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Science Reveals What Happens To Your Brain When You Do What Fits Your Values
When do you feel energized the most? After a sufficient sleep? After taking a break from work? Or simply doing things you like the most? The answer might vary but it is quite sure that you won’t feel energized when you’re doing things you don’t like at all.When do you feel energized the most? After a sufficient sleep? After taking a break from work? Or simply doing things you like the most? The answer might vary but it is quite sure that you won’t feel energized when you’re doing things you don’t like at all.
Our bodies send us different signals when we do things we like or dislike. The feeling of being energized and that of being fatigued are not only the result affected by our emotions. What we do actually changes our brains.
Our brains naturally filter out what doesn’t fit our values
In our brains, the reticular-activating system constantly filters out information according to our hierarchy of values.1 To put it simply, our brains filter out the information we value less and what remains is the information that fits our values.
Let’s take an example here. Imagine you are a composer and you are watching a movie with a friend who is a fashion designer. What interests you the most might not be the plot of the movie but the score of it. While the fashion designer who is watching the exactly same movie as you do tend to ignore the score and other features of it but focus on the costume design. You two have different values implanted in brains so you filter out different information that seems unimportant to you.
Chemicals give us different tastes of life
What we love to do is determined by our values. This explains why not every artist value the same thing. Some value the power of words so they enjoy being novelists; some value the power of image so they become photographers.
But the fact that we are more energized in doing things we like is more closely related to the chemicals released by our brains. Serotonin and dopamine are the neurochemicals produced in our brains when we are taking part in activities that support our values. They are involved in well-being, appetite regulation, pleasurable reward, and motivation. They are like candies which give us the feeling of joy and sweetness.
What if it is the other way round? When we are doing things we perceive as a threat to our values, our brains produce a higher level of cortisol and substance P. They are chemicals related to stress and pain. Unlike serotonin and dopamine, cortisol and substance P are like bitter herbs which give us the bitter taste, but they won’t help maintain your good health like what bitter herbs do. That’s why you feel demotivated and fatigued when you do things against your values.
You and I should follow what our brains love to do
To promote our mental health, it is better for us to do whatever that is compatible with our values. Either doing the jobs you like or learning something you like. This helps our brains grow faster and better.
‘Love what you do and do what you love’ might sound a bit cliché but it is so true. This is beneficial to our mental health as proved by science. Passionate dream chasers dedicate most of their time to the things they value and spend less time on things that are less important. Just like what Emma Stone, the Oscar-winning actress, does along her road to Oscar. So determined was she that she dropped out of high school and went for a career in acting, which she valued much more. Probably when she acts, her brain releases those chemicals which make her feel the pleasure and motivate her. And that’s why we can see her wearing a big smile on the Oscar night.
What we can do is to follow our hearts and do whatever we like. That’s what our brains tell us to do.
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