Today I would like to share a neuroscience trick with you, in case you would like to feel more hope and happiness after the horrific year that we’ve been through.
Our brains create pathways to access negative emotions such as stress and anxiety. Of course our brain creates different neural pathways to access positive emotions like hope, security, optimism. All of the things that we could use more of right about now! The impact of the pandemic is that the neural pathways that help us activate stress, negativity, fear, and anxiety have all been well exercised. Those neural pathways have gotten stronger. This does not mean that we have done anything wrong, that is just the impact of being human and living through a pandemic. Here is the interesting thing: the brain has a limited amount of glue. It is called neural growth factor. Right now, you can either continue to glue your negative pathways into place, or you can start really building and strengthening pathways that get you to positivity instead. If you continue to work on those, the glue that has been holding all of the negative pathways in place, it gets reallocated and it becomes more and more difficult for you to get stressed out and overwhelmed as you spend more time practicing hope and positivity.
Treatment for Depression
When our brains become entrenched in the negative neural pathways for extended periods of time, depressive symptoms can manifest. Here are a few simple ways you might be able to move out of pathways which fuel depression. When you talk to someone who is getting a vaccine, even if you do not have access to the vaccine yet, don’t make it a five second conversation – make it a five minute conversation! Ask them all of the happy, hopeful, positive things! What are they going to do now that they have that vaccine? Spend some time sitting with them in the positivity. That activity will build those positive pathways inside of your own brain.
Another opportunity would be if you are planning a trip for this year, don’t just blaze through it and get it done. Linger on the webpages, research and photos of where you want to go and the places that you are excited to visit. Spend more time in that energy of anticipation and optimism of the trip, even if it’s months away – that too will build those positive pathways. Then of course, there are the people that you love and adore that have been so hard to see this year. Start spending more time thinking about who do you want to go see first? Even if it is still a ways off, start noodling on the idea of how could we make that happen? Spend time sitting in that excitement.
Meanwhile, you are going to want to decrease the time you spend in negativity. For a lot of us this is going to look like being more careful and conscious about how much news we consume and what news we consume. Do you really need to read any more articles about the new COVID variants? Do you really need to read another heartbreaking story about another family who has lost a family member to this terrible virus? Those are tragic stories, but those are also ways in which your negative pathways continue to get exercised and strengthened. So be very cognizant about pulling away from the negativity, including those political arguments that leave you inflamed. You can still be an involved citizen and consume less of that news. Start reinvesting more time and units of energy thinking about the things that give you hope, the things that make you happy, and the things that give you optimism.
We are here for you as individual, couple, and family therapists! We offer individual counseling, couples counseling, and family counseling. If you would like more information about Flourish’s counseling services, reach out to us at 303-455-3767 x. 5 or fill out our contact form today.