What does nurture mean to you?
Is it the care and protection of those you love or is it the nourishment of your own body and soul?
Pondering the nurture versus nature debate, it is interesting to consider whether our genetic inheritance contributes more than environmental concerns. We can nurture our bodies with adequate clean water and fresh, wholesome food. Likewise, we can nurture our souls with taking time out to appreciate nature – literally stopping to smell the roses!
With ongoing studies in epigenetics showing that our genes can adapt as they interact with environmental factors, the nurture versus nature conversation becomes more complex. Behavioural epigenetics studies have shown that it is possible that behaviours can be imprinted into genes and these imprinted genes are handed down through several generations. Studies done on identical twins, who have the same genes can exhibit very different behaviours even when brought up the same way. Social and emotional conditioning as well as environmental factors may well be part of the nurture versus nature conundrum.
I find it interesting to reflect on what I may have inherited from my forebears. Apart from the likelihood that I may have a genetic predisposition to the diseases that my ancestors suffered from, I have the opportunity to make changes by ensuring that strong environmental factors, such as diet and lifestyle choices offer the opportunity to imprint on my genetic makeup.
Other factors to consider, especially in recent times, are the effects of trauma on the brain. Repeated trauma will change the brain, affecting how we learn and process new information.
From an educational viewpoint, a stressed student is one that is likely to have some difficulty in retaining information. It is unfortunate that negative experiences are far stronger than pleasant ones and it can be expected that sustained or prolonged traumatic experiences are likely to be retained in both our brain circuits and as a genetic change. I’m sure my teaching colleagues will attest to this, an anxious parent is most likely to produce an anxious child. Nurturing then becomes something to consider within our educational system.
Creating as many enjoyable experiences such as regular meditation will help to overcome the negative experiences and imprint a more positive attitude or behaviour both in our brains and our genes.