holding long-term memories. It’s bigger and more active in women than in men, which is probably why your wife will always remember that time you forgot your anniversary….
As we age, the hippocampus shrinks. If it shrinks and becomes unhealthy, this is what can lead to Aulzheimers, so it’s important to pay attention to brain health more as we age.
The Prefrontal Cortex: A more evolved part of the brain; this area is related to our emotional wellbeing and ability to focus and ‘be here now’. It’s activated when we concentrate on our breath during a yoga class, and can help to calm the body and mind. This area of the brain helps us to properly think things through and make good decisions. It’s larger in women than in men, and also matures faster in women by a couple of years.
The Mirror-Neurone System: The system most related to emotional empathy, allowing us to connect to the way others are feeling by reading their facial expressions and body language. It’s larger and much more active in the female brain, which is why your boyfriend or husband honestly has no idea when you’re about to burst in to tears sometimes.
Anterior Cingulate Cortex: This area of the brain is very much related to worrying, making decisions and weighing up the options we’re presented with. It’s larger in women than in men, which gives reason to why women may seem to take longer to make important decisions and worry about little details more than men. When raising children, this area of a woman’s brain is on high alert, as the function of stress, sex and emotional circuits is heightened.
The Medial Preoptic Area: This part of the brain is activated for sexual pursuit, and is 2.5 times larger in men than in women – could explain the one track mind men seem to adapt to when on a night out!….
So, now we know a little more about why we’re naturally prompted to do certain things and act a certain way, we can be a little more understanding and appreciate all the little unique qualities each of us possesses. Well, hopefully….
Just remember to come back to this post when your other half is driving you crazy, and use it to try and make sense of them!
‘When you fish for love, bait with your heart, not your brain’
– Mark Twain