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Neuroscientists Reveal What Will Make Your Brain Happy

Posted on: March 12th, 2018 by

The emotions of your brain

You text to connect, we all do. But did you know that when you text, your brain actually gets a positive chemical response?

Science continually points out how important direct human connection is, even on social media.

When people in stressful situations connect with family and friends in person or over the phone, it makes them feel better because it releases oxytocin.  But when they send or receive texts, their bodies respond as though they had absolutely no support — oxytocin is not released.

A lack of human connection leads to a dangerous downward spiral toward depression and/or anxiety.

Neuroscientists study the brain to figure out how to reverse that spiral. Basically, how we can (scientifically) become happier.

They have four suggestions:

1. Practice gratitude.

Even if you’re at your lowest point and can’t find anything to be grateful for, just searching for some tiny thing has the same effect as hefty antidepressant drugs.

The antidepressant Wellbutrin boosts your neurotransmitter dopamine. So does gratitude.

Prozac boosts your neurotransmitter serotonin. So does gratitude.

2. Name your emotions.

In one fMRI study, when participants saw people with emotional facial expressions, it activated their amygdala. When they were asked to name the emotion they saw, it activated their ventrolateral prefrontal cortex.

In non-science talk, that means consciously naming the emotion reduced its impact. Simply naming the emotion lessens the severity of it.

3. Make decisions.

Making decisions reduces worry and anxiety. It also reduces stress and boosts pleasure.

But what if you don’t know what decision to make? Make a list of pro’s and con’s to see your choices — visual lists help people make decisions.

Remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect. Just good enough.

4. Hug people.

When study participants were left out of a game, they felt excluded. It activated their brains’ anterior cingulate and insula — the same areas that feel physical pain.  This explains why a broken heart feels like physical pain.

Touching releases oxytocin, which is a very powerful hormone. It improves your mood and your persuasiveness, increases team performance, boosts math skills, and reduces pain. Hug someone!

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