Consider for a moment that everything that has happened to you since birth has led to this moment. If we had the time anyone of us could trace our life history back to childhood, connecting memory and activity to map exactly what events advanced your future to where you are right now.
Last year I presented at two local TEDx Talk events, including one at the Barrington Area Library, where I looked at how the pandemic accelerated our life timelines.
My TEDx talks, based on medical, social and neuroscience research, suggests that the pandemic advanced our traditional timelines of thinking about and reacting to what happens around us. For many of us COVID-19 delivered a “Life flashed before our very eyes” experience, forcing us to examine what is most important.
We have had a few years now to really assess how our minds and bodies are changing. Science tells us that genes are being altered and expressed differently from stress, anxiety, pandemic fatigue and indecision. Genetics is the study of human creation. Our DNA, unique to each of us, has the same sequence in every one of our billions of cells. We inherit 50% from each parent.
Epigenetics is the workhorse for our development. It is the science of how our genetic code—one’s DNA—is modulated, expressed and regulated from the time we develop in the womb. It is the software telling our chromosomes (the hardware) which genes to turn into a heart cell, an eye cell, a neuronal cell, even the cells that comprise one of our little toes.
After birth, epigenetics helps manage our health and our environment. It tells what genes need to express themselves in myriad ways to ward off illness, disease, protect us from dangerous toxins, foods and chemicals—even keeping watch for bad relationships, violence, abuse, and addictions. And its changes are reversible, having a neuroplasticity to them.
Epigenetics is also on the lookout for opportunities to excel in academics, sports, overall intelligence, attracting mates, choosing the best foods and regulation of our sleep hygiene. Epigenetics influences everything about who we are and what we can become.
The metaphor of an “Invisible Schoolhouse” suggests we are both student and teacher in our worlds. Our actions, ideas and perspectives all influence decisions of generations to come through our offspring. We literally influence how other’s genes are shifting their expressions and resetting their futures. And while scientists are not sure if epigenetic changes are long term, we do know changes have been passed on from the last three generations already.
And now, with MRI imaging, medical science can monitor, measure and map disease patterns, following which and where dilating blood vessels are heading, then pinpoint where disease or potential issues will appear. With this pathology, scientists can use pharmacology to build drugs that turn on-or-off specific genes to help cure diseases, such as cancer or autoimmune disorders, as well as mental health challenges.
In one of my TEDx talks, I examined how a young child at play gives us a look into their future. In this case, in the tuition-free Invisible Schoolhouse a child is happily learning, unknowingly experimenting in advanced subjects such as physics, chemistry, mathematics, competitive intelligence, language, kinesiology, physiology, behavioral psychology, neuroscience and political science, to name a few. All this happens to a child just by simply playing and reacting to clues in their environment. The result is they are learning lessons to be retained forever.
Long before a child attends school for the first time, their mind has developed billions of neural circuits to prepare them for homework, socialization, prepping for college exams, and dare we say, creating lasting relationships.
At my TEDx talk I created a mind map that reflects the many ways our lives are influenced by daily events that prompt the activities and emotions that help us advance our lives. We have had a glimpse into the future that may help us navigate our lives more purposefully. In 2023 let's all see and feel what is important and jettison those activities that are not high value.
LEARN MORE: Russ Riendeau, PhD is senior partner with New Frontier Search Company. He is also a behavioral scientist, artist, a Mayo Clinic Certified/Trained Wellness Coach and founder of Wellnessity, Inc. He’s delivered five TEDx Talks since 2014. If you are interested in learning more about epigenetics, search on TED.com or YouTube.
"The metaphor of an “Invisible Schoolhouse” suggests we are both student and teacher in our worlds. Our actions, ideas and perspectives all influence decisions of generations to come through our offspring."
"Epigenetics is the workhorse for our development. It is the science of how our genetic code—one’s DNA—is modulated, expressed and regulated from the time we develop in the womb."