4 Tips to Cheer Up Your Brain with Neuroscience

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Need a mood boost? Some of these are tried-and-true methods, some may be new to you. What do they have in common? They are all backed up by the latest neuroscience, according to a recent article by Robby Berman on Bigthink.com.

1. Ask, “What am I grateful for?”

According to UCLA neuroscientist Alex Korb, heaping shame and guilt upon yourself can actually FEEL rewarding to your brain. Pride, shame and guilt activate similar neural circuits near the brain’s reward center. Korb also theorizes that our brains actually like it when we worry, because worrying lowers activity in the amygdala, keeping our emotions more level.

Thinking about things you are grateful for can boost seratonin levels in the brain. Even if you cannot think of a single thing to be grateful for, the very act of reminding yourself to be grateful has a positive effect.

2. Name the negative emotion.

What, exactly, is that bad feeling you have? What’s it like? What is a metaphor for the feeling you have? Describing an emotion in a few words helps reduce that emotion. Labeling emotions is used in extreme situations by FBI negotiators in hostage situations. Studies have shown that consciously recognizing what emotion is at work has a distinct calming effect.

3. Make a “good-enough” decision.

If you are trying to figure out the BEST decision, it puts more stress on your brain. However, deciding that something is “good enough” makes you feel more in control. Whatever you choose, you are likely to, according to neuroscience, develop a positive bias towards that choice.

4. Give someone (who is okay with it) a long hug

Hugs and other touches release oxytocin and studies show holding hands with your partner reduces anxiety. Don’t have someone to hold? Getting a massage also effectively reduces stress hormones and increases dopamine and oxytocin levels.

In contrast, neuroscience has shown that “social exclusion activates the same circuitry as physical pain.”

We hope these tips will come in handy for someone in a gloomy mood today. Be well!

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