How To Identify Your Dominant Emotional Style (and Why It’s so Important)

During difficult times, we often find ourselves defaulting to a single, dominant emotion, even when another might be more “logical.” For example, your default emotion may be anxiety, which is what you’ll feel during the stressful times, even if a more appropriate emotional reaction might be anger, sadness, or frustration.

This is your dominant emotional style, said Alice Boyes, Ph.D., author of the book “The Healthy Mind Toolkit,” in a recent article she wrote for Psychology Today. In times of stress, a “dominant emotion” is the emotion we default to and is often linked to how we interpret and react to situations. Going back to the anxiety example, your reaction may be due to a tendency to blame yourself for situations; if your dominant emotion is anger, that might be due to a tendency to assume others are trying to hurt you.

Why being able to feel a range of emotions matters

We default to our dominant emotion because that’s what we know and what is most familiar to us. However, it’s important to be able to experience a range of emotions, as this is often the key to a healthier, happier life.

One way to think about emotions is to think about all of the different emotions as being part of a balanced ecosystem. Within an ecosystem there are many different components, all of which are important for a healthy system. If this balance gets disrupted though, with one emotion becoming heavily dominant, then the overall health of the system gets thrown off balance.

As studies are showing, people who experience a broad range of emotions tend to have better mental and physical health, which includes lower rates of depression. One possible reason is that a mixture of emotions, even if they are negative ones, can help prevent a single emotion from completely taking over.

Two options for reducing your dominant emotion

Feeling too much of one emotion is exhausting and can leave you burnt out. According to Boyes, there are two options that can help you step back from your dominant emotion.

The first option is to think through other possible interpretations of the situation. As Boyes notes, her dominant emotion is anxiety, where she will usually blame herself. However, when she slows down and evaluates the situation, trying to think through other reasons for what is going on, this allows her other emotions to surface.

The second option is to focus on the quieter feelings, the ones that have been drowned out by your dominant emotion. “If I tune into my smaller emotions, they rise to the surface more,” Boyes wrote. These other feelings can help you come up with different solutions to your problem, while also helping you to have a more balanced perspective.

As Boyes points out, these strategies for dialing down your dominant emotion can have a lot of positive benefits. This includes feeling a sense of relief, enhancing your creativity, identifying new ways to problem-solve, as well as motivating you to try alternative approaches that you might not otherwise think of.

As Boyes noted, when it comes to feeling these other emotions, “It’s okay if feeling your non-dominant emotions leaves you feeling unsettled and perhaps a little at sea. You can feel unsettled and still also benefit.”

Source: How to Identify Your ‘Dominant Emotional Style’ (and Why It’s so Important)

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Related Contents:

A comparison of dimensional models of emotion

The circumplex model of affect: An integrative approach to affective neuroscience, cognitive development, and psychopathology

The Emotions

Flashback: Reshuffling Emotions

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology

Culture and the categorization of emotions

Are There Basic Emotions?

A Fuzzy Inference System for Synergy Estimation of Simultaneous Emotion Dynamics in Agents

“The Conceptualisation of Emotion Qualia: Semantic Clustering of Emotional Tweets

Passion and Reason: Making Sense of Our Emotions

Reconstructing the Past: A Century of Ideas About Emotion in Psychology

HUMAINE Emotion Annotation and Representation Language

A Fuzzy Inference System for Synergy Estimation of Simultaneous Emotion Dynamics in Agents

Consumer Behaviour: Perspectives, Findings and Explanations On the Origins of Human Emotions: A Sociological Inquiry Into the Evolution of Human Affect

Happily disgusted? Scientists map facial expressions for 21 emotions

Handbook of Cognition and Emotion

9 Ways Empathy Helps With Inner Growth

Empathy can be best defined as the trait or skill of understanding, sharing, recognizing, and even feeling the emotions, thoughts, and experiences of those around you or those who you see. It is often a crucial skill in developing healthy relationships, moral or ethical decision-making, prosocial behavior, and compassionate attitudes.

Simply put, empathy denotes an ability to walk in the shoes of another person. It can be a complex trait to develop, and some people may believe that empathy is harmful. After all, feeling the pain of others can become tiring. But in moderation, this skill is a fantastic way to improve yourself while helping others. Here are nine ways empathy helps with inner growth.

1.    Empathy Reduces Stress

You may have noticed people who are empathetic seem to experience less stress. Considering how research has shown that stress accuses all sorts of diseases, it raises the question – how does empathy help?

  • It teaches emotional regulation skills.
  • Relating to others in positive ways teaches
  • It engages in our ability to control and handle our emotions in a healthy manner.
  • It helps us recognize where and when we may be feeling stressed or emotional, thanks to observing and empathizing with our loved ones.

Empathy can be best defined as the trait or skill of understanding, sharing, recognizing, and even feeling the emotions, thoughts, and experiences of those around you or those who you see. It is often a crucial skill in developing healthy relationships, moral or ethical decision-making, prosocial behavior, and compassionate attitudes.

Simply put, empathy denotes an ability to walk in the shoes of another person. It can be a complex trait to develop, and some people may believe that empathy is harmful. After all, feeling the pain of others can become tiring. But in moderation, this skill is a fantastic way to improve yourself while helping others. Here are nine ways empathy helps with inner growth.

As you can imagine, this helps you become an emotionally more stable person in the long run – indeed a fundamental thing to any future growth and maturation you wish to experience!

2.    It Improves Your Ability To Communicate

Communication isn’t as simple as an exchange of words. After all, think about the many times you find yourself constantly misunderstood, no matter how hard you try. As it turns out, empathy can teach you how to express yourself better! This outcome is because:

  • You learn how to see, feel, and think from the other person’s perspective.
  • You’ll better understand how your words and thoughts may be interpreted by others.
  • You can tailor your expression of your thoughts and emotions to the individual you’re communicating with, so they can understand you better.
  • You can limit misunderstandings and miscommunications by seeing how the other person would process information from their point of view.

Indeed, you may notice that all of these positive benefits first require you to listen better and understand the other person before you can explain yourself in a way that truly resonates with them. This is why empathy is so important!

3.    It’s Good For General Survival

Historically speaking, being social creatures is the critical reason for our species’ continued survival – and despite how much has changed socially, this hasn’t changed on a fundamental level! Empathy allows us to:

  • Pick up on nonverbal cues that indicate something is amiss
  • Tune in immediately to a situation the second someone starts acting strangely
  • React appropriately to a life-threatening situation you haven’t seen yet, just from the behavior of others in the area
  • Pay attention to abnormal atmospheres or facial features that suggest something is wrong

These examples may sound dramatic, but they can be applicable in all sorts of places – from recognizing when a bar fight is about to erupt to paying attention to a loved one who seems to be quieter than usual.

No matter which way you slice it, empathy may be the critical thing that saves you or your loved one’s life.

4.    It’s Good For Your Health

How are empathy and your physical health related to each other? They’re more intimately intertwined than you might think. Various studies have shown a positive correlation between the ability to handle stress – a source of many health issues – and high levels of empathy.

This is because of empathy:

  • It encourages us to form close bonds that form the basis of our support network.
  • Teaches us how to form healthy coping mechanisms when trying to manage stress.
  • It assists us in paying attention to our bodies as an extension of learning how to observe those around us.
  • Reduces depression and anxiety levels as we communicate and empathize with our loved ones.
  • It helps us create healthy boundaries so we can avoid picking up second-hand stress and negative emotions.
  • Encourages positive thinking and mindsets via reconnecting to the world around us.

This ultimately leads to a better psychological and physiological state, resulting in a much better health and immune system. Not to mention, it’s easier to take care of yourself when you’re mentally and emotionally more stable and healthy!

5.    It Can Guide Your Moral Compass

Normally, we learn empathy and emotional regulation in childhood – something that research has shown is important for our development. But that doesn’t mean our journey stops there!

As we grow older and meet new people, we must continue to learn and adapt to the changing world around us – and in this aspect, empathy is an essential tool. For example, it:

  • It helps us re-evaluate our core values and morals
  • Shapes and guides how we care for others and how we expect to be cared for
  • It shows us how to take care of those around us
  • Encourages us to strive for a better understanding of those we love

In other words, empathy can actually help us reshape our foundational understanding of the world and our relationship with it. This is important, as it can lead to us growing both mentally, emotionally, and spiritually as we strive to meet the needs of our loved ones!

6.    It Connects You To Others

Ever found yourself just sitting there, unsure as to how to respond to someone else? Empathy is actually a vital and helpful tool in this regard!

How so? Research has shown that empathy is responsible for helping us better understand and respond to a loved one’s actions – both in the present and for potential future actions. Here are a few ways how it mentally preps you and encourages you to form positive relationships:

  • It helps us feel and better understand what the other person is experiencing.
  • Teaches us how to reciprocate and make the other person feel seen and heard.
  • It assists us in forming and nurturing intimate bonds where both sides can feel safe and vulnerable.
  • It encourages us to listen to those around us truly and really take the time to be there for them.

The final result? We end up learning not just about experiences we couldn’t otherwise have possibly gotten on our own, but also will likely end up with a close and personal relationship with the other person!

Over time, you will likely find that this sort of behavior cultivates deep, intimate connections that can bring you a sense of peace and stability – an incredibly vital foundation for any further inner growth you wish to achieve.

7.    It Helps Prosocial Behavior

We are only human, so it’s natural to want close, intimate, and meaningful bonds. In fact, it is hardwired into our very DNA – we wouldn’t have gotten this far without that desire to bond with those around us, after all. As you can imagine, this means that the ability to empathize is crucial. This is because it:

  • It teaches us how to become more compassionate and caring
  • It’s crucial to our ability to communicate and connect with others
  • It encourages us to care for and help each other
  • Assists us in being kind and understanding to others around us
  • It tries to make us see things from a different point of view

From there, we then learn how to adjust our behavior and actions to ensure we are doing our best to love and care for those around us. This can then ultimately lead us to create the relationships so fundamental to our emotional and mental wellbeing!

8.    It Fights Burnout

There is some irony in how, in an increasingly connected world, we feel even more lonely. And with that loneliness comes all sorts of mental health struggles and burnout as we struggle with work on our own. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

A study has shown that those workers who are empathetic actually deal with less burnout – something you might find interesting! Here’s how empathy can help you achieve these outcomes:

  • It guides us in how we can communicate with those around us.
  • Assists in the development of soft skills that are crucial to handling conflicts with others.
  • It teaches us how to ensure both sides feel seen and heard.
  • It helps us connect and form meaningful relationships with others.
  • Encourages us to create social networks that can inversely support us in our times of need.
  • Promotes positive thinking as we pull from the experiences of others around us.

With the development of better communication and conflict-management skills, you may find yourself becoming a more emotionally mature and understanding person as you rise against the challenges life throws at you. And it’s all thanks to empathy!

9.    It Improves Your Work

With just how helpful it is when you’re trying to both listen and to be heard, it’s no wonder that empathy forms a core aspect of communication – a vital skill in any team-based work. But there’s more to this than just better communication. Empathy also helps:

  • Negotiating with others to create a solution that meets everyone’s needs and desires
  • Encourages teamwork when trouble-shooting issues
  • Creates an environment of respect and trust
  • It makes people feel valued and involved in any project
  • It makes for a smoother transition and workflow, as you are already paying attention and anticipating the quirks and workstyles of those around you

As you can imagine, these aspects are all super helpful when you’re working on any team-based project. And these skills are transferable too! You can just as easily apply these positive benefits to both your work and your personal life and watch your relationships become better for it! Final Thoughts On Some Ways Empathy Helps With Inner Growth

Empathy is a valuable trait, yet it may seem like it is rapidly declining in today’s world. This can seem discouraging, and some may even worry that being empathetic may open them up to feelings of pain and discomfort.

The lucky truth is that this is not the case. Empathy is crucial for your inner growth and can actually make you stronger, healthier, and more resilient. If you struggle with developing empathy for others, you can speak to a mental health professional for help.

By:

Source: 9 Ways Empathy Helps With Inner Growth | Power of Positivity

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Critics:

Empathy is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference, that is, the capacity to place oneself in another’s position. Definitions of empathy encompass a broad range of emotional states. Types of empathy include cognitive empathy, emotional (or affective) empathy, somatic, and spiritual empathy.

Empathy is generally divided into two major components:

Affective empathy

Affective empathy, also called emotional empathy: the capacity to respond with an appropriate emotion to another’s mental states. Our ability to empathize emotionally is based on emotional contagion: being affected by another’s emotional or arousal state.

Cognitive empathy

Cognitive empathy: the capacity to understand another’s perspective or mental state. The terms social cognition, perspective-taking, theory of mind, and mentalizing are often used synonymously, but due to a lack of studies comparing theory of mind with types of empathy, it is unclear whether these are equivalent.

Although measures of cognitive empathy include self-report questionnaires and behavioral measures, a 2019 meta analysis found only a negligible association between self report and behavioral measures, suggesting that people are generally not able to accurately assess their own cognitive empathy abilities.

Somatic empathy

6 Psychologically Damaging Things Parents Say To Their Kids Without Realizing It

Parents don’t set out to say hurtful or harmful things to their children, but it happens. You’re tired, they’re pushing your buttons, and you’re frustrated after asking them for the 600th time to clear their plates or get out the door on time. You could also be inadvertently repeating things you heard in your own childhood that your parents (and maybe even you) didn’t realize took an emotional toll.

We parents are trying our best, but sometimes — a lot of times — we fall short. That’s why it can be helpful to know some of the potentially damaging phrases parents often resort to without realizing their impact. It’s not about beating ourselves up. It’s about doing better by being a bit more conscious of our language.

So HuffPost Parents spoke with several experts who shared some harmful phrases you should try to erase from your vocabulary — and what to say instead.

1. “It’s not a big deal.”

Kids often cry or melt down over stuff that seems really silly. (Recall the delightful “reasons my kid is crying” meme that had a real moment a few years back.) But while kids’ crying and whining can definitely get under their parents’ skin — particularly when it’s over something you think they should be able to cope with — it’s harmful to diminish their very real feelings by basically telling them to buck up.

“These little problems — and the emotions that come with them — are actually huge to our kids,” said Amy McCready, a parenting educator, the founder of Positive Parenting Solutions and the author of “If I Have to Tell You One More Time.” “When we discount their emotional responses to very real challenges, we tell them, ‘How you feel doesn’t matter,’ or ‘It’s silly to be afraid or disappointed.’”

Instead, try this:

Take a moment and try to understand things from their perspective. McCready recommended saying something like: “You seem really scared or frustrated or disappointed right now. Should we talk about it and figure out what to do?” Ultimately, you’re helping them label their emotions (an important part of developing emotional intelligence) and making it clear that you’re there for them.

2. “You never” or “You always do XYZ.”

Children have their patterns, but saying your kid “always” or “never” does something simply isn’t true. (That’s why marriage counselors advise clients to avoid the word “never” with their partners altogether.)

Using broad statements is a red flag that you’ve stopped being curious about what’s happening in this particular moment with your child, according to Robbin McManne, founder of Parenting for Connection.

“It misses opportunity for you to teach them what they should and what they can do next time,” McManne said.

Instead, try this:

Remind yourself to be curious about why your child is engaging in a particular behavior at a particular time. It really helps to connect by getting physically close to your child in that moment, McManne said, so that you’re not shouting at them from across the house, but you’re right there with them to make sure they’re not distracted by something else.

3. “You make me sad when you do that.”

Sure, it might really bum you out when your child doesn’t listen, but it is important to set (and hold) boundaries without throwing your emotions into the mix. Those feelings are yours, not theirs. Plus, you’re setting a precedent by potentially giving them a lot of negative power.

“When kids feel like they get to decide if you’re happy, sad or enraged, they may happily take the opportunity to continue to push your buttons down the road,” McCready said. “And even when they’re out of your house, this mindset can damage future relationships and set the stage for them to manipulate others to get what they want.”

Instead, try this:

Set whatever boundary you need to set, like, “It’s not OK to jump on couches,” McCready offered by way of example. Then, give some choices such as, “Would you rather play quietly in here or go outside?”

4. “You should know better.”

When you say something like “you should know better,” what you’re ultimately trying to do is guilt or shame your child into changing. But that puts kids on the defensive, which makes them even less likely to listen, McCready said. It also undermines their confidence.

“If we tell our kids they should know better — yet clearly they didn’t — we’re sending the message, ‘You’re too dumb/immature to make a good decision.’ Not exactly what we intended,” she added.

Instead, try this:

McCready suggested saying something like “Hmm, looks like we’ve got a situation here! What can we do to fix it?” The goal is to focus on solutions — not the problem — so children practice problem-solving and fixing their own mistakes, and think about ways to make better choices in the first place.

5. “Just let me do it.”

When you’re rushing out the door or waiting for your child to complete a simple task that is seemingly taking forever, your instinct might be to just take over. But try to avoid doing that if you can.

“You’re telling your child, ‘You’re not capable of this, so I need to get involved.’ This is both discouraging and really frustrating,” McCready said. “Imagine if you were super close to being able to do your own zipper and just needed a few more tries, but then Dad swoops in and stops you in your tracks.”

Instead, try this:

Slow down and give your child the time they need to complete their task. Or at the very least, be clearer about why you have to rush. Say something like, “I’ll help you just this once since we’re running so late, but let’s work on this together later!”

6. “You’re a [insert label here].”

One of the most valuable things parents can do for their children is simply avoid labeling them, McManne said. Labels hurt the parent-child relationship because they get in the way of parents seeing their children as struggling and needing help. Parents start to link certain behaviors with whatever label they’ve given to their child, rather than digging in and really trying to understand what’s happening developmentally.

“Labels take us further out of compassion and curiosity,” McManne said.

Labels also have the potential to become self-fulfilling. If children hear from parents that they’re a certain way, they might come to accept that as true — even if it doesn’t feel true to them.

Even labels that seem positive like “You’re smart!” can actually be harmful, McCready said.

“When we say ‘you’re smart’ or ‘you’re athletic,’ we’re telling our child, ‘The only reason you did well on that test is because you were born brainy,’ or, ‘You wouldn’t have made that goal if it weren’t for your natural ability.’ What’s more, if our child bombs the test next time, they’ll be left confused and discouraged, questioning their own ability. If they’re so smart, why did they fail?”

Instead, try this:

Notice and applaud effort, not outcomes. And do whatever you can to avoid labeling your kiddo as anything, good or bad.

Catherine Pearson - HuffPost

Source: 6 Psychologically Damaging Things Parents Say To Their Kids Without Realizing It | HuffPost UK Parenting

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Critics:

A dysfunctional family is a family in which conflict, misbehavior, and often child neglect or abuse on the part of individual parents occur continuously and regularly, leading other members to accommodate such actions. Children sometimes grow up in such families with the understanding that such a situation is normal.

Dysfunctional families are primarily a result of two adults, one typically overtly abusive and the other codependent, and may also be affected by addictions (such as substance abuse, such drugs including alcohol), or sometimes by an untreated mental illness. Dysfunctional parents may emulate or over-correct from their own dysfunctional parents. In some cases, the dominant parent will abuse or neglect their children and the other parent will not object, misleading a child to assume blame.

Some features are common to most dysfunctional families:

  • Lack of empathy, understanding, and sensitivity towards certain family members, while expressing extreme empathy or appeasement towards one or more members who have real or perceived “special needs”. In other words, one family member continuously receives far more than they deserve, while another is marginalized.
  • Denial (refusal to acknowledge abusive behavior, possibly believing that the situation is normal or even beneficial; also known as the “elephant in the room“.)
  • Inadequate or missing boundaries for self (e.g. tolerating inappropriate treatment from others, failing to express what is acceptable and unacceptable treatment, tolerance of physical, emotional or sexual abuse.)
  • Disrespect of others’ boundaries (e.g. physical contact that other person dislikes; breaking important promises without just cause; purposefully violating a boundary another person has expressed.)
  • Extremes in conflict (either too much fighting or insufficient peaceful arguing between family members.)
  • Unequal or unfair treatment of one or more family members due to their birth order, gender, age, family role (mother, etc.), abilities, race, caste, etc. (may include frequent appeasement of one member at the expense of others, or an uneven/inconsistent enforcement of rules.)

References

How ‘Soft Fascination’ Helps Restore Your Tired Brain

Imagine shining a flashlight at a wall in a dark, empty room. If you walk toward the wall, the light will contract. The closer you get to the wall, the smaller and more concentrated the beam of light becomes. By the time the flashlight is an inch from the wall, you’ll see a tight, bright circle of light surrounded by shadow and darkness.

Your attention is a lot like the beam of that flashlight. You can focus it closely and intensely on something, or you can relax it — allowing it to grow soft and diffuse.

A lot of research — much of it recent — has examined the different types and qualities of attention and their associations with mental health and cognitive functioning. This work has revealed that certain types of attention may tire out your brain and contribute to stress, willpower failures, and other problems.

Meanwhile, activities that broaden and soften your attention may reinvigorate your brain and promote psychological and cognitive wellbeing.

Whenever you train your attention on something — an act that cognitive scientists sometimes call “directed attention” — this requires effort. More effort is needed when other things (i.e. distractions) are vying for your attention, or if the thing you’re trying to focus on is boring.

According to a 2016 review from researchers at the University of Exeter Medical School in the U.K, your ability to effortfully focus your attention is finite. Just as an overworked muscle grows weak, overworking your attention seems to wear it out. When that happens, a lot can go wrong.

For one thing, your ability to concentrate plummets. Your willpower and decision-making abilities also take a hit. According to a 2019 study in the journal Occupational Health Science, attention fatigue may also contribute to stress and burnout.

There’s even some work linking attention fatigue to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). “The symptoms of ADHD and ‘attention fatigue’ so closely mirror each other that the Attention Deficit Disorders Evaluation Scale has been used as a measure of attention fatigue,” wrote the authors of a 2004 study in the American Journal of Public Health.

Certain activities seem to reinvigorate the brain in ways that support directed attention and self-regulation.

Experts are still trying to figure out exactly what resource in your brain is drained by effortful directed-attention tasks. They haven’t nailed that down yet. But there’s evidence that directed attention involves frontal and parietal regions of the brain that are also involved in other “cognitive-control” processes. These are the activities that take you out of autopilot and steer you toward goal-directed thoughts and actions — the stuff that isn’t necessarily fun or engaging, but that supports your career, your relationships, and your health.

Distractions, multitasking behaviors, loud noises, bustling urban environments, poor sleep, and many other features of modern life seem to promote attention fatigue. On the other hand, certain activities seem to reinvigorate the brain in ways that support directed attention and self-regulation processes. And one of the most studied and effective of these — as you’ve probably heard — is spending time in nature.

“Getting out in nature seems to relax the brain’s frontal lobes and relieve this attention fatigue,” says Phil Stieg, MD, PhD, chairman of neurological surgery and neurosurgeon-in-chief at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center.

Exactly how nature does this is tricky. Stieg says that several overlapping mechanisms of benefit are likely at play.

But one that has garnered a lot of expert attention is termed “soft fascination.” The gist is that natural environments are just stimulating enough to gently engage the brain’s attention without unhelpfully concentrating it.

“[W]hat makes an environment restorative is the combination of attracting involuntary attention softly while at the same time limiting the need for directing attention,” wrote the authors of a 2010 study in Perspectives on Psychological Sciences. Nature, they added, seems to hit that sweet spot.

On the other hand, activities that grab and hold our attention too forcefully — books, social interactions, pretty much anything on a screen — entertaining through they may be, are unlikely to recharge our brain’s batteries. “Unlike soft fascination, hard fascination precludes thinking about anything else, thus making it less restorative,” the study authors added.

A lot of the work on soft fascination is folded into a psychological concept known as Attention Restoration Theory, or ART. While a lot of the ART research highlights time in nature as the optimal route to cognitive replenishment, it’s not the only route.

“If you’re on a cell phone for eight hours a day, your attention never gets a rest.”

Mindfulness also promotes attention restoration.

In many ways, it’s a kind of soft-fascination training. Mindfulness attempts to loosen the mind’s preoccupation with self-focused thoughts and judgments while also broadening awareness of your surroundings. This seems a lot like what spending time in nature does automatically, and there’s evidence that moving mindfulness training into natural outdoor settings may augment the practice’s benefits.

Stieg, the New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell neurosurgeon, recently discussed the benefits of nature on his podcast This Is Your Brain. He agrees that mindfulness may be a helpful alternative for those who don’t have access to nature (or the time to get lost in it). He also says that avoiding things that fatigue attention — loud noises, multitasking, technology — could reduce your need to escape to the outdoors.

“If you’re on a cell phone for eight hours a day, your attention never gets a rest,” he says. “I don’t think spending time in nature provides all the answers, but there’s good evidence that it support a longer, healthier, emotionally stable life.”

The bigger takeaway may be that your brain needs idle time to rest and recharge. Deprived of that time and the soft-fascination experiences that support it, your psychological and cognitive health may pay a price.

Markham Heid

By: Markham Heid

Source: How ‘Soft Fascination’ Helps Restore Your Tired Brain | by Markham Heid | Jun, 2021 | Elemental

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How To Stop Overthinking

Need to know

If you’re an over-thinker, you’ll know exactly how it goes. A problem keeps popping up in your mind – for instance, a health worry or a dilemma at work – and you just can’t stop dwelling on it, as you desperately try to find some meaning or solution. Round and round the thoughts go but, unfortunately, the solutions rarely arrive.

In my daily work as a meta cognitive clinical psychologist, I encounter many people who, in trying to find answers or meaning, or in attempting to make the right decision, spend most of their waking hours scrutinizing their minds for solutions. Ironically, in this process of trying to figure out how to proceed in life, they come to a standstill.

When we spend too much time analyzing our problems and dilemmas, we often end up more at a loss than we were to begin with. On top of that, persistent overthinking can result in a wide range of symptoms such as insomnia, trouble concentrating and loss of energy which, in turn, often leads to further worries regarding one’s symptoms, thereby creating a vicious cycle of overthinking. In some cases, this eventually leads to chronic anxiety or depression.

When overthinking and the associated symptoms spiral and become unbearable, it’s usual for us to look for ways to calm down. Many common strategies sound reasonable or useful, but research shows that they can inadvertently cause more harm than good and typically lead to even more overthinking. You might recognize some of them in your own behavior:

Constantly looking out for threats: there’s nothing wrong with this strategy if you feel in control, but it can quickly backfire. Take health concerns. If, as a way to calm your worries, you start to excessively scan yourself or the people you care about for signs of illness, this threat monitoring will lead only to a heightened sense of danger and more health-related worries.

Another example is constantly keeping an eye out for whether people like you, trying to figure out what they think of you, which inadvertently results in you becoming more distant, non-participatory and worried, and not being able to enjoy their company.

Seeking answers and reassurance: it’s completely natural to seek reassurance from people close to you, and to look for answers as to how to cope better. However, if you come to a point where you depend on these strategies to calm you down and reduce your worries, you’re on a slippery slope.

For instance, some of my clients spend several hours a day Googling, hoping to find reassurance or, at least, an explanation as to why they’re feeling down. Yet this strategy often leads to even more worries, since Googling relatively common symptoms typically yields a wide range of search results, including diagnoses that you hadn’t even thought of.

Excessive planning: of course, there’s nothing wrong with moderate levels of planning. It’s perfectly healthy to keep a calendar or to leave notes for yourself. However, some people plan their lives down to the tiniest detail and this can become problematic. In addition to being rather time-consuming, excessive planning can have other negative effects including exacerbating worries.

For instance, when planning carefully, it’s tempting to try to predict all the things that could possibly interfere with a plan and how to potentially handle such events should they occur, thereby initiating a process of worry. Others plan meticulously because they believe that they won’t be able to cope otherwise, which can lead to excessive worries when planning isn’t possible or unexpected events arise.

Aside from these unhelpful strategies, another key factor that can perpetuate overthinking is your beliefs about thinking (the term ‘meta cognitive’ in ‘meta cognitive therapy’ – the clinical approach I use – actually refers to thinking about thinking). When my clients start meta cognitive therapy, many of them are convinced that they have no control of their thought processes.

They believe that their thoughts just appear and automatically attract attention – and that they can’t control whether these thoughts develop into hour-long ruminations about how bad things are now, or into catastrophic worries about what could go wrong in the future.

I have some good news: you don’t have to live with excessive worry. It’s an enduring myth that overthinking is an innate trait, like eye color or crooked toes, meaning that it can’t be changed and you simply have to live with it.

Adrian Wells, the clinical psychologist at the University of Manchester who founded meta cognitive therapy, discovered that overthinking – that is, worrying and rumination – is a learned strategy that we choose, consciously or unconsciously, as a way to try to deal with our difficult thoughts and feelings. It’s not a fixed trait, but a habit that we fall into, and we can learn to change it if we want.

In my first 10 years practicing as a clinical psychologist, I worked in traditional cognitive behavioral therapy. CBT teaches us that we need to spend time on our thoughts and beliefs in order to challenge them and transform them into more realistic or compassionate versions. When I was introduced to meta cognitive therapy, in which the focus is on simply letting go of your thoughts (Wells jokingly calls it ‘lazy therapy’), it radically changed my understanding of mental illnesses.

In 2020, together with Wells and other colleagues, we published the results of a large randomized trial involving 174 clients with depression. We found that those who participated in meta cognitive therapy benefited more than others allocated to receive CBT (74 per cent met the formal criteria for recovery at post-treatment, versus 52 per cent of those in the CBT group, and this was largely maintained at follow-up).

Together with my own client work and the experiences of other therapists using metacognitive therapy, this finding has convinced me that the cause of mental illnesses isn’t our negative thoughts per se, and therefore the solution is not to spend yet more time on them. On the contrary, the cause of mental illnesses is too much time spent dwelling on our negative thoughts, and so the solution is to spend less time on them.

This realization created a tsunami of thoughts within my own mind. For years, through CBT, I have helped my clients spend more time on their negative thoughts, but what if there were better ways I could have helped them? True, many of my clients felt CBT had helped them (and it certainly is beneficial to many), but I no longer believe it’s the optimal approach. For the past 10 years I have completely changed my methods and I exclusively use meta cognitive therapy to help people think less and, in so doing, cope better with their mental health problems.

Whether you just worry a little more than you’d like to, or you suffer from an anxiety disorder or depression, metacognitive strategies can help you reduce the overthinking that contributes to your symptoms. Metacognitive therapy is about discovering that you can choose whether or not you engage in a thought regardless of its content or the feelings it gives rise to.

In the following section, I’ll take you through some of the steps I use in metacognitive therapy to help my clients reduce their overthinking and learn that overthinking isn’t something that happens to us – it’s within our control.

What to do

Get to know your trigger thoughts and let them be

It is estimated that the human brain produces thousands of separate thoughts, associations and memories every single day. Most of these thoughts are without significance; they come and go without us noticing. Some thoughts, however, attract our attention. In metacognitive therapy, these thoughts are referred to as ‘trigger thoughts’. If you pay them enough attention, these thoughts can trigger an explosion of bodily sensations and feelings, and a myriad of associations.

Some trigger thoughts can activate warmth and joy about an exciting upcoming project, meeting a friend, or a holiday you’re looking forward to. These kinds of trigger thoughts are, of course, unproblematic. Other trigger thoughts, however, might activate a long series of further thoughts that can develop into worries or ruminations.

Worries typically form around hypothetical scenarios and start with ‘What if…’ statements such as: ‘What if I make the wrong decision?’ ‘What if they won’t like me?’ ‘What if I get ill?’ and so on. Typical rumination, on the other hand, starts with thoughts about what, why and how: ‘What is wrong with me?’ ‘Why am I feeling this way?’ ‘How do I get better?’

You can compare these thoughts to trains at a busy railway station. There are departures all the time to a wide array of different destinations. Each train can represent a thought or a sequence of thoughts. For instance, a thought such as ‘What if they won’t like me?’ could arrive at the mental railway platform.

You could ‘catch’ the thought and you’ll likely soon notice several other thoughts join in: ‘I won’t be able to handle it if they dislike me.’ ‘Perhaps, then, I shouldn’t go.’ Or you could dismiss the thought, similar to letting the train pass by, and turn your attention back to whatever you were doing. When you don’t expend energy on a thought, you’ll find it will either stay on the platform for later or simply pass you by.

So, it’s not the trigger thought in and of itself that will overwhelm you and lead to a variety of unpleasant symptoms; nor is it the amount of trigger thoughts you have (everyone has them). The problems arise if you continuously jump on to each train – that is, if you begin to analyze the thought and engage in extensive worry or rumination – then it’s like you’re adding more and more carriages to the train, one after another; the train gets heavier and slower, and will eventually have trouble passing even the slightest hill. The same goes for your trigger thoughts: the more time you spend engaging in these thoughts, the slower and heavier you will feel.

Recognise what you can and can’t control

If you’re used to boarding most trains rather uncritically – that is, continuously engaging in trigger thoughts and starting to worry and ruminate for long periods of time – then, unfortunately, you’re well on your way to developing an unhealthy pattern. If you repeat this pattern over and over again, it might begin to feel as if it happens automatically. You might, understandably, come to believe that it’s outside your control.

It’s true, the trigger thoughts themselves are completely automatic – you don’t have any say as to what trains will arrive at your mental railway station. However, you do have a choice over which trains to board. You can choose whether or not to engage in a trigger thought. You can control whether you ‘answer’ the thought or follow it up with more questions.

In trying to understand this differently, instead of in terms of trains, you might picture your thoughts as someone calling you on the phone. Of course, you don’t decide whether the phone rings, who calls or when it rings. (Unfortunately, in this case it’s not the kind of phone you can just turn off!) But you do choose whether to answer the phone or just let it ring and turn your attention back to whatever you were doing.

The sound of the phone might be loud, annoying and attract your attention, but what happens if you just leave it be? Eventually it stops ringing. While thoughts and phones are, of course, different things, this metaphor carries a key message in metacognitive therapy: While trigger thoughts are beyond your control, you can control whether you engage with them.

Thoughts are, in principle, ephemeral, although you might not see them this way. Try asking yourself how many of the thoughts you had yesterday you can remember today. To be honest, out of the several thousand I had, I’m not sure I can recall even 10 thoughts. Why is that? Most of the thoughts we have come and go almost instantly because we don’t grant them any special attention but leave them and return to whatever we were doing. Even though you might not be aware of it, you’re already capable of choosing not to engage in a conversation with your thoughts, just as you can ignore the phone that keeps calling.

Postpone and reduce your worries and ruminations

Many chronic overthinkers struggle to change their belief that their thoughts can be brought under control, and perhaps you’re still not convinced. One way of challenging your belief further is to explore whether you’re able to postpone worries and ruminations. I recommend that my clients introduce a so-called ‘worry/rumination time’. It has to be a set time of the day, for instance 7.30pm to 8pm, where you allow yourself to worry and ruminate freely.

That way, when trigger thoughts or feelings occur during the day – for instance, you feel the need to evaluate your health or reflect upon what your friends think of you – try postponing these thoughts to your scheduled worry/rumination time (you might tell yourself: ‘I’ll deal with this later’). This set time is also useful for any planning or reassurance-seeking for which you feel the need. One note of caution: you might want to avoid scheduling your worry time within one or two hours of when you plan to go to bed, especially if you’re prone to insomnia or other sleep difficulties.

Introducing a set worry/rumination time serves several functions. First, it’s an experiment that challenges the belief that worries and ruminations are uncontrollable. When dedicating themselves to this experiment, most of my clients find that it is indeed possible to postpone worries or ruminations. While this might seem a hard goal, in fact it’s something you already do on a daily basis without realizing.

For instance, any time you notice an alarming newspaper headline on your way to work and start worrying, but then remember that you’re in a hurry and so turn your attention back to getting to work – that’s you controlling your thoughts. Or maybe you’re sitting in a café with a friend and you overhear a conversation at another table that triggers unpleasant memories, but instead of dwelling on them, you decide to redirect your attention back to the conversation with your friend.

Again, that’s you controlling your thoughts. In the same way, you can learn to consciously ignore your own internal trigger thoughts, thereby experiencing that you really do have a choice in whether you choose to engage in them or not.

A second function of setting worry/rumination time is that it’s a way of discovering that trigger thoughts are ephemeral and ever-changing. For instance, the thoughts that seemed highly relevant and important in the morning will often seem less important when you arrive at your worry/rumination time later in the day. You might even discover that you’re not able to recall some of the thoughts that triggered you.

All feelings, whether positive or negative, are usually ephemeral if we tolerate them and let them be. Of course, not all thoughts disappear forever when you postpone processing them – some thoughts might be about important issues that you really need to address. Regardless, as most of my clients find, it’s much more constructive to deal with these issues within a defined time of the day instead of endlessly problem-solving while you’re trying to go about your daily responsibilities.

Finally, while this might seem obvious, the worry/rumination time is a way of reducing and containing the amount of time you spend worrying and ruminating. As I explained earlier, it’s not the trigger thought in and of itself that causes unpleasant symptoms, nor is it the amount of trigger thoughts. It’s the time spent engaging in these thoughts, ruminating and worrying, that weighs us down. By allocating a set period of time for worry and rumination, you’re more likely to feel in control and prevent yourself becoming overwhelmed.

Avoid avoidance and train your attention

For people struggling under the burden of overthinking, it’s all too easy to develop a fear of one’s own trigger thoughts. After all, if you feel at their mercy, you might be tempted to avoid them occurring in the first place. Unfortunately, not only is this largely futile, it’s also counterproductive – avoidance of triggering situations will hamper your life and, moreover, to the extent that you’re at all successful in avoiding situations that prompt trigger thoughts, you won’t get the chance to practice letting go of these thoughts. After all, you can’t learn to ride a bike without a bike.

Inspired by the above, and if you feel ready, I recommend that you give yourself daily challenges that involve trigger thoughts, and that you practice instructing yourself to leave them alone until a designated worry-time. This will help you become more adept at leaving your trigger thoughts alone and to realize that you’re in control of your worries and ruminations. You won’t succeed every time but, just like learning to ride a bike, you need to get up again every time you fall and keep biking until you get the hang of it.

Some people struggle to develop this skill. In that case, in metacognitive therapy we use attention training to help clients realize that they can shift their attention regardless of inner inputs, such as trigger thoughts, and outer input, such as external stressors. I usually ask my clients to do the following 10-minute exercise. Maybe reading this will inspire you to try it out yourself:

  • Tune in to three or more environmental sounds, such as: traffic; birdsong; chatter from a nearby radio or TV; children playing; building work, or whatever. You need to find somewhere where these ambient sounds are going on. It’s helpful if some of the noises you select are nearer and louder, while others are further away and quieter.
  • Of the three or more sounds you’ve selected, practise tuning in to just one at a time for approximately 10 seconds each (you could use a digital timer to help you) and let the others fade into the background. After the 10 seconds is up, switch your focus to another of your chosen sounds.
  • After two minutes, repeat the exercise, but switching more quickly between the sounds – now focusing on each one for just two to four seconds each.
  • The aim of the exercise is to become familiar with, and adept at, shifting your attention. When you’re feeling more confident you could introduce a recording of a trigger thought into the exercise, and practise switching your attention away from and back to the sound of that thought.

Another exercise you could try that I use in my clinic is the windowpane exercise – this will further illustrate that your attention is under your control, independent of the existence of trigger thoughts in your head. I write one or two trigger thoughts in washable ink on a window (such as: ‘What if I fail my driving test?’ or ‘What if she finds me boring?’), then I ask my client to practise looking through the words to notice the scene beyond – the trees, the sky, the buildings, whatever the view is from the window.

Then I ask them to switch their attention back to the words again, now back to the details of the view. The purpose here is to familiarise clients with the sensation that we can control our attention. If you give it a try, you’ll find that, while the written thoughts remain in view, you can control whether you focus on them or whether you let them fade and enjoy the world outside instead. Please note, if you find this exercise at all difficult, I recommend that you wait and try it with a professional metacognitive clinician (see the ‘Learn More’ section to find out how)…..

By: Pia Callesen

Source: How to stop overthinking | Psyche Guides

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Blood Pressure

Why Comparing Feelings Isn’t Helpful

A woman with a sad expression looking out the window.

When you are coping with something difficult in your life, it isn’t uncommon for someone else to say “it could be worse.” You might even find yourself thinking, “Well, at least I don’t have it as bad as that person does.” Comparing your own pain and other emotions to others is common, but that doesn’t mean that it is always helpful.

Comparisons are often natural and can, in some instances, even be helpful. They can serve as a way to gauge our progress or determine what might be appropriate in a certain situation. In other cases, comparisons can stifle growth, prevent self-compassion, and even make it more difficult to empathize with other people.

Some ways that comparing feelings might be harmful are listed below.

People Experience Things Differently

Each individual has different resources and experiences that play a role in how they are affected by different emotions. Just as not all people feel joy in the same way, not everyone feels pain in the same way. There is not a hierarchy of emotion that says that one person’s feelings are better or worse, stronger or weaker than someone else’s.

For example, if you are going through an emotionally painful loss, you might be tempted to compare what you are feeling to someone else who has gone through something that seems objectively worse. It is important to remember that hurt is hurt. Comparing your pain to someone else who seems to be suffering more only serves to minimize what you are feeling.

Comparison Often Leads to Minimization

The focus of comparing your emotions is often to minimize either what you are feeling or what they are feeling. Some examples include:

  • You might think that you don’t have the right to be upset about something because someone else is going through something worse.
  • You might feel like you don’t have the right to feel lonely because you have more friends and family than another person does.

But someone else’s experiences do not negate your own. In such cases, comparing feelings is a way of minimizing your own experiences.

This is something that you might do to avoid feeling a negative emotion. Rather than face it, it is easier to dismiss it as being “not as bad as it could be.” It is a form of toxic positivity, in which people feel that they have to hide or reject any negative feelings in order to focus on a false sense of optimism.

It Keeps You From Facing Your Feelings

Even if someone else’s situation is objectively “worse” than yours, it doesn’t mean that you are not experiencing very real, very valid emotions. You are allowed to feel upset when someone hurts you or disappointed when something doesn’t work out the way that you wanted it to.

Yes, other people also have their own pain and disappointments to face, but those experiences don’t diminish or eclipse yours.

Negative feelings can increase stress when they aren’t dealt with properly.1 But even difficult emotions can be important sources of information. They can tell you that something needs to change and help motivate you to make positive changes in your life.

Everyone Deserves Help

Comparisons often lead people to think that they can just deal with problems on their own. Rather than reach out for help and support, people are often left feeling that their issues aren’t serious enough to warrant attention.

A person who is experiencing symptoms of depression, for example, might not seek out help because they think that they don’t have any “reason” to feel depressed, especially when they compare their life and experiences to other people who seem to have it worse. This means that they won’t seek out the help that they need, whether it is therapy, medication, or support.

In such cases, comparisons can lead to avoiding your problems rather than finding ways to address them. Even if you feel like your problems “aren’t that bad,” you still deserve support and help.

How to Respond Instead

The next time you are tempted to compare your feelings to someone else’s, take a step back. Will it be helpful? Or are you using it as a way to dismiss your emotions? Instead of comparing:

  • Allow yourself to sit with your emotions without judgment.
  • Give yourself permission to feel what you are feeling and remind yourself that your emotions are valid.
  • Lean on others but don’t feel the need to minimize your struggles or compare your problems to theirs.
  • Avoid judging other people’s emotions. Instead, focus on valuing the fact that they are willing to share what they are feeling with you.
  • Listen to what people are saying. Acknowledge what they are feeling. Simply saying that you can see how hard it must be and that you are there to listen can be a crucial way of offering validation and support.

Remember that when someone is in a vulnerable place, it is not the time to make judgments or comparisons. And that applies to your own emotions as well.

Dealing with those emotions, even when they are difficult, is what allows people the chance to learn, grow, and heal from their experiences. Sometimes sharing your emotions can help. Research also suggests that just talking about what you are feeling can help reduce the intensity of those emotions.2

When Comparison Might Be Helpful

The reality is that some degree of comparison is inevitable. People are simply wired to notice what other people are experiencing and then consider how it compares to their own situation. And in some cases, it can actually have a positive effect, including:

  • Comparisons may help you feel gratitude for your own life.
  • It may help you consider options and think about what you want.
  • It can lead to observational learning where you gain knowledge without actually having to go through that experience yourself.
  • It can help you see what you need to do in order to achieve what you want in life.
  • It may help you feel more compassion for others, which can help compel you to volunteer to help.

It is important to remember, however, that minimizing your pain is not a part of gratitude. You can be grateful for the good things in your life and still feel disappointed, sad, or upset.

A Word From Verywell

The next time you find yourself thinking “it could be worse,” think about what those types of thoughts are actually accomplishing. If it’s a way to minimize or deny your feelings, focus on your emotions without judging or shaming yourself for feeling such things.

And before you tell someone else that at least they don’t have it as bad as someone else, pause and remind yourself that such statements are rarely helpful. Instead, focus on being a supportive listener.

Kendra Cherry

 

 

Source: Why Comparing Feelings Isn’t Helpful

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Beauty Is In The Brain: AI Reads Brain Data, Generates Personally Attractive Images

Researchers have succeeded in making an AI understand our subjective notions of what makes faces attractive. The device demonstrated this knowledge by its ability to create new portraits on its own that were tailored to be found personally attractive to individuals. The results can be utilised, for example, in modelling preferences and decision-making as well as potentially identifying unconscious attitudes.

Researchers at the University of Helsinki and University of Copenhagen investigated whether a computer would be able to identify the facial features we consider attractive and, based on this, create new images matching our criteria. The researchers used artificial intelligence to interpret brain signals and combined the resulting brain-computer interface with a generative model of artificial faces. This enabled the computer to create facial images that appealed to individual preferences.

“In our previous studies, we designed models that could identify and control simple portrait features, such as hair color and emotion. However, people largely agree on who is blond and who smiles. Attractiveness is a more challenging subject of study, as it is associated with cultural and psychological factors that likely play unconscious roles in our individual preferences. Indeed, we often find it very hard to explain what it is exactly that makes something, or someone, beautiful: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” says Senior Researcher and Docent Michiel Spapé from the Department of Psychology and Logopedics, University of Helsinki.

The study, which combines computer science and psychology, was published in February in the IEEE Transactions in Affective Computing journal.

Preferences exposed by the brain

Initially, the researchers gave a generative adversarial neural network (GAN) the task of creating hundreds of artificial portraits. The images were shown, one at a time, to 30 volunteers who were asked to pay attention to faces they found attractive while their brain responses were recorded via electroencephalography (EEG).

“It worked a bit like the dating app Tinder: the participants ‘swiped right’ when coming across an attractive face. Here, however, they did not have to do anything but look at the images. We measured their immediate brain response to the images,” Spapé explains.

The researchers analysed the EEG data with machine learning techniques, connecting individual EEG data through a brain-computer interface to a generative neural network.

“A brain-computer interface such as this is able to interpret users’ opinions on the attractiveness of a range of images. By interpreting their views, the AI model interpreting brain responses and the generative neural network modelling the face images can together produce an entirely new face image by combining what a particular person finds attractive,” says Academy Research Fellow and Associate Professor Tuukka Ruotsalo, who heads the project.

To test the validity of their modelling, the researchers generated new portraits for each participant, predicting they would find them personally attractive. Testing them in a double-blind procedure against matched controls, they found that the new images matched the preferences of the subjects with an accuracy of over 80%.

“The study demonstrates that we are capable of generating images that match personal preference by connecting an artificial neural network to brain responses. Succeeding in assessing attractiveness is especially significant, as this is such a poignant, psychological property of the stimuli.

Computer vision has thus far been very successful at categorising images based on objective patterns. By bringing in brain responses to the mix, we show it is possible to detect and generate images based on psychological properties, like personal taste,” Spapé explains.

Potential for exposing unconscious attitudes

Ultimately, the study may benefit society by advancing the capacity for computers to learn and increasingly understand subjective preferences, through interaction between AI solutions and brain-computer interfaces.

“If this is possible in something that is as personal and subjective as attractiveness, we may also be able to look into other cognitive functions such as perception and decision-making. Potentially, we might gear the device towards identifying stereotypes or implicit bias and better understand individual differences,” says Spapé.

By: University of Helsinki

Source: Beauty is in the brain: AI reads brain data, generates personally attractive images — ScienceDaily

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Anjan Chatterjee uses tools from evolutionary psychology and cognitive neuroscience to study one of nature’s most captivating concepts: beauty. Learn more about the science behind why certain configurations of line, color and form excite us in this fascinating, deep look inside your brain. Check out more TED talks: http://www.ted.com The TED Talks channel features the best talks and performances from the TED Conference, where the world’s leading thinkers and doers give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes (or less). Look for talks on Technology, Entertainment and Design — plus science, business, global issues, the arts and more. Follow TED on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/TEDTalks Like TED on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TED Subscribe to our channel: https://www.youtube.com/TED
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Journal Reference:

  1. Michiel Spape, Keith Davis, Lauri Kangassalo, Niklas Ravaja, Zania Sovijarvi-Spape, Tuukka Ruotsalo. Brain-computer interface for generating personally attractive images. IEEE Transactions on Affective Computing, 2021; 1 DOI: 10.1109/TAFFC.2021.3059043
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Scientists Show What Loneliness Looks Like In The Brain

This holiday season will be a lonely one for many people as social distancing due to COVID-19 continues, and it is important to understand how isolation affects our health. A new study shows a sort of signature in the brains of lonely people that make them distinct in fundamental ways, based on variations in the volume of different brain regions as well as based on how those regions communicate with one another across brain networks.

A team of researchers examined the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) data, genetics and psychological self-assessments of approximately 40,000 middle-aged and older adults who volunteered to have their information included in the UK Biobank: an open-access database available to health scientists around the world. They then compared the MRI data of participants who reported often feeling lonely with those who did not.

The researchers found several differences in the brains of lonely people. These brain manifestations were centered on what is called the default network: a set of brain regions involved in inner thoughts such as reminiscing, future planning, imagining and thinking about others.

Researchers found the default networks of lonely people were more strongly wired together and surprisingly, their grey matter volume in regions of the default network was greater. Loneliness also correlated with differences in the fornix: a bundle of nerve fibers that carries signals from the hippocampus to the default network. In lonely people, the structure of this fibre tract was better preserved.

We use the default network when remembering the past, envisioning the future or thinking about a hypothetical present. The fact the structure and function of this network is positively associated with loneliness may be because lonely people are more likely to use imagination, memories of the past or hopes for the future to overcome their social isolation.

“In the absence of desired social experiences, lonely individuals may be biased towards internally-directed thoughts such as reminiscing or imagining social experiences. We know these cognitive abilities are mediated by the default network brain regions,” says Nathan Spreng from The Neuro (Montreal Neurological Institute-Hospital) of McGill University, and the study’s lead author. “So this heightened focus on self-reflection, and possibly imagined social experiences, would naturally engage the memory-based functions of the default network.”

Loneliness is increasingly being recognized as a major health problem, and previous studies have shown older people who experience loneliness have a higher risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Understanding how loneliness manifests itself in the brain could be key to preventing neurological disease and developing better treatments.

“We are just beginning to understand the impact of loneliness on the brain. Expanding our knowledge in this area will help us to better appreciate the urgency of reducing loneliness in today’s society,” says Danilo Bzdok, a researcher at The Neuro and the Quebec Artificial Intelligence Institute, and the study’s senior author.

This study was published in the journal Nature Communications on Dec. 15, 2020. It was partially funded by a grant to Spreng and Bzdok from the U.S. National Institute on Aging.


Story Source:

Materials provided by McGill University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. R. Nathan Spreng, Emile Dimas, Laetitia Mwilambwe-Tshilobo, Alain Dagher, Philipp Koellinger, Gideon Nave, Anthony Ong, Julius M. Kernbach, Thomas V. Wiecki, Tian Ge, Yue Li, Avram J. Holmes, B. T. Thomas Yeo, Gary R. Turner, Robin I. M. Dunbar, Danilo Bzdok. The default network of the human brain is associated with perceived social isolation. Nature Communications, 2020; 11 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-020-20039-w

Cite This Page:

McGill University. “Scientists show what loneliness looks like in the brain: Neural ‘signature’ may reflect how we respond to feelings of social isolation.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 December 2020. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/12/201215082059.htm>.

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  2. Study Finds Changes in Brain Activity in Breast Cancer Patients Receiving Chemotherapy By Matthew Stenger et al., Breast Cancer, 2014
  3. Novacyt Gets CE Mark for Coronavirus Test staff reporter, 360Dx, 2020
  4. Beckman Coulter Gets Emergency Use Authorization from FDA for Second Coronavirus Antibody Test staff reporter, 360Dx, 2020

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Trinity Growth

If you’re sick of feeling lonely and you want to know how to get rid of it, you’ve come to the right place! In this video, we will talk about the 7 steps you can take to overcome loneliness and to prevent it in the future. Check out the whole mini course here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list… – – – – – – – – – Join us on Patreon and get access to our Exclusive Newsfeed, our Naturalist Lifestyle Data Bank, more Mindful Moments, Coaching Sessions and much more. Patreon is a website that allows you to join our community and support our work directly. https://bit.ly/33939FC – – – – – – – – – Click the links below to check out our other videos about loneliness: Video #1: Why do we feel lonely? – Understanding Loneliness https://youtu.be/M74gIRMSMPI Video #3: 5 Traps Of Loneliness You Must Avoid! https://youtu.be/VoL_21lM4fQ Video #4: Guided Meditation To Connect To Your Powerful Source https://youtu.be/xjxtFCPV8EA Video #5: Guided Meditation For Loneliness – Feeling Connected https://youtu.be/poRk_yJSomI Video #6: How Loneliness Impacts Your Health https://youtu.be/z34RRUkTUFk – – – – – – – – – – Subscribe To Our Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCw1e… WATCH NEXT: our YouTube Shorts: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list… Mindful Moments meditation playlist: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list… How To Overcome Loneliness playlist: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list…

Empathy & Perspective Taking: How Social Skills Are Built

Understanding what other people want, how they feel, and how they see the world is becoming increasingly important in our complex, globalized society. Social skills enable us to make friends and create a network of people who support us. But not everyone finds it easy to interact with other people. One of the main reasons is that two of the most important social skills — empathy, i.e. being able to empathize with the other person’s emotions, and the ability to take a perspective, i.e. being able to gain an information by adopting another person’s point of view — are developed to different degrees.

Researchers have long been trying to find out what helps one to understand others. The more you know about these two social skills, the better you can help people to form social relationships. However, it still not exactly clear what empathy and perspective taking are (the latter is also known as “theory of mind”).

Being able to read a person’s emotions through their eyes, understand a funny story, or interpret the action of another person — in everyday life there are always social situations that require these two important abilities. However, they each require a combination of different individual subordinate skills. If it is necessary to interpret looks and facial expressions in one situation, in another it may be necessary to think along with the cultural background of the narrator or to know his or her current needs.

To date, countless studies have been conducted that examine empathy and perspective taking as a whole. However, it has not yet been clarified what constitutes the core of both competencies and where in the brain their bases lie. Philipp Kanske, former MPI CBS research group leader and currently professor at the TU Dresden, together with Matthias Schurz from the Donders Institute in Nijmegen, Netherlands, and an international team of researchers, have now developed a comprehensive explanatory model.

“Both of these abilities are processed in the brain by a ‘main network’ specialised in empathy or changing perspective, which is activated in every social situation. But, depending on the situation, it also involves additional networks,” Kanske explains, referring to the results of the study, which has just been published in the journal Psychological Bulletin. If we read the thoughts and feelings of others, for example, from their eyes, other additional regions are involved than if we deduce them from their actions or from a narrative. “The brain is thus able to react very flexibly to individual requirements.”

For empathy, a main network that can recognise acutely significant situations, for example, by processing fear, works together with additional specialised regions, for example, for face or speech recognition. When changing perspective, in turn, the regions that are also used for remembering the past or fantasising about the future, i.e., for thoughts that deal with things that cannot be observed at the moment, are active as the core network. Here too, additional brain regions are switched on in each concrete situation.

Through their analyses, the researchers have also found out that particularly complex social problems require a combination of empathy and a change of perspective. People who are particularly competent socially seem to view the other person in both ways — on the basis of feelings and on the basis of thoughts. In their judgement, they then find the right balance between the two.

“Our analysis also shows, however, that a lack of one of the two social skills can also mean that not this skill as a whole is limited. It may be that only a certain factor is affected, such as understanding facial expressions or speech melody,” adds Kanske. A single test is therefore not sufficient to certify a person’s lack of social skills. Rather, there must be a series of tests to actually assess them as having little empathy, or as being unable to take the other person’s point of view.

The scientists have investigated these relationships by means of a large-scale meta-analysis. They identified, on the one hand, commonalities in the MRI pattern of the 188 individual studies examined when the participants used empathy or perspective taking. This allowed the localisation of the core regions in the brain for each of the two social skills. However, results also indicated how the MRI patterns differed depending on the specific task and, therefore, which additional brain regions were used.


Story Source:

Materials provided by Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Matthias Schurz, Joaquim Radua, Matthias G. Tholen, Lara Maliske, Daniel S. Margulies, Rogier B. Mars, Jerome Sallet, Philipp Kanske. Toward a hierarchical model of social cognition: A neuroimaging meta-analysis and integrative review of empathy and theory of mind.. Psychological Bulletin, 2020; DOI: 10.1037/bul0000303

Cite This Page:

Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences. “Empathy and perspective taking: How social skills are built.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 November 2020. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/11/201110090427.htm>.

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What Happens To The Brain When We Experience Nostalgia

The term “nostalgia” was coined by Swiss physician Johannes Hofer derived from two Greek words, “nostos” and “algos” — meaning “suffering” and “origins”.

Nostalgia, unlike screen memory, does not relate to a specific memory, but rather to an emotional state. This idealized emotional state is framed within a past era, and the yearning for the idealized emotional state manifests as an attempt to recreate that past era by reproducing activities performed then and by using symbolic representations of the past.

Memory is really a sort of networking and synthesis and abstraction of all these experiences of our life. It’s what makes us humanly unique. It’s our autobiography. So nostalgia is a sense of being able to contact and read the book again.

According to Joseph Ledoux (an eminent neuroscientist working on emotions, fear and anxiety) nostalgia has something to do with how memory and emotions are stored in the brain.

Concept of Flashbulb memory:

But when a memory is stored at a time of emotional arousal, the imprint is more powerful, possibly due to the neurotransmitters, that the brain secretes in that moment. As per LeDoux’s conjecture, the process of forming the mental imprint of an event may be closely linked to what is known as “flashbulb memory.

In 2007, NYU psychologist Elizabeth Phelps identified the brain circuitry involved in the creation of flashbulb memories. Her team took scans of people’s brains as they recalled the events of September 11, 2001, and saw that the amygdala, the brain’s emotional center, was lit up. Her work uncovered that the closer one was to the event, the stronger the recollection and the easier it was to retrieve.

To stockpile information into our brain, we rely on a critical structure called the hippocampus. Without it, we would be blank slates with no past. This C-shaped region of the brain is highly connected to the emotional region of the brain, the amygdala.

During an experience these two structures work together and combine information from the different senses. Consequently, an experience becomes intertwined with feelings.

So when a strongly emotional event, say, like our fifth birthday party, occurs, the amygdala is helping us perceive that emotional content and our hippocampus is processing the events that occurred—the cake, the presents and all these specific details of things that compose that birthday night. We probably don’t remember much details anymore but are just nostalgic about what a terrific time we had.

Neuroimaging Studies:

fMRI studies have examined the neural substrates of listening to music that
evokes emotions such as tenderness, peacefulness and nostalgia, showing that experiencing these high valence/low arousal emotions activates various brain regions, including:

  1. Hippocampus (HPC)
  2. Parahippocampus
  3. Ventral striatum (VS)
  4. Ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPFC)
  5. Subgenual/rostral anterior cingulate cortex
  6. Somatosensory cortex
  7. Medial motor cortex
  8. Precuneus
  9. Medial orbitofrontal cortex

The music that many of us loved as a teenager means more to us than ever—but with each passing year, the new songs on the chartlist sound like noisy nonsense.

So, why do the songs that we heard when we were teenagers sound sweeter than anything we listen to as an adult?

This is because these songs hold disproportionate power over our emotions.

Memories are meaningless without emotion—and aside from love and drugs, nothing spurs an emotional reaction like music. Brain imaging studies show that our favorite songs stimulate the brain’s pleasure circuit (Nucleus Accumbens, Ventral Tegmental Area etc), which releases an influx of dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and other neurochemicals that make us feel good. The more we like a song, the more we get treated to neurochemical bliss, flooding our brains with some of the same neurotransmitters that cocaine chases after.

Olfactory Nostalgia:

The smell of chlorine wafts through the air. Suddenly, we recall childhood summers spent in a swimming pool. Or maybe it’s a whiff of apple pie, or the scent of the same perfume our mom used to wear. Our noses have a way of sniffing out nostalgia.

After a smell enters the nose, it travels through the cranial nerve through the olfactory bulb, which helps the brain process smells. The olfactory bulb is part of the limbic system, the emotional center of the brain. As a member of the limbic system, the olfactory bulb can easily access the amygdala, which plays a role in emotional memories. Olfactory bulb has a strong input into the amygdala, which process emotions. The kind of memories that it evokes are good and they are more powerful. This close relationship between the olfactory bulb and the amygdala is one of the reason odors cause a spark of nostalgia.

References:

  1. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Advance Access published June 8, 2015
  2. How the brain stores sad, glad and bittersweet recollections December 25, 2014 by Luba Ostashevsky
  3. Neuron 84, 1–10, November 19, 2014 ª2014 Elsevier Inc
  4. Smells like nostalgia: Why do scents bring back memories? by Meghan Holohan

3K viewsView 9 UpvotersRelated QuestionsMore Answers BelowWhat combination of chemicals are released in the brain when one feels nostalgic? Why do I feel nostalgic weeks before something bad happens? How exactly does the feeling of nostalgia work? How long does it take for something to trigger that specific feeling in our brain? Why do I feel nostalgic about my childhood even if I am just 14? I’m 17 yet feel nostalgia for when I was 15 and 16; is getting nostalgic this young and for such recent times normal, and what can I do about it?

Ambrose Husser, 10 years US Army. 6 years u.s. lifeguard. Amateur biologist in physicist Answered April 30, 2019 · Author has 55 answers and 7.8K answer views

We define ourselves in large part with our past experiences. So when we look at our past we look at what makes us who we are. The future often brings fourth a feeling of fear and apprehension.

You must always be careful to never dwell on the past.This will lead to depression and never fixate on the future or you will live in stress fear and apprehension.

What combination of chemicals are released in the brain when one feels nostalgic? Why do I feel nostalgic weeks before something bad happens? How exactly does the feeling of nostalgia work? How long does it take for something to trigger that specific feeling in our brain? Why do I feel nostalgic about my childhood even if I am just 14? I’m 17 yet feel nostalgia for when I was 15 and 16; is getting nostalgic this young and for such recent times normal, and what can I do about it? Why do we feel nostalgic? How can one fight nostalgia? Why do I constantly feel nostalgic? I feel like I’m wasting my life and it’s nearly over, but I’m 13. Do people like to feel nostalgic? What made you feel nostalgic recently? Why do I love the feeling of nostalgia? What do 1144 and 818 mean in a twin flame journey? What happens (scientifically) when you get heartbroken? What happens in the human brain after crying? Is it common for people to feel intense nostalgia through smell?

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Johnny Harris

What happens to the brain when it recalls good times. The first 1000 people to use the link will get a free trial of Skillshare Premium Membership: https://skl.sh/johnnyharris13 Check out Nathaniel Drew’s Video on Nostalgia: https://youtu.be/hHE1cJF3OZs I launched a Patreon. If you want to support my videos, head here: https://www.patreon.com/johnnyharris For anyone who likes smarter travel, Iz and I started a company: https://brighttrip.com/?ref=5 Subscribe to my channel: https://goo.gl/1U8Zy7 My Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/johnny.harris/ Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JohnnyHarris Tom Fox made the music for this video: https://tfbeats.com/ I also get music from Artlist: https://bit.ly/2XfAE6C And Music Bed http://share.mscbd.fm/johnnywharris Iz’s Channel: https://www.youtube.com/iz-harris We sell our drone prints: https://backdropstock.com/collections… And we send an email once a month with a Spotify playlist. Sign up if that sounds cool: https://www.izharris.com/newsletter Gear I use: https://www.izharris.com/gear-guide Camera: https://geni.us/xK9Al Favorite Lens: https://geni.us/VrAWNG Second Favorite Lens: https://geni.us/Hcgdrb Travel Tripod: https://geni.us/Sf0bA Drone: http://geni.us/glWJhq Johnny Harris is a filmmaker and journalist. He currently is based in Washington, DC, reporting on interesting trends and stories domestically and around the globe. Johnny’s visual style blends motion graphics with cinematic videography to create content that explains complex issues in relatable ways. He holds a BA in international relations from Brigham Young University and an MA in international peace and conflict resolution from American University. Vox: https://www.vox.com/authors/johnny-ha… Spotlight: http://byupoliticalscienceblog.com/20… XYNTEO Interview: https://xynteo.com/insights/latest/po… Bonnier Talk: https://vimeo.com/232416596 Neiman Lab: https://tinyurl.com/ybjbvb7h Emmy Nomination: https://tinyurl.com/y9gjgel2 Storytelling Tips: http://chase.be/blog/5-storytelling-t… Craig Adams Podcast: https://open.spotify.com/episode/4cS0… So Money Podcast: https://tinyurl.com/ycjbl4p5