The Upward Spiral is a fascinating and helpful book. Neuroscientist Alex Korb demystifies the intricate brain processes that cause “the blues” and offers a practical and effective approach to getting better. Based on the latest research in neuroscience, this book provides dozens of straightforward tips we can do every day to rewire our brain and create an upward spiral towards a happier and healthier life.
This book mixes easy to understand information on the brain processes and the neuroscience behind our emotions, thoughts and actions and everyday steps we can do to alter brain activity and chemistry to feel more wellbeing. Seeking professional help is always a possibility.
Reading this book could not have come at a better time. Many of us are still experiencing a cold, snowy and long winter that seems like it will not end. In addition to getting exercise, sunshine (hard in the winter), eating fresh fruits and vegetables, getting a massage, seeking professional help if indicated, the one recommendation that Korb discusses at full length is gratitude. The research on the powerful and long lasting effect of gratitude can’t be minimized.
In his research, he found gratitude:
- Increases social support
- Our social interactions are more enjoyable
- Decrease depression symptoms
- Improved physical health
- Boost serotonin (focus on positive aspects of our lives)
- Improves sleep
- Improves our view of the future
- Our appreciation of humor
Actions to Activate our Gratitude Circuit:
1. Write a detailed thank-you letter. Think of someone who has been especially kind to you – a friend, family member, co-worker, teacher, manager, mentor – whom you have not properly thanked. If possible set up a time to meet and give them your note/letter. Research show that this activity had increased levels of happiness even two months later.
2. Keep a gratitude journal. Take a few minutes every day to write down three things you are thankful for. Try doing it at the same time every day. Many people like to do this at night. It could be as simple as your cup of coffee, your dinner, for having a warm place to live.
3. Be grateful when you wake-up. When you wake up think of one thing you are looking forward to: cup of coffee/tea, the sunrise, sunset. Do this before looking at your phone and social media.
4. Take a deep breath. Take a long deep breath in. At the top of your breath, pause for a moment to think, “I am grateful for this breath,” then let it out slowly.
Which one of these actions are you already doing? Which one will you implement today? We can’t control the weather and we can begin to rewire our brain for more health, happiness and wellbeing. It’s based on science.