Well that’s not quite so easy according to a recent study presented at the Neuroscience 2017 conference in Washington.
Roy Cox and his colleagues at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre in Boston found that the brain is pre-disposed to dwell on and strengthen negative memories while we sleep.
They tested almost 60 people by showing them both neutral and unpleasant images to different hemispheres of the brain and recording electrical activity which showed that the images had been localised in one hemisphere.
Twelve hours later they were given a memory test. Those subjects kept awake in the interim remembered roughly equal numbers of unpleasant and neutral images. Those who slept remembered more negative ones.
This suggests that “sleep selectively stabilises emotional memories” and would confirm a number of ideas about how information is “tagged” e.g. by emotions or even sounds, that make it easier to be recalled.
With people suffering PTSD or similar the trick is to find a way of reducing the emotional content. That to me is the more interesting aspect of this kind of research.
People with a sunny outlook are more popular and have better health.
That’s according to a study reported last week in the Daily Telegraph.
It showed that optimistic people experience more positive emotions because they make more social connections which in turn improves physical health.
So positive emotions could be as important for your health as exercise and your regular fruit and vegetables.
The study, published in the journal Psychology Science, was led by positive psychology pioneer Prof Barbara Frederickson, at the University of North Carolina, and Dr Bethany Kok from the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Germany.
They observed the physical effects of positive emotions by studying participants’ vagal tone – the body’s control over the vagus nerve which helps to regulate heart rate among other things.
People with a high vagal tone ie more control over the vagus nerve, tend to be better at regulating their emotions. It was hypothesised that those with higher vagal tone experienced more positive emotions. The optimism arising from that should improve social connections, further increasing vagal control and thereby improving physical health in an upward spiral.
The researchers wanted to know if participants could cultivate optimism and thereby improve their chances of better health. So participants were randomly assigned to either a 6-week loving-kindness meditation (LKM) course or left on a waiting list for the course. All of them had their vagal tones assessed at the start and end of the study.
Those on the course learned how to cultivate positive feelings of love, compassion and goodwill towards themselves and others.
The results showed that those with higher vagal tone in the LKM group showed steeper emotions over the course of the study. As their positive emotions increased so did their reported social connections which in turn led to an increase in their vagal tone. Those on the waiting list showed no change in vagal tone over the course of the study.
Prof Frederickson was reported to have said that “positive emotions may be an essential psychological nutrient that builds health, just like getting enough exercise and eating your fruit and vegetables”.
The ability to manage your emotions is an important aspect of emotional intelligence which has been posted elsewhere on this blog.
It appears that this study was carried out in a scientific way unlike an earlier report from Germany about alternatives to going to the gym which turned out to be an urban myth.
In this blog I explore why it’s so important to slow down and examine our emotions, and those of people around us.
Making decisions based on gut instinct
Research over the last 20 years increasingly suggests we perceive our decision making processes to be dominated by logic, when in fact the way we tend to problem solve and reach conclusions is firstly out of instinct, and then through engaging our analytical side to justify our decisions. Malcolm Gladwell turned this topic into a whole book called ‘Blink’
The problem with this decision making process, is that our gut instinct is primed by our ancestral reptilian brain, our upbringing, current stress levels and how we are primed at every moment by environmental factors. Once we have made a decision based on gut instinct and backed it up with thought it’s very difficult for us to change our attitudes – they become…
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I wrote a measly 17 posts last year – falling far short of my own expectations of one a week! That brings the total to 72 since I started it in 2010.
This is partly because I was enamoured with tweeting and because I also write a leadership & management blog amongst others. As with all my blogs most of the pictures I use are ones I have taken on my travels so I hope you liked them as well.
My readers come from 75 different countries; mostly the UK but with the USA and Canada not far behind.
In reverse order:
My 5th most read post was: “Can you recognise emotions?” from November 2011
My 4th most read post was: “No country for grey-haired men” from January 2011, which was in second place last year.
My 3rd most read post was: “Moral judgements & decision-making under the influence” from October 2010, which was also in third place last year
My 2nd most read post was: “Emotional Intelligence, self-control and those marshmallows” from May 2010, which was in fourth place last year
And my most read post was: “The four agreements – shamanic emotional intelligence” from August 2010. This has been in first place for 3 years running.
So 4 out of 5 posts were also in my list last year. Must do better with new material next year!
Thank you for reading, liking, and following. All my posts are tweeted at @bizpsycho which you can follow or you can subscribe on this site
Charles Darwin’s early experiments on recognising what he called the Cardinal Emotions ie universally recognised expressions of emotions, have been recreated using the original 11 photographs.
Darwin’s original research was to prove that humans shared expressions with animals thus supporting his theory of evolution.
The results were published in his 1872 book “The Expression of Emotion in Human and Animals”.
Now you can go on-line to make your own judgments about which emotion is being expressed.
Paul Ekman, the expert in body language and micro-expressions on whom the TV series “Lie to Me” was based, followed up Darwin’s work in the 1960s travelling round pre-industrial cultures to see if there really were universal emotional expressions. His findings broadly supported Darwin’s hypothesis.
His company currently trains people to recognise emotional expressions and is also believed to be involved in training Homeland Security and security experts in the UK to develop face-reading skills.
Cambridge University has updated the experiment using video and you can contribute to their research by assessing online video clips.
Recognising emotional expressions is important in variety of research areas such as autism, where sufferers find it difficult to recognise emotional expressions.
Botox users also find it difficult to express emotions through facial expressions, thus making it more difficult for others to read them, and it has been suggested that it actually reduces their level of empathy.
Empathy is one of the cornerstones of emotional intelligence. Being able to recognise other people’s emotional state through non-verbal signs is an important element of EI.
Read the full BBC news story