Conclusion BlogHer NaBloPoMo: The Psychology of Joy




This is the ultimate HEALTH COACH installment of the BlogHer December National Blog Post Month. The topic of study all month long was joy. Nine-tenths of the activity here at HEALTH COACH takes place behind the scenes and involves research, health coaching, and case studies. 

In The The Conclusion: The Psychology of Joy - What is Joy? Is Joy an Extraverted Emotion? Tears of Joy, Emotional and Personal Intelligence, Affective Neuroscience, Social and Emotional Learning, The Next Evolutionary Stage, Basic Health Habits and Joy - A Practical Guide to Joy; and DO YOU KNOW?

Please visit: The Physiology of Joy: Part One, Part Two, and Part Three



Please visit: 
with Olam Qatan Proprietor, and Scholar, Ya'qub ibn Yusuf
in Jerusalem, 
about joy.




The Psychology of Joy
What is joy?

The ancient Greeks and Romans saw emotions as potentially dangerous. The philosopher Epicurus advised his followers to avoid intense feelings of sadness or joy since he believed they upset the bodys natural balance. In the Middle Ages, people suffering from depression were thought to be possessed by the devil. 
Even as knowledge of science grew, attitudes toward emotions remained mired in myth. The prevailing view of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment was that the superior rational mind - our reason; operated separately from the inferior emotional mind - our passions. This wariness toward emotions became strongly tied to sexism, with women considered the more emotional sex and, therefore, intrinsically weaker than men. Parents have continued to teach their male children to avoid expressing emotions into the 21st century, reminding them that big boys don’t cry. Alive


Self Preservation, Emotion, and Evolution

Plutchicks Wheel of Emotions - click for enlarged view

Evolution not only applies to anatomy, but also to mind and expressive behaviour.  
Robert Plutchik was a psychologist who developed a psycho-evolutionary theory of emotion to unify a number of theoretical perspectives and to better understand the biological and adaptive functions of emotion; to clarify what emotions are; to find ways to measure emotion; relating this information to other psychological disciplines; and to inform psychotherapy. 
Plutchik created the wheel of emotions in order to illustrate the various relationships among the emotions. The intensity of emotion decreases as you move outward and increases as you move toward the wheel's centre.The intensity of the emotion is indicated by the colour. The darker the shade, the more intense the emotion. For example, anger at its least level of intensity is annoyance. At its highest level of intensity, anger becomes rage.
Combinations of Emotions: Plutchik's wheel also contains primary dyads, which are combinations of primary emotions that lie next to each other on the wheel of emotions.

Emotions are not simply a feeling state; they do not happen in isolation. Emotions involve stimulus, cognition, complex responses, psychological changes, impulses to action, goal-directed behaviour,  feedback processes; activated by issues of biological survival. 

Biologists tell us that our emotions are rooted in self-preservation, triggering physiological reactions that enable us to find food, escape danger and reproduce. Noting that the word emotion stems from the Latin verb for move, author Daniel Goleman pointed out in Emotional Intelligence, "All emotions are, in essence, impulses to act, the instant plans for handling life that evolution has instilled in us." Daniel Goleman

Cognition serves emotional and biological needs, and developed to predict the future more effectively. Each new cognitive experience that is biologically important is connected with an emotional reaction. The function of emotion is to restore equilibrium after unexpected or unusual events create disequilibrium.

Emotions have also evolved into facial expressions and body language so that each member of the group can signal his or her wants and needs to other members. As John D. Mayer, a leading expert in the study of emotions, has remarked: "Emotions convey information about relationships".

Research shows the universal similarity in facial expression of the primary emotions - it is the cause of the emotion that changes culturally.

Few experts believe that human beings are born with a full range of emotions. Rather, they theorize, we enter the world with instincts and urges, along with an innate capacity for feeling. As we form personalities and relationships with others, these instincts and urges develop into full-fledged emotions. 
Sabitri Ghosh, Alive Encyclopedia of Healing


Is Joy An Extraverted Emotion?
On Plutchiks Wheel of Emotion, joy ranks as less intense than ecstasy, but more intense than serenity. It is categorized as a primary emotion, rather than a combination of emotions. Based on this information, and the emotional expression of introverts and extraverts, joy is in the ambiverted to extraverted range of emotion. 

A person does not have to have an extraverted profile to feel joy and to feel it in full measure. The difference between introverts and extraverts when it comes to experiencing joy, is in brain function, the internal processing of it, and sometimes the amount and size of an outward demonstration of joy.

Extraverts tend to up-regulate positive emotions like joy and delight, and be more expressive in their rejoicing. Introverts tend to have an outwardly passive style of expression in certain situations.
Extraverts need more cortical stimulation than introverts; the relatively greater cortical arousal of introverts leads to their seeking to reduce stimulation from the environment.  Susan Cain
Scientists now know that, while introverts have no special advantage in intelligence, they do seem to process more information than others in any given situation. To digest it, they do best in quiet environments, interacting one on one. Further, their brains are less dependent on external stimuli and rewards to feel good. 
As a result, introverts are not driven to seek big hits of positive emotional arousal - they'd rather find meaning than bliss - making them relatively immune to the search for happiness that permeates contemporary American culture. Laurie Helgoe, PhD, Psychology Today 



Affective Neuroscience

Affective Neuroscience is the study of the neural mechanisms of emotion. This interdisciplinary field combines neuroscience with the psychological study of personality, emotion, and mood, and is part of a group labeled behavioural neuroscience. 
A careful study of behavioural actions is the most direct way to monitor emotions, but this adds little to our scientific understanding to explain something observable - namely behaviour - in terms of feelings and thoughts that cannot be directly observed. During the height of the behavioural era, many questioned if emotions and thoughts even influenced human behaviour. This unrealistic view is being replaced with the emerging view that neuromental processes do contribute to the control of behaviour. A neuroscience revolution is supplying us with newfound methods of direct observation, knowledge and understanding of anatomy, neurochemistry, and neurophysiology that is rendering emotions measurable, manipulable, and scientifically real. Jaak Panksepp, Affective Neuroscience: The Foundations of Human and Animal Emotions 


After nearly 40 years of studying the brain mechanisms that underlie our emotions, neuroscientist Richard Davidson has identified six emotional ranges that affect how we think, feel, and react. Your unique emotional style is determined by where you land in each of these six spectra. 


The six emotional styles are:
Resilience: How long it takes you to rebound after adversity. Resilience is determined by signals between the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala. 
Outlook: How long you are able to maintain positive emotion. Outlook is determined by the levels of activity in the ventral striatum (a part of the brain linked to our reward system).
Social Intuition: How skilled you are at picking up social signals from other people. Social intuition is shaped by the interplay between the amygdala and fusiform regions. 
Self-Awareness: How well you are able to perceive the physical sensations in your body that signal emotions. Self-awareness is determined by the ability of the insula to interpret signals from the body and organs. 
Sensitivity to Context: How you are at regulating your emotional responses depending on the context you're in. This sensitivity is driven by activity levels in the hippocampus. 
Attention: How sharply and clearly you can focus. Attention is regulated by the prefrontal cortex.  
These six spectra combine to influence your personality. Though your emotional style is in part genetic, it is also influenced by environmental factors. The inherent plasticity of the brain means that, through conscious changes, the brain itself (and thus, how you think, feel, and respond) can be changed. Davidson suggests that, by first becoming aware of your own emotional style, you can find if it is helping or hindering you. Richard Davidson

At the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds, Davidson and other researchers investigate qualities of mind such as compassion and mindfulness in order to understand how healthy minds might be cultivated. He is perhaps most famous for his investigations into the neurological effects of meditation, showing how this practice can functionally rewire the brain.


 click to view at source
click to view at source


Emotional Intelligence 
The Five Components Of Emotional Health

1. Being aware of your emotions. Emotionally healthy people are in touch with their emotions and can identify and acknowledge them as experience.

2. Being able to process your emotions. After connecting with their emotions, emotionally healthy people develop appropriate ways of expressing them.

3. Being sensitive to other people and their emotions and having the ability to empathize. The ability to identify their own emotions enables emotionally healthy people to identify emotions in others and to have an intuitive sense of what it feels like to experience them.

4. Being self-empowered. Emotionally healthy people honour their emotions, which empowers them to fulfill their goals.

5. Being in healthy relationships. Using their emotional intelligence and empathy, emotionally healthy people build and maintain strong, functioning relationships. Alive Encyclopedia of Healing 


Personal Intelligence
John D. Mayer, a personality Psychologist who co-developed the theory of emotional intelligence, has introduced the idea of personal intelligence.
People who display such an ability understand themselves and know who they are. They evaluate others more accurately and therefore make more allowances for others' foibles; they are better at acknowledging their own limitations, too. Those who are talented at this reasoning power make better guesses about how people are likely to behave. And they have a generally good idea about how their acquaintances, colleagues, and friends perceive them -  they know their own reputation. At still deeper levels, these individuals recognize that their perceptions of the people around them might require revision at times. John D. Mayer, PhD 
Mayer has emphasized, "People can reason with emotions in the same way they reason with cognitive information. So you can solve emotional problems just as mathematicians solve math problems." 
You can build mental strength. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and the ability to change and develop mental fitness. Amy Morin, The 5 Biggest Myths About Mental Strength
Our personality is the sum of our mental processes; its job is to integrate our mental energy with our capacity for thought and self-control, and to help us express ourselves in our surroundings. We draw on our personality to manage our health and safety, to find the right environments to be in, and to draw on group alliances for protection, companionship, and a sense of identity.

A Practical Guide For Joy
Happiness is a form of courage. 

click to enlarge


HEALTH = JOY
Sleep: 1. Brain metabolic cleaning increases during sleep and is reduced when awake or stressed caused by the production of more noreadrenaline which increases the size of glia cells, decreasing glymphatic system fluid flow. 2. Tissue growth and repair happens during sleep. 3. Melatonin production, a powerful antioxidant, and important for circadian rhythm, learning, memory, fertility, and immune and nervous system health. 4. Brain events called sharp wave ripples are responsible for consolidating memory, and take place during the deepest levels of sleep. The ripples also transfer learned information from the hippocampus to the neocortex of the brain, where long-term memories are stored. 5. In sleep deprivation and sleep quality studies, blood concentrations of brain molecules neuron-specific enolase (NSE) and S100 calcium binding protein B (S-100B) increased to levels seen in brain damage, and a buildup of beta-amyloid protein, a hallmark of Alzheimers disease, were observed. 6. Sleep deprivation, and poor sleep quality is directly linked to an increase of accidents, and mortality from all causes, depression, and disease. 7. Shortened sleep time is associated with decreases in leptin and elevations in ghrelin.The CNS neuropeptide, ghrelin - the hunger hormone, stimulates hunger, while leptin signals satiety to the brain and suppresses appetite. 

Nutrition and Digestive Health: Brain networks that are associated with the control of feeding are intimately associated with those that are involved in processing emotions, reward and cognition. 1. Abundant paleontological evidence suggests that there is a direct relationship between access to food and brain size, and that even small differences in diet can have large effects on survival and reproductive success. 2. Omega 3 and 6 essential fatty acids support neurobiological processes and up- regulate genes that are important for maintaining synaptic function and plasticity. DHA is the most abundant omega-3 fatty acid in cell membranes in the brain and is obtained from diet only. 3. In addition to the capacity of the digestive system to directly stimulate molecular systems that are associated with synaptic plasticity and learning, several digestive hormones or peptides, such as leptin, ghrelin, glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP1) and insulin have been found to influence emotions and cognitive processes. 4. The brain consumes an immense amount of energy relative to the rest of the body. The mechanisms that are involved in the transfer of energy from foods to neurons are likely to be fundamental to the control of brain function. Processes that are associated with the management of energy in neurons can affect synaptic plasticity, which could explain how metabolic disorders can affect cognitive processes. Synaptic function can, in turn, alter metabolic energy, allowing mental processes to influence somatic function at the molecular level. 5. Excess calories can reduce synaptic plasticity and increase the vulnerability of cells to damage by causing free-radical formation that surpasses the buffering capacity of the cell. Moderate caloric restriction could protect the brain by reducing oxidative damage to cellular proteins, lipids and nucleic acids. 6. The brain is highly susceptible to oxidative damage because of its high metabolic load and its abundance of oxidizable material, such as the poly-unsaturated fatty acids that form the plasma membranes of neural cells. Antioxidants maintain metabolic homeostasis and energy homeostasis in mitochondria. 7. A number of innovative studies are pointing to the importance of dietary components in influencing epigenetic events - that is, non-genetic events, such as DNA methylation, transcriptional activation, translational control and post-translational modifications that cause a potentially heritable phenotypic change - and the potential for disease modulation.  DO YOU KNOW? Our Second Brain: The Enteric System - SEE BELOW 

Water and Electrolytes: 1. Water is needed for the production of hormones and neurotransmitters. 2. Water loss is always accompanied by electrolyte loss. Both are critical for proper hydration. Electrolytes are needed for proper hydration of the the body. 3. All fluids in the body are electrolyte solutions; fluids with dissolved minerals and salts. Electrolytes are fluid substances containing free ions that make the substance electrically conductive. Electrolytes produce positive and negative ions when dissolved. Electrolytes regulate fluid balance, transport nutrients, support muscle, nerve, and brain function, help convert calories into energy, regulate pH, and conduct energy. 4. The ionic activity of the Na+/K+-ATPase (sodium-potassium pump), which is an essential part of the action potential (and the resting potential) of neurons, requires a reliable supply and stable balance of electrolytes throughout the body. 5. Shock absorber for the brain 6. Dehydration causes shrinkage of brain tissue and an associated increase in ventricular volume. 7. An increase in fronto-parietal blood-oxygen-level-dependent (BOLD) response, suggesting an inefficient use of brain metabolic activity, and a higher level of neuronal activity in order to achieve the same performance level were observed during executive function tests following dehydration.   
Physical Activity: 1. Increases levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and other growth factors 2. Stimulates neurogenesis 3. Increases resistance to brain insult 4. Improves learning and mental performance 5. Protection from neuro-degeneration, and alleviation of depression, particularly in elderly populations 6. Increases synaptic plasticity by directly affecting synaptic structure and potentiating synaptic strength (especially in the hippocampus), and by strengthening the underlying systems that support plasticity including neurogenesis, metabolism and vascular function. 7. In addition, exercise reduces peripheral risk factors such as diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and inflammation which converge to cause brain dysfunction and neuro-degeneration.
Positive Mental Attitude: 1. The inherent plasticity of the brain means that, through conscious changes, the brain itself (and thus, how you think, feel, and respond) can be changed. 2. You can build mental strength. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and the ability to change and develop mental fitness. 3. Emotion regulation lowers cortisol (harmful stress hormone) levels. 4. Social and emotional learning is a sound strategy to improve the skills of social adaption and functioning. Social and emotional learning changes brain structure and function, gene expression and promotes adaptive emotional and cognitive functioning. 5. Recent research has also established that electrical brainwave patterns of the right and left hemisphere tend to co-ordinate more when we experience humour. This is important because evidence shows that depression is accompanied by less co-ordination in brainwave patterns between the two sides. Humour requires a unique opportunity for the cooperation of cognitive and emotional brain function integration. 6. A PMA leads to healthier lifestyle choices and therefore, increased brain health and function. 7. A positive mental attitude (a basic health habit) has the ability to boost body functions (including happy brain chemicals) and the resistance to disease.  
Breathing: 1. Helps to expel waste products, including oxygen-free radicals and other metabolic waste in the brain. 2. Deep breathing triggers the parasympathetic nervous system and counters sympathetic nervous system response to stress. 3. Deep breathing stimulates the vagus nerve to release a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine that catalyzes increased focus and calmness. A direct benefit of more acetylcholine is a decrease in feelings of anxiety and depression. 4. Lowers blood pressure and heart rate and reduces the risk of stroke and cerebral aneurysm. 5. Consistent practice leads to an increase in brain size; the brain experiences growth in areas associated with attention and processing of sensory input. 6. Controlled breathing can alter the expression of genes involved in immune function, energy metabolism and insulin secretion. 7. Longterm practice results in changes to the expression of genes associated with how the body reacts to stress.
Sweating: 1. Apocrine sweat glands are controlled by the Autonomic Nervous System and by circulating hormones. Body heat stimulates the part of the brain called the hypothalamus which controls body temperature and is located above the brain stem. The hypothalamus connects the nervous system to the endocrine system via the pituitary gland and neural and hormonal responses stimulate eccrine sweat gland activity. 2. Death by accumulated poisons occurs in a matter of hours if sweat gland activity is blocked. Properly cared for skin is better able to resist infection, protect our body and regulate body temperature. 3. Hyperthermic conditioning of the body to heat stress through sauna use has also been shown to promote neurogenesis along with increased physical endurance and muscle mass. 4. The liver, kidneys, stomach, muscles, brain and most other organs are flushed of impurities with increased fluid flow and an increase in metabolic rate. 5. Damaged cells repair faster due to increased metabolic rate. 6. An internal temperature rise affects endocrine glands, accelerates pituitary activity and affects hormone interplay. 7. The release of steam in a steam bath or when water is thrown onto a heat source in a sauna, creates negative ions, essential in healthy brain function and healing.
Sunshine: 1. Exposure to sunlight causes vitamin D to be produced in your skin. But only a portion of the solar spectrum, known as ultraviolet B (UVB), has this effect. 2. There are specific receptors in the brain for Vitamin D. 3. Vitamin D is critical for cognition. 4. Vitamin D regulates the production of neurotransmitters, hormones, and enzymes. 5. The active form of Vitamin D, calcitriol, plays an important role in genomic actions and gene expression. 6. Sunshine increases brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF is a protein that plays a pivotal role in neuronal health, neurogenesis, and neural plasticity. 7. Vitamin D helps to clear the plaques in the brain that are known to indicate Alzheimers disease. Vitamin D deficiency contributes to Parkinsons, Alzheimers, depression, learning and behavioural disorders, hormonal imbalance, inflammation and infection. 

How beautiful it is to do nothing, 
and then rest afterwards. 
Spanish Proverb 
Rest and Relaxation: Many recent studies have corroborated the idea that our mental resources are continuously depleted throughout the day and that various kinds of rest and downtime can both replenish those reserves and increase their volume.  1. Relieves cerebral congestion. 2. Time for rest, relaxation, and reflection is essential to mental processes that affirm our identities, develop our understanding of human behavior and instill an internal code of ethics. These moments of introspection lead to better decision-making. 3. The brain requires substantial downtime to remain industrious and to generate its most innovative ideas. 4. Rest and relaxation replenishes the brain’s stores of attention and motivation, encourages productivity and creativity, and is essential to both achieve our highest levels of performance and to simply form stable memories in everyday life. A wandering mind unsticks us in time so that we can learn from the past and plan for the future. Moments of respite may even be necessary to keep one’s moral compass in working order and maintain a sense of self. 5. Coordinated communication between disparate brain regions -  the default mode network (DMN), takes place only when resting and relaxing. In the last five years researchers discovered that the DMN is but one of at least five different resting-state networks - circuits for vision, hearing, movement, attention and memory. 6. The default mode network is able to integrate more information from a wide range of brain regions in more complex ways than when the brain is consciously working through a problem. 7. Rest and relaxation is critical to learning and memory. The brain consolidates recently accumulated data, memorizing the most salient information, and essentially rehearses recently learned skills, etching them into its tissue.   DO YOU KNOW? Daydreaming - SEE BELOW 
Meditation: 1. Beyond renewing one's powers of concentration, downtime can in fact bulk up the muscle of attention - something that scientists have observed repeatedly in studies on meditation. 2. Mindfulness training is a beneficial strategy to relieve stress, anxiety and depression. 3. Older, long-time expert meditators outperform their peers and younger test participants on tests of mental acuity. 4. These abilities improved after three-month meditation retreat. 5. Meditation strengthens connections between regions of the default mode network, for example, and can help people learn to more effectively shift between the DMN and circuits that are most active when we are consciously fixated on a task. Over time expert meditators may also develop a more intricately wrinkled cortex—the brain’s outer layer, which is necessary for many of our most sophisticated mental abilities, like abstract thought and introspection. 6. Meditation appears to increase the volume and density of the hippocampus, an area of the brain that is absolutely crucial for memory; it thickens regions of the frontal cortex that we rely on to rein in our emotions; and it stymies the typical wilting of brain areas responsible for sustaining attention as we get older. 7. Studies indicate that meditating daily is ultimately more important than the total hours of meditation.
Oil Pulling - click to enlarge
Personal Hygiene: 1. Extreme self-neglect is known as Diogenes syndrome. 2. Self-neglect is a behavioural condition in which an individual neglects to attend to their basic needs, such as personal hygiene. 3. Self-neglect can be as a result of brain injury, dementia or mental illness.  It can be a result of any mental or physical illness which has an effect on the person's physical abilities, energy levels, attention, organisational skills or motivation. 4. A decrease in motivation can also be a side effect of psychiatric medications, putting those who require them at a higher risk of self-neglect than might be caused by mental illness alone. 5. The inability, intentional or non-intentional, to maintain a socially and culturally accepted standard of self-care with the potential for serious consequences to the health and well-being of the self-neglecters and perhaps even to their community. 6. The behaviors and characteristics of living in self-neglect include unkempt personal appearance, hoarding items and pets, neglecting household maintenance, living in an unclean environment, poor personal hygiene, and eccentric behaviors. Research also points to behaviors such as unwillingness to take medication, and feelings of isolation. Some of these behaviors could be explained by functional and financial constraints, as well as personal or lifestyle choices. 7. Dental care is critical for health.
Butter Oil / Fermented Cod Liver Oil Blend 

Life Skills: 1. Are a synthesis of social and emotional learning. 2. Values, responsibility for oneself (basic health habits), and to the community, practical skills, communication, conflict prevention and resolution, empathy, love, compassion, and social graces. 3. Emotional Intelligence. 4. Personal Intelligence. 5. All basic health habits are learned behaviours, and the younger the age that we learn these habits, the more likely they are to be our dependable, and default system; especially in response to unexpected demands and unplanned stress. 6. Read. 7. Aphorisms
Nature: 1. We need a healthy environment to be healthy and disease-free. 2. Ecopsychology studies the relationship between human beings and the natural world through ecological and psychological principles. The field seeks to develop and understand ways of expanding the emotional connection between individuals and the natural world, thereby assisting people with developing sustainable lifestyles and remedying alienation from nature.  3. This subfield extends beyond the traditional built environment of psychology in order to examine why people continue environmentally damaging behaviour, and to develop methods of positive motivation for adopting sustainable practices. Evidence suggests that many environmentally damaging behaviours are addictive at some level, and thus are more effectively addressed through positive emotional fulfillment rather than by inflicting shame. Other names used to refer to ecopsychology include, Gaia psychology, psychoecology, ecotherapy, environmental psychology, green psychology, global therapy, green therapy, Earth-centered therapy, re-earthing, nature-based psychotherapy, shamanic counselling, ecosophy, and sylvan therapy. 4. The main premise of ecopsychology is that while today the human mind is shaped by the modern social world, it is adapted to the natural environment in which it evolved. According to the biophilia hypothesis of biologist E.O. Wilson, human beings have an innate instinct to connect emotionally with nature, particularly the aspects of nature that recall what evolutionary psychologists have termed the environment of evolutionary adaptiveness; the natural conditions that the human species evolved to inhabit. 5. Connection to nature can improve interpersonal relationships, emotional wellbeing, sharpen the senses, and help cultivate new skills. 6. Earthing Canada 7. EARTH HEALTH
  • Vulnerability: Brené Brown describes vulnerability as the core of all emotions. She defines vulnerability as uncertainty, risk and emotional exposureTo feel is to be vulnerable, she says. But being vulnerable connects us with othersIt opens us up to love, joy, creativity, and empathy. Brené Brown 
  • Out of your vulnerabilities will come your strengths. Sigmund Freud 
  • Ordinary courage involves facing a difficulty or conflict. It means being mindful. It involves learning and evolving in character, and social graces. It means making healthier choices.

  • STAY TUNED FOR MORE 




DO YOU KNOW?

Our Second Brain

The Enteric System
Almost every chemical that controls the brain is also located in the digestive system, including hormones and neurotransmitters such as Serotonin, Dopamine, Glutamate, GABA and Norepinephrine.  
The abdomen contains 100 million neurons – more than the spinal cord. But there are also two-dozen small brain proteins; major cells of the immune system; one class of the body’s natural opiates; and native benzodiazepines.  
The enteric nervous system, is located in sheaths of tissue lining the esophagus, stomach, small intestine and colon, and plays a key role in human emotions. But few know the enteric nervous system exists, and therefore digestive health is often overlooked. Symptoms from the two brains can get confused, and just as the brain can upset the gut, the gut can also upset the brain. 
If you’ve ever had your stomach in knots before speaking in public, then you know the stomach listens carefully to the brain. In fact, according to William Whitehead, PhD, a professor of medicine and an adjunct professor of psychology at the University of North Carolina, the entire digestive system is closely attuned to a person’s emotions and state of mind. People with irritable bowel syndrome often suffer symptoms during times of stress and anxiety, and even perfectly healthy people can have an increase of stomach pain, nausea, constipation or diarrhea during stressful life events. 
In recent years the link between the nervous system and the digestive system has been recognized. There is a constant exchange of chemicals and electrical messages between the two systems. In fact, many scientists often refer to them as one entity; the brain-gut axis. Therefore, what affects the stomach will directly affect the brain and vice versa.



The Importance of The Heart - Brain Connection
in Learning

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The brain is the organ that is designed to change in response to experience. Social and emotional learning is a sound strategy to improve the skills of social adaption and functioning. Emotion regulation lowers cortisol levels. Qualities such as patience, calmness, cooperation, empathy, and kindness are skills that are learned behaviours.

Social and emotional learning changes brain structure and function, gene expression and promotes adaptive emotional and cognitive functioning. 



Tears of Joy
Tears of sadness have a different chemical composition than tears of joy or those caused by irritants.

Joseph Stromberg, of the Smithsonian College of Arts and Sciences, explains that scientifically speaking, there are three types of tears: basal tears that are released continuously in small quantities to keep the eye lubricated, reflex tears that are secreted when the eye is irritated by foreign particles like sand or onion vapours, and psychic tears from crying or weeping due to strong emotions, both positive and negative.


Rose-Lynn Fisher: 
Typography of Tears
photographs of magnified, dried tears
pictured: Basal Tears


All tears are mainly composed of water and salts, with accompanying biological substances like antibodies and antibacterial enzymes. According to studies, the composition of emotional or psychic tears are different than those caused by eye irritants. For example, emotional tears have more protein-based hormones.


Onion Tears


Some of that may explain the differences in the photos of tears by photographer Rose-Lynn Fisher, but the crystallization of salt is highly dependent on a variety of factors; the same emotional tears may crystallize into vastly different shapes and formations under slightly different circumstances.


Tears of Elation at a Liminal Moment


Rose-Lynn Fisher: The Topography of Tears is a study of 100 tears photographed through a light microscope, magnified 100x or 400x.


A Lachrymatory or tear vial is a small vessel of terra-cotta or glass. They have been found in late Roman and Greek tombs and reappeared during the Victorian era. These bottles were used with special stoppers and the mourners would collect their tears and mourn until the tears evaporated, thus showing the end of the mourning period. 



Humour and Laughter: 
An Important Mind Game For Well Being

Our unique sense of humour relieves stress, keeps us fit and helps us to enjoy a long, happy life.

Scientists are beginning to take humour seriously. Margery Hutter Silver, a Neuropsychologist at The Harvard Medical School, studied longevity and found one common factor emerged in those who live past 100 - a sense of humour. Dr Hutter speculates that a sense of humour contributes to aging well because smiling and laughing provide the same benefits as exercise - she refers to laughing as internal jogging. 

Laughter raises blood pressure just long enough to increase oxygen and blood supply to tissues. It alters the breathing cycle so that more oxygen is inhaled and toxic carbon dioxide exhaled. Muscles throughout the body tense and relax during laughter in exactly the same way as with stress reduction techniques such as yoga.

Herbert Lefcourt and colleagues at Waterloo University in Ontario recently established that exposure to humour improves immune system functioning, producing significant rises in the body's natural defences, such as antibodies in the bloodstream.

Low antibody levels predict greater likelihood of future disease, yet what was particularily intriguing about Dr. Lefcourt's  study was that, given something to laugh at, those with a good sense of humour experienced the highest rises in antibody levels.

The ability of a good sense of humour to help cope with stress is now regarded as one of the most powerful defense mechanisms for dealing with problems over which you can do little.

Recent research has also established that electrical brainwave patterns of the right and left hemisphere tend to co-ordinate more when we experience humour. This is important because evidence shows that depression is accompanied by less co-ordination in brainwave patterns between the two sides. 

What is particularily fascinating about the latest discoveries is that they confirm some of the oldest ideas about humour.

Freud, who wrote one of the most unfunny books in the English Language, Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious, believed humour was a mechanism for anxiety release because a joke always has two halves. The first builds up psychic tension which is then broken by the ridiculous punchline. We are therefore allowed to release bottled up unease safely in a burst of laughter.

But the punchline has to resolve the tension it sets up successfully and surprisingly - in other words, all jokes are really problems that have a clever but unexpected answer.

Modern neurologists have found damage to the right brain - the emotional hemisphere - leads to acceptance of any incongruity as funny - sufferers laugh too much and often inappropriately.

Meanwhile, damage to the left brain - the logical analytical hemisphere - leads to an inability to understand the incongruity in a joke - producing too much seriousness.

This would suggest that humour is produced in the brain when the left hemisphere recognizes the incongruity in a joke while the right hemisphere - better at understanding the big picture rather than logical detail - resolves the anomaly. In other words the left cortex sets up the joke and the right gets it.

Dr. Peter Derks, a psychologist at William and Mary College in Virginia, has found that electrical brainwave patterns confirming the brain has picked up an incongruity are vital for us to find a joke funny. 

The latest brain scanning technology, functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), is able accurately to localize brain activity. Research using fMRI is revealing where the humour centre in the brain is. The frontal part of the right brain becomes most active when a punchline arrives. Previously the right frontal lobe has been considered the most silent of brain areas. Now it would appear that it is the most important. The right frontal lobe is unique in the brain as an area that serves as a connecting point between different parts that might otherwise remain isolated. For example, the frontal lobe is strongly connected with the deeper inner parts linked to the experience of emotions - called the limbic system - and the parts associated with emotional expression, the temporal and frontal lobes.

The part of the brain linked to problem solving is the frontal lobe itself. It was not until scientists began to study humour that the right frontal lobe's importance emerged. Humour requires a unique integration of problem solving, emotional appreciation and expressive functions, and it was here that it came into its own. Integrating emotion and cognition, as we must to laugh, can only occur because of the ability of the brain to produce consciousness.





Daydreaming
Letting your mind wander is not a waste of time - a different kind of thinking occurs.  When you aren't deliberately trying to solve a problem and you let your mind go where it wants to go; it gives the brain a chance to stop focusing on immediate tasks; provides more mental space; improves thinking; makes novel connections; brings more mental resources to complex problem-solving; develops ideas; consolidates learning; allows the subconscious to resolve important life problems faster, and can even help maintain progress toward long-term goals. 

Professor Kalina Christoff of the University of British Columbia Cognitive Neuroscience of Thought Laboratory, who studies neural and cognitive mechanisms of human thought, reasoning and problem-solving, has made an interesting discovery. She found that two key regions of the brain were both highly active during daydreaming that are rarely active at the same time, working in tandem when we daydream: the default network of the frontal and posterior prefrontal cortex linked to easy, routine mental activity and the executive network associated with high-level, complex problem solving, the lateral prefrontal cortex and the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex. 

Some progressive corporations, businesses and science labs have daydream rooms and are encouraging their employees and scientists to use daydreaming to find solutions, and to generate creative ideas. 

   
Mindfulness Meditation 
A state of calm awareness of your present experience including sensations, thoughts, feelings, breathing, and surroundings with an attitude of non-resistance, peace and acceptance describes the state of mindful awareness made possible with meditation. 

Mindfulness meditation engenders faith in the perfection of the moment and allows each experience to be felt fully without our reactive, self-critical and controlling mind. 



Mindfulness meditation is very beneficial to decrease stress, boost immune system function, and to alleviate a variety of mental and physical conditions including obsessive-compulsive disorder and anxiety, and to prevent relapse in cases of depression and addiction. 

Mindfulness and Habit
Mindfulness de-automatizes habits, and shines a light on habit triggers. It allows us to observe how a habit operates. When the prefrontal cortex responsible for decision making is overloaded by chronic stress and fatigue, your resolve and best intentions are likely to succumb to emotional desire for instant gratification. Mindfulness allows us to take a step back from the influence of stress and is an antidote to stress; giving us the room needed to change our responses, choices, and finally, we can replace the dysfunctional habit with something that works better for us.





Share Joy
Research by Shelley Gable and Jonathan Haidt have identified two main tendencies that keep us from experiencing, extending, and expanding our joy: the negativity bias and habituation. 
For most of evolution, the focus has been on basic survival and this explains our minds innate tendency to give more weight to the negative; we tend to remember and focus more on negative experiences; while positive experiences are reduced in effect with repetition. 

A number of studies have shown that making daily lists of the things you feel grateful for – which helps draw our attention to the positive experiences in our lives – improves our psychological and physical health and well-being. Gratitude improves our ability to connect with others, boosts our altruistic tendencies, make us optimistic and happier, decreases envy and materialism and even improves health for people with physical ailments. 

A recent study by Nathaniel Lambert and colleagues at Brigham Young Universityhowever, extends research on gratitude to show that verbally expressing the gratitude we feel to people close to us helps increase and sustain our well-being above and beyond simply feeling or writing down gratitude. Sharing our joy increases joy. 

Telling people about our happiness has far greater benefits than just remembering it or writing it down for ourselves. This research may also help partially explain research by Nicholas Kristakis and James Fowler that has shown that our well-being influences the wellbeing of those around us, up to 3 levels of separation. To try and be happy may seem like a selfish endeavour but it is actually a worthwhile goal to pursue not just for oneself but for your community. 


Dopaminergic Society  
The dopaminergic mind hypothesis seeks to explain the difference between modern humans and their hominid relatives by focusing on changes in dopamine. It theorizes that increased levels of dopamine as part of a general physiological adaption due to an increased consumption of meat around 2 million years ago by humans and later enhanced by changes in diet and other environmental and social factors beginning approximately 80,000 years ago explains this difference. 

The high dopamine personality is characterized by high intelligence, a sense of personal destiny, a religious/cosmic preoccupation, an obsession with achieving goals and conquests, and emotional detachment that in many cases leads to ruthlessness and risk-taking mentality. 

High levels of dopamine are proposed to underlie psychological disorders in industrialized societies, accordingly a dopaminergic society is an extremely goal-oriented, fast-paced and even manic society; dopamine is known to speed up our internal clocks and create a preference for novel over unchanging environments. In the same way that high dopamine individuals lack empathy and exhibit a more masculine behavioural style, the dopaminergic society is typified by more conquest, competition and aggression rather than nurturance and communality.





The Next Evolutionary Stage
Social Emotional Learning


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Joy To the World