A highlight from #334: Three Lessons from Happiness Research | Emma Seppl
Dan harris. Hello hello you may have noticed that people in the mindfulness meditation world are often at pains to point out that What we're teaching is not a breathing. Exercise the goal is just to feel the breath as it naturally occurs. if you've chosen the breath as the thing you want to focus on however and this is not something. We spent much time exploring on this show. There is a ton of evidence to suggest that actual breathing exercises can have powerful benefits. Physiologically and psychologically. That is one of the things. We're gonna talk about today with emma. Cepa who's a lecturer at the yale. School of management and faculty director of the yale school of management women's leadership program. She's also the science director of stanford university's center for compassion and altruism research and education. And she's the author of a book called the happiness track how to apply the science of happiness to accelerate your success as the title of today's episode suggests. We're gonna talk about three big takeaways from happiness research one has to do with the aforementioned breathing exercise the other has to do with the power of nature to impact your mind and the third has to do with social connections. Something many of us are sorely lacking in this pandemic one little audio note before we roll the interview. During this recording my regular mike decided to crap out on me so we had to call in a backup recording files so the audio on my sound may not be as rich and baritone is normal. But it's totally fine but just wanted to call that out before we get to it so here we go now with emma. Sepla great sue. Thanks for coming. thank you dance. Nice to talk to you again. I i haven't seen you in a minute to do so so many topics we're going to cover in this interview suggested we started a Always happy to take your guidance. Since i know you entrust you used. Just we start with what science is telling us about. Emotion regulation and resilience. So what we know. Well i think it's been a big topic on a lot of people's minds this year. Skin the amount of stressful stimuli that have been sent our way during the pandemic beyond What's really interesting. Is you know no matter who you talk to. From whatever country you're sorta ask. What have you been taught to do with like your big bad. negative emotions. Inevitably people say well bottle them up stuff announce suppress them. you know. It's kind of the general message that we've received in school growing up in the workplace. You're not supposed to let your emotions out and you know there's good reason not to always let your emotions. Obviously you don't wanna let your rage out in the workplace or something like that but if you look at the research on suppression which is what most people tend to do you see that. Actually it makes things worse so for example. If you're feeling angry already pleased the number on your stomach. Heart rate increases blood pressure increases inflammation increases in your body. Your stress response is activated when you suppress all of those systems actually increase in intensity so anger already a number on your body but he suppressed it. it's negative impact becomes even worse. It's like shaking up a soda bottle. That makes sense. It does. but you just said we don't want to let your rage out of the office of other than to suppress right so it's really interesting. You know another interesting thing about depression this before i talk about that is that so. Let's say why do people suppress because they're trying to maintain the relationships with other people right. It's like i'm not going to let my rage out. Just gonna bottle it up. So i could maintain a semblance of civility with this person. I'm talking to but the problem is that let's say i were suppressing rage right now and trying not to show it your heart rate increase and you might not intellectually understood. Why but you wouldn't. You would start to feel uncomfortable around me. Are physiological empathic. Intelligence is far more rapid than our intellect can understand. So what happened. There is that you would register at the unauthenticated physiologically. We registered authenticity as threat. See that so. It's so ironic right so we suppress our emotions to maintain relationships but when we suppress the other person feels uncomfortable. I mean. I think we've all had that where you're around someone and you don't know why but you feel uncomfortable. Nugget can't explain it. I just want to back away from this person. Chances are they're being an authentic. You're registering at a threat. You want to back away and if you look at the research on suppression and relationships people who tend to suppress a lot. Their relationships are negatively impacted overtime. So what's to do. I mean. I think you probably heard about this a lot. Dan psychological research on reappraisal and of cognitive reframing of a situation looking at things from a different perspective is what most of the research has been conducted on. You know sort of like you get the parking ticket then you think oh well. I'm just going to consider this a donation to the city. Because i kind of like the city so a lot of the researchers that really helps decreases activision in the emotion centers of the brain. Helps you calm down all of that. Good stuff it's basically applying wisdom to the situation but and this is something. I kept bringing. I wasn't an emotion regulation lab in grad school with an emotion regulation scholar who's one of the top scholars in the field. And i kept bring up. What about when. You're having really intense emotion. I think we've all been there ever tried to talk your way out of it. Really strong emotion right. No talking can be really helpful. But it doesn't make it. Go away per se if it's really strong in my experience both have six zero and we can see to when they're in the middle of a tantrum. It's not a good time. Have a logical discussion about what's going on with them. Right took their emotions so strong. So what happened at the level of the brain is the when you can use reappraisal successfully. You're using your prefrontal cortex Down talk the emotion centers and calm down your body but if the emotion is super strong or your super stressed than the emotion center. Sort of a highly activated what happens.