Flash forward several decades, and lo and behold (love that phrase), having your head examined is a reality. Access to MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) has opened up the whole world of neuroscience.
Now we can see what actually happens in the brain as we experience the ordinary challenges of life. Each day, research sheds more light on mind-body connections.
A collection of findings on the neuroscience of happiness recently caught my eye. It suggests four actions we can take to create a more positive upward spiral of happiness in our lives.
Action: Here they are:
- Ask yourself what you are grateful for. You don’t even have to find an answer to the question to experience a positive effect. The simple act of searching for something to appreciate has the same impact on the brain as a dose of antidepressant. It boosts the ‘get happy’ neurotransmitters, dopamine and serotonin.
- Label negative feelings. Use a word or two to give these rumblings of discontent a name. Consciously recognizing negative emotions reduces their physiological impact and calms the mind and body down. It’s far healthier than trying to suppress them or pretend they don’t exist.
- Make a decision or set an intention. This practice, too, calms the body’s alarm systems. And, you don’t even have to make the ‘perfect’ decision. In fact, aiming for perfection can trigger greater distress. Aim instead for a ‘good enough’ choice, and know that resolving an issue or settling on a first step in that direction helps both the brain and body feel more in control.
- Let yourself be supported by the presence, touch and concern of others. BTW, texting just doesn’t have the same impact. It’s live connection and conversation that matter. Hugs, handholding, and massage all have similar positive effects.
Experiment with one or more of these approaches this week, and see what kind of an impact they have on your Contentment Quotient.
Quote Of The Week: Alex Korb on the upwards spiral of happiness: “Everything is interconnected. Gratitude improves sleep. Sleep reduces pain. Reduced pain improves your mood. Improved mood reduces anxiety, which improves focus and planning. Focus and planning help with decision making. Decision making further reduces anxiety and improves enjoyment. Enjoyment gives you more to be grateful for, which keeps that loop of the upward spiral going. Enjoyment also makes it more likely you’ll exercise and be social, which, in turn, will make you happier.”
Resource Of The Week: Interested in more details and the snippets of the neuroscience research that ground these suggestions? See this article by UCLA neuroscience researcher, Alex Korb.
Readers Write: In response to last week’s message, Malaise – How Do People Meet The Challenge, Pause reader RN writes: Just wanted to say how much I’m enjoying the videos. I particularly liked the term “detonation”. I’ll share this in my counseling sessions and also with students who do tend to “blow themselves (and others) up” when they get bored or discouraged. Nice metaphor!
In response to the recent message, Simple Pleasures, Pause reader BM writes: I am a true believer in Simple Pleasures! The little things in life are so very important. My Mom and Dad also liked crocuses and would always go driving out in the hills early in the spring to spot the first crocuses. Now that Dad is gone, Mom always talks about those drives. Such special moments!
This morning while I was shoveling snow, I was thinking how pretty the snow was and how nice it was outside in the fresh air. Even though I didn’t want it to snow again, I found some pleasure in the snow after all. The fresh air and exercise was a great start to the day. Thanks for brightening up my day with your message.
Tags: appreciation, attitude, brain science, burnout, focus, happiness, health, inspiration, motivation, neuroscience, overload, overwhelm, Pat Katz, Patricia Katz, pause, perspective, Saskatoon, speaker, wellness