Angry Brain vs happy brain

I found this great article called Angry/negative people can be bad for your brain and recommend it highly. Basically it gives words to what I’ve (we’ve all) intuited about the glass being half full or half empty.  And the idea of ’emotional contagion’, how true is that?  We’ve all experienced it, I just didn’t know there was a technical term for it, and such a fulfilling one, too. ’emotional contagion’.

Here are some of the highlights:

Mirror Neurons

Mirror neurons activate in the same way when you’re watching someone else do something as they do when you’re doing it yourself! This mirroring process/capability is thought to be behind our ability to empathize…We learn from watching others.

We learn from imitating (mirroring) others. The potential problem, though, is that these neurons go happily about their business of imitating others without our conscious intention.
[for example]: How often have you found yourself sliding into the accent of those around you?
When we’re consciously aware and diligent, we can fight this [mirroring tendency].
Unfortunately, negative emotions exert a more powerful effect in social situations than positive ones, thanks to the phenomena of emotional contagion.”

Emotional Contagion

“Anger and resentment are thet most contagious of emotions,” according to Stonsy. “If you are near a resentful or angry person, you are more prone to become resentful or angry yourself.
…while we all have a lot of respect for physical biological contagions, we do NOT have much respect for physical emotional contagions. (I said “physical”, because science has known for quite some time that “emotions” are not simply a fuzzy-feeling concept, but represent physical changes in the brain.)
Emotional contagion is considered one of the primary drivers of group/mob behavior, and the recent work on “mirror neurons” helps explain the underlying cause.

Happy People

…idea seems to be that “happy people” implies those who are oblivious to the realities of life, in a fantasy of their own creation, and without the ability to think critically. The science, however, suggests just the opposite.
Neuroscience has made a long, intense study of the brain’s fear system–one of the oldest, most primitive parts of our brain. Anger and negativity usually stem from the anxiety and/or fear response in the brain…In many ways, fear/anger and the ability to think rationally and logically are almost mutually exclusive.
Happines is associated most heavily with the left (i.e. logical) side of the brain, while anger is associated with the right (emotional, non-logical) side of the brain.
“Furthermore, studies suggest that certain people’s ability to see life through rose-colored glasses links to a heightened left-sided brain function. A scrutiny of brain activity indicates that individuals with natural positive dispositions have trumped up activity in the left prefrontal cortex compared with their more negative counterparts. ”
In other words, happy people are better able to think logically.
And apparently happier = healthier:
“Evidence suggests that the left-siders may better handle stressful events on a biological level. For example, studies show that they have a higher function of cells that help defend the body, known as natural killer cells, compared with individuals who have greater right side activity. Left-sided students who face a stressful exam have a smaller drop in their killer cells than right-siders. Other research indicates that generally left-siders may have lower levels of the stress hormone, cortisol.”

… the Dalai Lama has this to say:
” This world is not perfect. There are problems. But things like happiness and unhappiness are relative. Realizing this gives you hope.”
The American Psychological Association has this to say on anger:
“People who are easily angered generally have what some psychologists call a low tolerance for frustration, meaning simply that they feel that they should not have to be subjected to frustration, inconvenience, or annoyance. They can’t take things in stride, and they’re particularly infuriated if the situation seems somehow unjust: for example, being corrected for a minor mistake.”
…there’s a Grand Canyon between a happy-person-who-gets-angry and an unhappy-angry-person….Happiness is not our only emotion, it is simply the outlook we have chosen to cultivate because it is usually the most effective, thoughtful, healthy, and productive.
…psychologists say:  “Psychologists now say that [saying anything you want to say when you are angry] is a dangerous myth. Some people use this theory as a license to hurt others. Research has found that “letting it rip” with anger actually escalates anger and aggression and does nothing to help you (or the person you’re angry with) resolve the situation.It’s best to find out what it is that triggers your anger, and then to develop strategies to keep those triggers from tipping you over the edge.”

And finally, another Ghandi quote:  “Be the change that you want to see in the world.”If the scientists are right, I might also add, Be around the change you want to see in the world.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. The Mom
    Apr 01, 2007 @ 18:48:45

    It’s really hard to fly like an eagle when you work for a turkey.

    The Mom


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