“to be nobody-but-yourself — in a world which is doing its best, night and day,
to make you everybody else — means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight,”
Edward Estlin “E. E.” Cummings, was an American poet, painter, essayist, author, and playwright. He wrote approximately 2,900 poems, two autobiographical novels, four plays, and several essays. Wikipedia
Cumming’s often-odd original typography has been retained.
“Insomniacs tend to have a hard time getting past embarrassing mistakes, even when the stressful event occurred decades ago, according to a new study by researchers at the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience.”
“The scientists asked participants to relive their most shameful experiences from decades ago while observing their brain activity with an MRI scan. They found that while good sleepers had settled those experiences in their head as neutralized memories, those with insomnia had not been able to do so.”
“The finding suggests that failure to neutralize emotional distress could be a major contributor to insomnia and may also help explain why insomnia is the primary risk factor for the development of disorders of mood, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress.”*
“Researchers have established that sleep helps us to remember important experiences. But sleep is also necessary to get rid of the emotional distress that may have occurred during those experiences. Both these overnight processes involve changes in the connections between brain cells: some become stronger and consolidate memories, whereas others are weakened and get rid of unwanted associations.”
“Sayings like ‘sleeping on it’ to ‘get things off your mind’ reflect our nocturnal digestion of daytime experiences,” said doctoral student and first author Rick Wassing. “Brain research now shows that only good sleepers profit from sleep when it comes to shedding emotional tension. The process does not work well in people with insomnia. In fact, their restless nights can even make them feel worse.”
“The new findings support a previous study conducted by the same research group. In this study, published in the journal Sleep, the researchers asked participants to sing along to a song karaoke-style. Headphones prevented participants from hearing their own voice and finding the correct pitch. Their singing was recorded and played back for them later.”
“Many participants felt intense shame when listening to their own out-of-tune solo singing. But when good sleepers listened to their own singing again after getting a good night’s sleep, they didn’t feel that distressed about it anymore. They had released the distress from their minds. However, after a restless night, people with insomnia became even more upset about their embarrassing experience.”
“The new findings suggest that insomnia triggers may actually be found in brain circuits that regulate emotions, rather than in brain regions that regulate sleep, as previously believed. These emotion-regulating circuits contain risk genes for insomnia and may not activate properly, as they normally do, during rapid eye movement sleep.”
“Without the benefits of sound sleep, distressing events of decades ago continue to activate the emotional circuits of the brain as if they are happening right now. This suggests that people with insomnia may continue to be haunted by memories of past distress.”
*The findings are published in the scientific journal Brain.
Our emotions are so powerful that when we are in a positive mood, it can dampen how much pain we feel providing us with an analgesic-like effect. When it comes to negative emotions, the opposite occurs: how we experience pain is exaggerated.
Positive and negative emotions also has impact on how we relate to others.
When our friends are down and gloomy, the feeling can be contagious and can makes us feel more miserable too. Bad moods, negativity, can even spread on social media.
A 2017 study, has shown that when we feel bad it affects our in-built capacity to respond to others in pain. It literally dampens our empathy.
Negative emotions can suppress our brain capacity to be sensitive to others’ pain
Participants were then shown positive or negative movie clips while in a brain scanner. Those who watched a negative clip and then saw clips of others in pain showed less brain activity in areas that are related to pain: the anterior insula and middle cingulate cortex. These are usually active when we see others in pain as well as when we experience pain ourselves.
Another study found that after watching a negative clip, people tended to judge a face with a neutral emotion as more negative.
These results obviously have real-world implications. If a person in power has been exposed to something negative in their lives – even something as simple as a negative movie – they could be less sensitive to others in pain and even view them more negatively. Our bad moods literally make us less receptive to others’ feelings.
Anxious and depressed patients who suffer from an excess of negative emotions are more likely to focus on their own problems and be isolated.
A lack of empathy has other implications too. Findings show that reduced empathy will result in less money donated to charity. Brain scans reveal that we also show less empathy to those who are not in our immediate social circle.
So why would negative emotions reduce empathy?
It could be that a specific type of empathy, called empathic distress, is at play. This, explains Olga Klimecki, at the University of Geneva, is “the feeling of being overwhelmed” when something bad happens to someone else, which makes you want to protect yourself instead of being overcome by negative feelings. This type of empathy even shows very different brain activation compared to typical empathy. This kind of distress might naturally also reduce compassion.
One 2016 study even found that empathic distress increases aggression. Participants were subjected to unfair scenarios and then had the chance to punish or forgive their competitors. The participants were asked to do personality tests before they came into the lab. Those who were more naturally compassionate reacted with less derogatory behaviour.
For Olga Klimecki this was telling. In her extensive research on empathy she has shown that it is possible to cultivate more compassionate behaviour. She found that feelings of compassionate empathy can be trained. Our emotional responses to others are therefore clearly not set in stone.
So next time you are in a foul mood, consider the effect it might have on the people you communicate with day-to-day.
*Emilie Qiao-Tasserit, the University of Geneva, and colleagues.
The “blue zones”, where people live the longest: Okinawa, Japan – Nicoya, Costa Rica – Icaria, Greece – Loma Linda, California and Sardinia, Italy have 4 things in common:
“Just one hour a week of brisk walking — as if you are late to an appointment or trying to make a train — staves off disability in older adults with arthritis pain, or aching or stiffness in a knee, hip, ankle or foot.”**
Less than 10 minutes a day to maintain your independence.