The Brain’s Role in Positive Feelings

An individual’s brain gets its information from two different sources. Their senses tell them what is occurring in the outside world while their emotions tell them what that particular circumstance means to them. Similar to how hunger motivates one to seek food, emotions help motivate an individual to take care of their personal needs such as safety and companionship, which ultimately promotes both survival and reproduction.

The brain is a highly complex organ composed of numerous complex processes to help the body work together to help the individual properly function. When all signals are received and processed effectively, the body is able to respond to outside stimuli effectively while being able to interpret and prepare for what is to come next. When there is a slight disruption, either voluntarily or accidental, the signals can become disoriented, leaving the individual unable to process what is occurring in safe matter.

When an individual uses and abuses drugs, it can delay the brain’s signals to the rest of the body or cause the individual to engage in activities to increase specific chemical levels in the brain. When continued over extended amounts of time, the individual can start to experience negative healthy consequences.

The Brain and Positive Feelings

The brain is involved in multiple complex processes, which are all having an impact and manipulating one’s emotions. There are numerous processes that occur for one to interpret their emotional circumstances while responding appropriately to them. This process can be difficult on its own, let alone when one confuses the process by mixing drugs into the equation. Oftentimes, drugs can cause a disruption in the process making it difficult for the brain to have issues processing the emotions as well as acting appropriately to them. Included in the following are three different ways the brain has an impact on one’s emotions:

  • Processing emotional stimuli
  • Brain chemicals dictate one’s mood
  • Memories affect emotions

Even though we may consider our emotions as internal states, psychologists define emotions as a combination of both cognitions and feelings along with actions. What this refers to as that what we think of as our emotions not only includes how we feel but also how we process and then respond in correlation with those feelings. The brain is constantly evaluating one’s emotional stimuli and responds to a situation in order to survive and reproduce along with uses one’s emotions as almost a catalyst to convince the rest of the body to respond accordingly.

The three most commonly studied neurotransmitters in the brain are dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine. Dopamine is directly related to the pleasure and reward-learning process in the brain.  When an individual does something good, they are rewarded by the brain releasing dopamine, which makes them feel pleasure and happy, which teaches one’s brain to perform the activity again and again.  Serotonin is associated with both one’s memory and learning. It has been noted that serotonin has been linked to the regeneration of brain cells, which has further been linked to easing one’s depression. An imbalance in one’s serotonin levels can result with a higher risk of anger, anxiety, depression and panic.  Norepinephrine helps control one’s mood by controlling stress and anxiety. Abnormalities in how the brain both processes and receives the three chemicals can have a tremendous effect on one’s emotions, such as drug use can have an effect on how the signals are processed in the brain and encourage one to continue drug use do to elevated dopamine levels.

Memory recollection can be used to help regulate mood in those individuals who are experiencing depression because thinking about positive memories causes the brain to release dopamine. Although it is not surprising that memories of past experiences can influence one’s current state of mind, the intensity of that particular experience can affects one’s intensity of their current emotion. If individuals continue to recall negative or depressing memories, they, themselves, can become depressed or stuck in a negative mindset. Ultimately, we can’t change our past or the memories we choose to hang on to, but what we can do is choose to look back on them differently or try to find a positive from them when recalling them.