Bad things happen to everyone. But how we react to the bad things in life reveals a lot about our brains. It might be obvious, but people who are happier are better able to regulate their emotions when dealing with unpleasant events.
How? There are a few theories.
One is that happier people are able to focus on positive things and filter out the negative. Another reason is that happier people could be better at savouring good moments and emotions to help them deal with negative events.
But why does this matter? Because this has implications for your perspective on life. Is it better to ignore the negatives, or strengthen your ability to focus on the good while acknowledging the bad?
Activity in the amygdala
The answer may lie in the amygdala—the primitive “fear centre” of the brain, which is always on the lookout for potential threats. In some people, increased amygdala activity has been linked to depression and anxiety.
That’s what psychologists William Cunningham at the University of Toronto and Alexander Todorov of Princeton University are exploring with their colleagues.
However it’s not just the “fear center” that they’re interested in. They’ve discovered a whole new amygdala—one they believe holds the key to human connection, compassion, and happiness. According to their research, the happiest people don’t ignore threats. They just might be better at seeing the good.
Happy people take the good with the bad
Cunningham and Kirkland recorded the amygdala activity of 42 participants as they viewed series of positive, negative, and neutral pictures. Participants also filled out surveys to determine their subjective happiness levels.
When compared with less-happy people, the researchers found that happier people had greater amygdala activation in response to positive photographs. But they did not have a decreased response to negative images, as would be predicted by the “rose-colored glasses” view of happiness.
According to the paper, this suggests that “happier people are not necessarily naïve or blind to negativity, but rather may respond adaptively to the world, recognizing both good and bad things in life.”
This is interesting because it suggests that being able to sense and respond to negative information may actually be an important component of happiness. The authors’ conclusion from this study: “Happy people are joyful, yet balanced.”
Continue the conversation
Our parent site, Ideapod, is a social network for idea sharing. It’s a place for you to explore ideas, share your own and come up with new perspectives, meeting like minded idea sharers in the process.
Here are some conversations happening on happiness on Ideapod.
Struggling to focus? Having sleepless nights? Not able to form new ideas and create new concepts? You’re stressed-out and as science has now found that it’s altering the size of your brain.
As a result, you are becoming incapable of performing at your best. Experiencing stress is a common thing, and it’s not at all bad. In fact, stress pushes you towards the finish line.
However, stress starts taking a toll on you when you do nothing to de-stress or relax. High-stress level aggravates cortisol level, which leads to the development of problems, like –
- High blood cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Weak immune system
- Incapability of hippocampus of creating new brain cells
- Chronic depression because of excessive cortisol level in your blood
So, here’s how you can fight stress and rejuvenate your mind.
Meditation is an ancient discipline of yoga. It is one of the best ways to curb stress. It an exercise for your brain. Start by focusing on deep breathing. Regular meditation will help in open up your brain and channelize an increased flow of blood – which will further boost your memory, concentration level and creativity power.
Do regular exercise.
Exercises are important for your body, mind and soul. Workout regimes like biking, running, walking and weight training will help in pumping up blood sugar in a natural manner and lower your stress level. With regular exercise, you will make your body capable of sustaining daily life activities in an effective and sound way.
Analyze stress and start altering the pattern.
It is crucial to evaluate your stress and its origin. Once you are done analyzing it, start changing the course slowly. If you’re feeling stressed at home, determine how to get rid of the chaos. Being overwhelmed will only throw you over the fence. The key is to sit down, relax and work on a plan to kill the buzz, before it destroys your mental and physical health.
I’m sure we’ve all felt that we’ve “clicked” with someone or were on the same “wave length”. Our everyday language is full of these kind of expressions, but is it just a manner of speaking? Not quite, according to Princeton University neuroscientist Uri Hasson.
He has found that human brains can literally “tune” into each other through a process called “brain coupling”.
Hasson and his team looked at brain scans of a person telling a story and another person listening to it.
Even though one person was listening and the other person was speaking (two very different brain functions), they found that the wavelengths of each brain came out incredibly similar. What’s even more amazing is that the more similar the brainwaves were, the better the understanding was between the two!
According to the study:
“Sometimes when you speak with someone, you get the feeling that you cannot get through to them, and other times you know that you click. When you really understand each other, your brains become more similar in responses over time.”
While there’s still a lot that needs to be learned, this is a wonderful confirmation of the “gut instinct” you get when you’re around certain people – you really “can be on the same wavelength!”
To understand more about this phenomenon, check out the amazing Ted talk below:
Reading is an activity that enriches our lives. As well as providing access to vast amounts of information and knowledge, we read for entertainment. Good stories provide an escape where your imagination can lift you away.
When we read, not only are we improving our working memory, but research has shown that it makes us feel better and more positive too. Science has shown that reading has some amazing health benefits, including helping with depression, cutting stress, and reducing the chances of developing Alzheimer’s later in life.
Global English Editing has created an infographic of world reading habits – how much we read, what we read, and where reading is taking place.
The biggest selling book in history is Don Quixote, a story which has captured the imagination of millions worldwide.
While countries such as India, Thailand, and China spend the most hours reading per week, they are not the most “literate” countries in terms of having access to a generous number of libraries, newspapers, and computers. In that regard, Finland, Norway, and Iceland are world beaters.
Although paper books have been selling well since the invention of the printing press, e-books are growing in popularity and are projected to outsell paper books by 2018.
These are just some of the fascinating facts about world reading habits found in the infographic below, courtesy of Global English Editing.
Originally published on Global English Editing’s blog.
You comfort them over a skinned knee in the playground, and coax them to sleep with a soothing lullaby. But being a nurturing mother is not just about emotional care – it pays dividends by determining the size of your child’s brain, scientists say.
Shocking: According to neurologists the sizeable difference between these two brains has one primary cause – the way were treated by their mothers.
Both of these images are brain scans of two three-year-old children, but the brain on the left is considerably larger, has fewer spots and less dark areas, compared to the one on the right.
According to neurologists this sizeable difference has one primary cause – the way each child was treated by their mothers.
But the child with the shrunken brain was the victim of severe neglect and abuse.
Babies’ brains grow and develop as they interact with their environment and learn how to function within it.
When babies’ cries bring food or comfort, they are strengthening the neuronal pathways that help them learn how to get their needs met, both physically and emotionally. But babies who do not get responses to their cries, and babies whose cries are met with abuse, learn different lessons.
The neuronal pathways that are developed and strengthened under negative conditions prepare children to cope in that negative environment, and their ability to respond to nurturing and kindness may be impaired.
According to research reported by the newspaper, the brain on the right in the image above worryingly lacks some of the most fundamental areas present in the image on the left.
The consequences of these deficits are pronounced – the child on the left with the larger brain will be more intelligent and more likely to develop the social ability to empathize with others.
This type of severe, global neglect can have devastating consequences. The extreme lack of stimulation may result in fewer neuronal pathways available for learning.
The lack of opportunity to form an attachment with a nurturing caregiver during infancy may mean that some of these children will always have difficulties forming meaningful relationships with others. But studies have also found that time played a factor – children who were adopted as young infants have shown more recovery than children who were adopted as toddlers.
But in contrast, the child with the shrunken brain will be more likely to become addicted to drugs and involved in violent crimes, much more likely to be unemployed and to be dependent on state benefits.
The child is also more likely to develop mental and other serious health problems.
Some of the specific long-term effects of abuse and neglect on the developing brain can include:
- Diminished growth in the left hemisphere, which may increase the risk for depression
- Irritability in the limbic system, setting the stage for the emergence of panic disorder and posttraumatic stress disorder
- Smaller growth in the hippocampus and limbic abnormalities, which can increase the risk for dissociative disorders and memory impairments
- Impairment in the connection between the two brain hemispheres, which has been linked to symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder
Professor Allan Schore, of UCLA, told The Sunday Telegraph that if a baby is not treated properly in the first two years of life, it can have a fundamental impact on development.
He pointed out that the genes for several aspects of brain function, including intelligence, cannot function.
And sadly there is a chance they may never develop and come into existence.
These has concerning implications for neglected children that are taken into care past the age of two.
It also seems that the more severe the mother’s neglect, the more pronounced the damage can be.
The images also have worrying consequences for the childhood neglect cycle – often parents who, because their parents neglected them, do not have fully developed brains, neglect their own children in a similar way.
But research in the U.S. has shown the cycle can be successfully broken if early intervention is staged and families are supported.
The study correlates with research released earlier this year that found that children who are given love and affection from their mothers early in life are smarter with a better ability to learn.
The experiences of infancy and early childhood provide the organizing framework for the expression of children’s intelligence, emotions, and personalities.
When those experiences are primarily negative, children may develop emotional, behavioral, and learning problems that persist throughout their lifetime, especially in the absence of targeted interventions.
The study by child psychiatrists and neuroscientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, found school-aged children whose mothers nurtured them early in life have brains with a larger hippocampus, a key structure important to learning, memory and response to stress.
The research was the first to show that changes in this critical region of children’s brain anatomy are linked to a mother’s nurturing, Neurosciencenews.com reports.
The research is published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Early Edition.
Lead author Joan L. Luby, MD, professor of child psychiatry, said the study reinforces how important nurturing parents are to a child’s development.