Now that’s a lot of negative emotions in one sentence! Brain studies are showing us so much about our brains that is truly stunning. Some of it goes counter to what we might have been raised to do when it comes to responding to our emotions, some of it confirms what we probably know about how to deal with our emotions.
So when I read this Time article on neuroscience and specific rituals we can do that impact our emotions, I wanted to laugh and cry the whole way through—it’s that chockful of great stuff. I realize that we heading straight into the holiday season but that doesn’t mean everyone is full of joy and happiness—but a lot of that has to do with, well, you! So I want to help.
Author Eric Barker outlines four really simple applications from The Upward Spiral. These rituals can do a lot to improve our moods. Here they are:
- Ask the Important Question “First ask why am I stressed, lonely, depressed etc. And then asks what you can be grateful for. “The benefits of gratitude start with the dopamine system, because feeling grateful activates the brain stem region that produces dopamine. Additionally, gratitude toward others increases activity in social dopamine circuits, which makes social interactions more enjoyable.”
- Label Negative Feelings “In one fMRI study, appropriately titled Putting Feelings into Words participants viewed pictures of people with emotional facial expressions. Predictably, each participant’s amygdala activated to the emotions in the picture. But when they were asked to name the emotion, the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex activated and reduced the emotional amygdala reactivity. In other words, consciously recognizing the emotions reduced their impact.”
- Make that Decision “Making decisions includes creating intentions and setting goals — all three are part of the same neural circuitry and engage the prefrontal cortex in a positive way, reducing worry and anxiety. Making decisions also helps overcome striatum activity, which usually pulls you toward negative impulses and routines. Finally, making decisions changes your perception of the world — finding solutions to your problems and calming the limbic system.”
- Touch People “One of the primary ways to release oxytocin is through touching. Obviously, it’s not always appropriate to touch most people, but small touches like handshakes and pats on the back are usually okay. For people you’re close with, make more of an effort to touch more often.”
These seem easy enough, and I second all of these! The benefits of being intentional about your moods can be life-altering. Being the healthiest version of you means focusing on both your physical and mental health—something which we can definitely stand to learn more about, and one of the reasons why I love this article so much!
Improve Your Mental Health Today!
I’d love to walk through ways you can specifically address your lifestyle to achieve balance in all areas of your life—including the physical and the mental sides. Contact me to learn more to click here to check out what I’m all about.