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How Scarcity Impacts our Brain, Relationships, & Mental Health

Scarcity and the brain.

Needs that are ignored or unable to be met due to lack of resources do not go away – instead, they often become all-consuming until there is no space for us to focus on tasks, plan, organize, parent, or take good care of ourselves.

Whether self-imposed (like dieting or working your way into vocational burnout) or external (like housing instability, job loss, or not getting core emotional needs met), scarcity changes how we think and make decisions. Interestingly, researchers note that brains in scarcity-mode often make need-based decisions that backfire because these brains are not able to value long term outcomes over immediate relief.

To learn more about scarcity and the brain, check out NPR’s  @hiddenbrain podcast.


Image description for screen readers:
The doodle is of two hand drawn brains. 

The brain on the left is titled, “Brain with needs sufficiently met.” The brain has squares, circles, and rectangles neatly arranged within it. There is an arrow from text written below, pointing back up to the brain. The text reads, “Able to balance and shift focus from needs, tasks, goals, creativity, empathy, etc.”

The brain on the right is titled, “Brain experiencing scarcity in response to an unmet need.” The brain has a comic-style action bubble in the middle of it that says, “NEED.” There are squares, circles, and rectangles shooting out of the brain. There is an arrow from text written below, pointing back up to the brain. The text reads, “Task, goals, etc. cannot be focused on. Need is central and consuming.”

Illustrated Embodied Grounding Exercise - Free Printable
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