Don’t underestimate the power of good intentions.
Recent studies published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science shows that good intentions can play a major role in our everyday experience of pleasure and pain.
In the first study, researchers had participants sit in an easy chair with an electronic massage pad. In one group, the machine was turned on by a computer; and in the other group, the machine was turned on by another human. Although the massages were exactly the same, researchers found that individuals consistently experienced more pleasure by the massage when a person flipped the switch.
As it turns out, the idea that another human being made a conscious effort to turn on the machine made the participants perceive the massage as more enjoyable.
We often have a strong desire to feel listened to and understood. And when we don’t feel like our point-of-view is being heard, we can quickly become lonely, sad, frustrated, or even angry. This is one of the biggest contributors to conflict in our relationships and society as a whole.
A recent study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology looked into this phenomenon. They studied the tension between Palestinians and Israelis, as well as Mexican immigrants and white Arizonians.
What they found was that when individuals were given a chance to share their stories and experiences with people from the other side, it helped improve their attitude about the “opposing group.” This effect was even stronger when it was a member of the “disempowered group” being heard by someone from the “dominant group.”
Listening to music is one of the most common ways we manage our stress and emotions.
When we feel tired after a long day at work, many of us like to unwind by kicking back, closing our eyes, and turning on our iPods. Or when we feel down after a heated argument with a boyfriend or girlfriend, we may listen to some uplifting tunes to help distract us from our anger or sadness.
Even at this very moment I’m listening to some calm instrumental rock music, because it helps me stay relaxed and focused when I’m writing.
Everyone goes about their emotions in a different way. Richard Davidson, a leading researcher of emotions, and also a professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, claims that we each have different emotional styles, which are comprised of six different components.
Emotional styles determine how we react to the experiences in our lives and how likely we are to have particular emotional moods. Davidson has mapped out these emotional differences in the brain. And in his new book The Emotional Life of Your Brain, he goes over many ways these emotional styles affect our lives and personalities, as well as how we can mold the brain to respond to emotions in different ways.
Behind every habit there is a structure.
Psychologists refer to these as “habit loops.” And according to Charles Duhigg’s great book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, habit loops consist of three main parts.
First is the cue, the trigger from the environment that tells your brain to go into autopilot and which habit to use. Next is the routine, which can be a mental or physical action you take whenever presented with the cue. And lastly is the reward, which is what you get from the habit that fulfills a craving in your brain.
When this pattern of “cue-routine-reward” gets repeated many times it becomes more and more automatic. This is because the more we repeat it, the more it gets wired into our brains (in neuroscience, this is called “long-term potentiation.”) However, by better understanding habit loops, we can more easily disrupt the cycle and rewire our brains to new habits.