One of the many doctors who I’ve gotten to know through my work with Yale New Haven Hospital was explaining the science of biofeedback to me.
Biofeedback is the idea that your brain is always monitoring and sensing what is happening in your body, and it reviews the information being received and uses it to decide how it should feel about the world.
For example, when you feel happy, you smile. However, it works in reverse, too. When you smile – whether you’re happy or not – your brain detects your smile and says, “I’m smiling. I must be happy.”
Research shows smiling gives the brain as much pleasure as 2000 bars of chocolate or $25,000.
So if you’re feeling blue, smile. A simple smile can actually change the way you’re feeling.
Sunglasses oddly have a similar effect. Squinting when a light is bright – like on a sunny day – causes you to flex the corrugator supercilii muscle, which causes you to look worried. Your brain reads these signals and thinks, “Oh no. Something must be wrong because I’m worried.”
Sunglasses reduce and/or eliminate the squinting completely, thereby eliminating the unintended effect.
I don’t wear sunglasses for the same reason I’ve never owned an umbrella or a watch. Less stuff makes my life less complicated. But maybe I need to rethink the sunglasses.
My doctor friend also explained to me that research seems to indicate that what you say can have a similarly profound impact on your mood, general disposition, energy levels, and more.
If someone asks you how you’re doing and you say, “I’m great,” you’re much more likely to actually feel great, even if you didn’t feel great prior to answering the question.
Conversely, if you’re a person who complains frequently or tends to speak negatively about yourself, others, or the world in general, you are much more likely to feel rotten. Speaking negativity results in actual feelings of negativity, and this can create an awful, endless feedback loop that becomes hard for folks to escape.
I think we all know people who seem trapped in a tragic loop like this. Regardless of their circumstances, every day is another impossible, unjust, depressing dip into reality for them.
Perhaps they are the victims of a negative feedback loop.
I’m not so sure abut this one. I tend to believe that most of these persistently negative people are just dumb, miserable, self-serving parasites who would choose to complain and speak poorly of others regardless of biofeedback, but I’m not a doctor.
What do I know?