You get all kinds of happiness advice on the internet from people who don’t know what they’re talking about. Don’t trust them.
Actually, don’t trust me either. Trust neuroscientists. They study that gray blob in your head all day and have learned a lot about what truly will make you happy.
UCLA neuroscience researcher Alex Korb has some insights that can create an upward spiral of happiness in your life. Here’s what you and I can learn from the people who really have answers:
1. The most important question to ask when you feel down
Sometimes it doesn’t feel like your brain wants you to be happy. You may feel guilty or shameful. Why?
Believe it or not, guilt and shame activate the brain’s reward center.
Via The Upward Spiral:
Despite their differences, pride, shame, and guilt all activate similar neural circuits, including the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, amygdala, insula, and the nucleus accumbens. Interestingly, pride is the most powerful of these emotions at triggering activity in these regions — except in the nucleus accumbens, where guilt and shame win out. This explains why it can be so appealing to heap guilt and shame on ourselves — they’re activating the brain’s reward center.
And you worry a lot too. Why? In the short term, worrying makes your brain feel a little better — at least you’re doing something about your problems.
Via The Upward Spiral:
In fact, worrying can help calm the limbic system by increasing activity in the medial prefrontal cortex and decreasing activity in the amygdala. That might seem counterintuitive, but it just goes to show that if you’re feeling anxiety, doing something about it — even worrying — is better than doing nothing.
But guilt, shame, and worry are horrible long-term solutions. So what do neuroscientists say you should do? Ask yourself this question:
What am I grateful for?
Yeah, gratitude is awesome… but does it really affect your brain at the biological level? Yup.
You know what the antidepressant Wellbutrin does? Boosts the neurotransmitter dopamine. So does gratitude.
And gratitude doesn’t just make your brain happy — it can also create a positive feedback loop in your relationships. So express that gratitude to the people you care about.
But what happens when bad feelings completely overtake you? When you’re really in the dumps and don’t even know how to deal with it? There’s an easy answer…
– Eric Baker
Photo Source: Flickr Images