Q: As the number of us struggling with anxiety or depression has grown three-fold during the pandemic, is there a way to lift ourselves out of languishing and bring more joy into our lives?
A: Yes, thanks to an emerging area of brain science. Rather than being inevitable, hard-coded experiences, researchers now think emotions are malleable, and people have more influence over them than previously thought.
You can stack the deck in favor of your brain, choosing positive, uplifting emotions in two major ways.
First, you can take care of your body physically. According to this new theory, the brain constructs emotions based largely on physiological signals and other sensations from your body. So by boosting your physical health, you can decrease the chance your body will send unpleasant signals to your brain and increase the chance your brain will construct positive emotions. You can get more sleep, eat properly and exercise.
Second, if you know that your brain uses your past to make sense of and create the present, then you can practice cultivating positive emotions today so that your brain can automatically use that knowledge to make tomorrow.
By practicing particular emotions, you can “rewire” your brain. So when you start to feel a negative emotion, such as sadness or frustration, you can more easily swap that for a positive one, such as awe or gratitude.
And here’s a surprising added benefit, a huge win-win-win that can transform the world and help bring about sustainability: Positive emotions are part of what helps us put others before ourselves. Helping others often makes both them and us feel good. People report higher levels of well-being when they’re giving to others. Focusing on others can be really good for us and the planet.
Prepared by Terry Gips from https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2021/06/29/1010319240/stuck-in-a-rut-sometimes-joy-takes-a-little-practice?utm_source=npr_newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=20210704&utm_term=5534300&utm_campaign=health&utm_id=46764612&orgid=309&utm_att1=