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Is Your Outlook on Life Positive or Negative?

Your outlook on situations and experiences can be broken down to be defined as either a positive outlook or a negative outlook. The left prefrontal cortex in a resilient person can be 30 times that of someone who is not as resilient – this means that there is a a pretty big difference in brain activity within people who are clinically depressed and those who are not clinically depressed. For people who suffer from depression, activity in the right prefrontal is much higher. For people who are healthier and have an overall positive outlook on life, activity is the left prefrontal is greater. In other words, left side activity equals positive and right side equals negative.

The thing to remember about these specific findings is that everyone has ups and downs in their lives, so the left and/or right asymmetry can change. This relates back to the first style – adversity – under certain difficult periods of people’s lives, they may behave and/or react differently during these times. This is simply just part of the ebb and flow of life as a human.

Dr. Richard Davidson has been doing research on the emotional styles of the brain for over twenty years. Dr. Davidson’s research has been on all kinds of walks of life, including everyday hard-working Americans, undergraduate volunteers, children and infants, and also a Tibetan monk community. These monks lent their time and brains to science by having Dr. Davidson run MRI’s and EEG’s on them. In his findings, Dr. Davidson has found that these monk’s left prefrontals were off the chart compared to his other findings making this evidence for the stark difference in the brain activity that underlie emotional and personality differences. The monks are constantly smiling, people of good will and constantly help one another. And their brains can prove it.

Photo courtesy of Ambro and www.freedigitalphotos.net

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What Make Us More Resilient?

It would be nearly impossible for any of us to get through our human lives without some sort of setback. What really distinguishes people in terms of their success is whether or not they are knocked back on their heels by these setbacks. Resilience is a product of two specific regions of the brain: one is the prefrontal cortex (the thinking part of the brain) and it sends signals to the amygdala, (the fear center of the brain).

The thinking part of the brain is front and center in our emotions. Prior to our technologically advanced society, say ten to twenty years ago, neuroscience thought that the emotional brain and the cognitive brain hardly ever met. However, research has found that not only do they meet, they are great friends and collaborators. With resilience, it turns out that the ability to send signals from the prefrontal cortex, which is the region just behind your forehead, to the amygdala, which is more in the center of your brain, means that the strength of those signals and the frequency of those connections determine how resilient you are.

The amygdala is the region that sends out signals that you may interpret as be afraid, be depressed, or be aware of potential danger. When these kinds of signals are going full blast, it is very hard to be resilient. The prefrontal cortex basically says to the amygdala “shhh!” When it is able to be quiet, people are able to be resilient. The prefrontal cortex is basically modulating the amygadala and vice versa.

The amygdala also sends signals to the prefrontal cortex (which has been known for many years). It perceives the information, sends the information to the prefrontal cortex – which again is the more thinking, planning, executive function part of the brain – and the prefrontal cortex then takes the right evasive action or figures out the situation to keep you out of danger. What is new here within the last ten to twenty years is the idea of the prefrontal cortex (the thinking part of the brain) communicating with the amygdala (the emotional part of the brain).

 

Photo courtesy of Sira Anamwong and FreeDigitalPhotos.net