Science

Can H N P really make you happier?

Posted on 3/16/18

Put simply, yes. Your levels of happiness and wellbeing are shaped by your unique set of brain circuits, and your brain circuits can be changed. Circuits in the brain are like plastic and can be shaped and molded by your thoughts, actions, interactions and the world around you. 

It doesn’t usually happen overnight, but it’s possible. Your brain is like a muscle. Maybe you exercise to maintain your bod, but what are you doing to look after your brain? Just like your brain learns to ride a bike, or the words to the latest Adele song, with a little practice it can learn to better manage your emotions.

Studies have shown that the simple exercises recommended by HNP not only decrease stress and anxiety, and increase positive emotions and wellbeing, they also reshape brain activity and chemistry.

Exercise boosts the neurotransmitter serotonin, which helps generate more positive emotions and overcome bad habits. Deep breathing calms the brain’s stress response. Gratitude strengthens the brain’s optimism circuitry (i.e. the anterior cingulate cortex).

What’s the first step to managing your emotions? Take a look inside yourself and ask how you’re feeling. It’s a simple question but we don’t ask ourselves enough. This small act of introspection allows you to give your feeling a name, which has been proven to reduce the emotion’s impact.

In one study, researchers looked at neural activity in the amygdala, the brain region that reacts most to emotion. When participants named the emotion they were feeling, the activity in the amygdala went down. Lesson learned: If you label emotions verbally it allows emotional processing to take place, and it reduces their impact because.

Whatever emotion you’re feeling is perfectly ok, but sometimes too many intense emotions make it harder to just enjoy your life. Happy Not Perfect is there to lend you a hand, giving you the right information to help you live a happy (not perfect) life.

Alex Korb, Ph.D.
Neuroscientist and author of The Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time
alexkorbphd.com

References:

1) Desbordes, G, Negi, LT, Pace, TW, Wallace, BA, Raison, CL & Schwartz, EL. (2012). Effects of mindful-attention and compassion meditation training on amygdala response to emotional stimuli in an ordinary, non-meditative state. Front Hum Neurosci 6, 292.
2) Enock, PM, Hofmann, SG & McNally, RJ. (2014). Attention Bias Modification Training Via Smartphone to Reduce Social Anxiety: A Randomized, Controlled Multi-Session Experiment. Cogn Ther Res 38, 200-216.
3) Fumoto, M, Oshima, T, Kamiya, K, Kikuchi, H, Seki, Y, Nakatani, Y, Yu, X, Sekiyama, T, Sato-Suzuki, I & Arita, H. (2010). Ventral prefrontal cortex and serotonergic system activation during pedaling exercise induces negative mood improvement and increased alpha band in EEG. Behavioural brain research 213, 1-9.
4) Janse Van Rensburg, K, Taylor, A, Hodgson, T & Benattayallah, A. (2009). Acute exercise modulates cigarette cravings and brain activation in response to smoking-related images: an fMRI study. Psychopharmacology 203, 589-598.
5) Lieberman, MD, Eisenberger, NI, Crockett, MJ, Tom, SM, Pfeifer, JH & Way, BM. (2007). Putting feelings into words: affect labeling disrupts amygdala activity in response to affective stimuli. Psychological science 18, 421-428.
6) Young, SN. (2007). How to increase serotonin in the human brain without drugs. Journal of psychiatry & neuroscience: JPN 32, 394-399.

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