Brain Science & Positive Emotions
This is not a dry topic to shy away, I promise! The process in which our brains have evolved over few million years still surprises us right? And this process as per science has changed us from monkeys to the caveman and now to being intelligent human beings who have the ability to use logical reasoning, analyse complicated data, use judgments in any given situation and feel emotions such as love, hate, happiness, sorrow and the list goes on.
The complex mechanism of our brain is what drives us to do what we do at all times, regardless of you being aware of this or not. This mechanism and the stuff in your brain that gets you to take action is what drives us to evolve, mentally, physically and emotionally to achieve all our needs.
We are all used to the idea of being stressed once in a while but how many of us know that stress is generated by chemicals in our physical body or how you can train your brain to control stress?
When we are stressed or when we are not sure how to handle stress, our brain can work against us and lead us to some sort of addictive patterns to make us feel good. This could be anything that you think will give you immediate comforts like alcohol, chocolate, junk food or drugs.
Research shows that the chemical that gets released into our bloodstream which makes us take action to feel good is called DOPAMINE. This addictive chemical is also generated naturally in your body every time you are in a situation to take action.
This can work in your favour and provide positive results if you take the right action or it can mislead you to destructive behavior if you succumb to immediate relief/fix.
How does this work in your favour?
Let’s say you love motorbikes and you are learning to ride one. At first, you are going to be struggling, trying to balance yourself on the bike, falling down a few times, trying to understand the basic mechanisms to handle the bike, feeling frustrated and not confident that you can do this.
But then you have your friend or a family member who is teaching you and encouraging you to learn this new skill to ride your bike. You slowly start to realise that you are enjoying this feeling of being an amateur rider and at the same time you could feel the confidence within you.
You start looking forward to doing this quite often and you notice that you are improving in this new skill slowly and consistently. Before you realise it, you are riding the motorbike all by yourself with the wind on your face and total freedom ahead of you.
This whole process of you taking action to feel good about yourself or about something that started off as a struggle involves dopamine. This is when dopamine is working in your favour to take the right actions for positive outcomes. This is what drives you to achieve your dreams regardless of the dream being big or small by helping you meet your emotional needs.
How does dopamine work against you?
Now, here’s how dopamine can have a negative effect on you if you choose shortcuts to handle your emotions. When you are stressed, uncertain or you are blinded by your emotions it is hard to see anything positive at your present moment or in your near future.
So you find it hard to search for solutions, you look for something that could relieve you from this pain/stress immediately, you feel lost and hopeless and so you reach out for an immediate escape from your stressed out situation. At this stage, the power of dopamine can be misused by your brain and could lead you to destructive addictions.
Ask yourself and be honest:
Be conscious, be aware of the tricks that your mind plays with you in situations that are uncomfortable to you. Be honest with yourself right now and take a moment to think. Do you have any addictive habits/patterns that take up a lot of your time and energy that you feel it’s not worth your while but you still do it because it makes you feel good?
Or is there something else you could be doing to challenge yourself, something that will make you stretch, something that will bring you positive results both mentally and physically?
Let me give you an example of what I mean. Your work is stressful and I am sure most of you could relate to this, so you enjoy a pint of beer once in a while. But then there comes a time when you start having a bottle of beer a day.
Of course, you have your reasons like it’s been a long day with back to back meetings, the weather is hot, you are thirsty etc. Slowly you start to think of beer while you are at work, you hear your colleagues talk about beer or you bring it up in casual conversations. You are waiting to go home and have that ice cold beer, this thought is running on the back of your mind through the day and you don’t feel anything odd about it because the experience is going to be wonderful when you take that first sip of that beer once you go home.
So you go home and do just that. Straight to the fridge, pop that bottle open and take a good big swig of your favourite cold beer that has been waiting for you.
You wanted to have just one bottle of beer but you couldn’t stop with one so you have another one. Before you know it, you are down with few bottles, you feel tired, lazy to drive so you cancel that dinner that you planned with friends or family, forgot to do your regular chores at home and you feel miserable the next morning. You get the drift right?
Now the difference in both situations (learning to ride a motorbike and getting into the habit of drinking beer every day) is that you build a level of tolerance to get that pleasure.
The healthier option is to stretch yourself and take the path to achieve something that will make you feel good, you get dopamine to work in your favour to keep doing things that will help you to grow. But in the beer drinking example, the more you depend on an immediate fix or relief and the more you choose alcohol as your solution the more destructive it gets for you, your health and for people around you.
Choose the healthier option. Always!
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