A Shortcut for Feeling Just a Little Happier

A Shortcut for Feeling Just a Little Happier

Sometimes we just need a quick fix; a simple way to feel a bit happier and / or a bit less unhappy.

More often than not, real happiness requires real work; and that can take time and effort.

Nevertheless, shortcuts like this can be useful in the short term to help you feel better and then take more longer term action …

via Arthur C Brooks and the Atlantic

Lately, my back has been hurting. I did something weird in the gym, resulting in a dull ache, and now I’m taking it easy. I appreciate the feedback the pain provides, because I would like to be able to walk upright for a few more decades and don’t want to risk a more permanent injury. Still, I don’t enjoy it, so I’ve been taking acetaminophen to blunt my discomfort.

Back pain is normal, but a different sort of hurt is even more typical in my life, and probably yours as well: mental suffering. I don’t mean clinical depression or anxiety, which require professional intervention, but rather the routine, chronic grind of conflict, dissatisfaction, and sadness, which often constitute a dull ache in the background of our days. Many philosophers have considered this discomfort to be our natural state. In his Pensées, Blaise Pascal asserted that, at rest, man “feels his nothingness, his loneliness, his insufficiency, his dependence, his weakness, his emptiness.” Maybe that seems a little overstated to you, but research does show that people tend to experience negative or mixed emotions nearly half the time.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a handy tool to blunt everyday mental pain a bit? Not to become numb to life—just to take the edge off, especially when it is interfering with normal life, the way you can swallow a Tylenol when your back hurts. It turns out that there are safe and healthy methods to do exactly this, including taking the same sort of painkiller for what ails your body and your mind. And that’s only the beginning.

The ancient-greek writer Antiphanes believed that “all pain is one malady with many names.” He was right, neurologically speaking. Physical pain activates several parts of the brain, notably the anterior cingulate cortex, or ACC. Neuroscientists have found that our thrifty brains piggyback the experience of emotional pain in the same location. In one example, from 2003, researchers at UCLA and Macquarie University in Sydney conducted an experiment in which participants’ brains were scanned while they played a virtual ball-tossing game. At one point, they were excluded from the game in a way that mimicked social exclusion. Sure enough, their ACCs became active, much as they would if the participants had been experiencing physical pain…

… keep reading the full & original article HERE