boost serotine in the anterior cingulate: think of happy memories before sleep or write in a journal or reflect on it
|serotonin||anterior cingulate||the neurotransmitter system most commonly targeted by antidepressant medications.|
worry (thinking) <=> anxiety (emotion) => make things difficult to do => loop
I was seeing everything that could go wrong. When I tried to think about my future, my heartbeat quickened, and I just felt overwhelmed. It was easier to not think about it, to ignore the fact that graduation was drifting closer and closer, which obviously only made things worse.
Whether a dinner party or my entire future, in each case, I was anticipating everything that could go wrong, and that made me think of more things that could go wrong, until I got stuck in a loop of worry, anxiety, and indecisiveness. It’s uncomfortable to feel the weight of the future pushing down on you, to be caught in the brief moment between the mistakes you made in the past and the mistakes you’re about to make in the future. Perhaps you understand the feeling.
Worrying and anxiety are two big symptoms of—and causes of—depression.
Worrying: is mediated mainly by connections between several parts of the prefrontal cortex and the anterior cingulate.
anxiety is mediated by circuits within the limbic system.
The circuits that helpfully allow us to plan, solve problems, and make decisions (thinking circuit) are the same circuits that lead to worrying (worry circuit).
The circuits that keep us out of danger (danger circuit) are the same circuits that cause anxiety (anxxiety circuit).
dorsolateral prefrontal cortex involved in this type of planning: a virtual reality machine that allows you to imagine the future and predict the consequences of your actions
the medial prefrontal cortex:
- connects with the emotional amygdala
- is particularly important in deciding how you will feel about whatever future you’re imagining.
The communication circuit between the prefrontal cortex and anterior cingulate got stuck in the “on” position.
When I was planning the steps to make dinner, I was engaging communication between the prefrontal cortex and the limbic system. My prefrontal cortex was running through possible simulations of the future and then interrogating the limbic system to see how I’d feel about it. The first time, when I was calm and just planning steps for making dinner, my prefrontal cortex had no problem sifting and organizing all the information. But then I had a brief thought—What if I don’t get everything done on time?—and that led me from decisive planning to getting stuck in a worry loop and spiraling even further down toward anxiety.
the basic idea: When the limbic system is overactive, it’s like turning up the volume of your negative emotions. Simple planning becomes more difficult, because the normal frontal-limbic communication becomes overwhelmed by the limic system’s shouting. prefrontal cortex和limbic system联系的通道的带宽是固定的, 上面跑两样: thinking和emotion.若limibic system产生的emtoion过多, thinking只能跑更少. 之前所有的人给我的建议都错了. 我不是想得太多, 是感情反应太多和感情反应强度太大. 当然也可以说是少想成为trigger的negative outcome
in a negative mood, almost all outcomes that prefrontal cortex can calculate ar e tinged with a bit of negativity. Any choice you make feels like it’s going to lead you down the wrong path, and you quickly become imuandated with all of the bad things that could happen to you.
negative mood => prefrontal cortext thinking bias: negativity => negative mood
in the medial prefrontal cortex and anterior cingulate
- the amount of emotional and self-oriented processing
- how vigorously these regions react to potential future scenarios
Planning and problem solving both involve
- projecting yourself or other pieces of information into the future (thinking)
- and evaluating how you would feel about a particular outcome (emotion)
Worrying has that same feature but is colored with more negative emotions (thinking+negative emotion). Worrying worsens your mood, and when your mood is worse, you worry more, which is a classic downward spiral.
downward spiral: colored with more negative emotions: worry => worsen mood => worry more
worry without anxiety
anxiety without worry
Worry is mostly thought based: thinking about a potential problem
- the prefrontal cortex
- interactions with the limbic system, particularly the anterior cingulate
Anxiety has more to do with physcial components like bodily sensation (such as an upset stomach) or associated actions (like avoiding a situation): feeling a potential problem
- only the limbic system
- only the limbic system
- When you’re using your planning and problem-solving circuitry to worry, you can’t use that part of your brain for more important things, like excelling at your job or organizing a dinner party. It keeps you from focusing on what you’re doing and often makes it harder to connect with other people. Most importantly, it can be exhausting. Anxiety makes most situations feel more difficult than they need to be.
- Worrying and anxiety often trigger each other
“Make a decision. Anxiety and worrying are provoked by possibility, not certainty. In fact, many people are less happy when they have more choices, because they have more to worry about. When everything is up in the air, the amygdala becomes more reactive. So if you tend to worry, reduce your options and make quick decisions whenever possible. As soon as you make a decision, however small, everything starts to feel more manageable—we’ll discuss this more in chapter.”
Pay attention to what you can control. If the future were completely under our control—or at least predictable—there would be nothing to be anxious about. Feeling in control reduces anxiety, worrying, and even pain. These effects are mediated by the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, so strengthening dorsolateral activity helps create an upward spiral. You can do this by simply paying more attention to what is in your control, which helps modulate your brain activity and quickly reduces anxiety.我初中时候有做到. MBTI里增加T会减少F, 这里的F是emtion
a quick way to immediately boost willpower: slow breathing down to 4-6 breaths per minute
10-15 seconds per breath
Slowing the breath down activates the prefrontal cortex and increases heart rate variability
- a habitsit of giving up when things get difficult, and it keeps you from accomplishing meaningful goals.
- push people away when you start to feel close
- spend too much time alone
- believe changing habits to be possible
Most actions are impulses or routine, not induced by a particular thought. It is just an automatic response, i.e., habits. This is particularly true in depression. Unfortunately, the habits that lead people into depression are not liekly to lead them out.
- conscious/intentional actions: prefrontal cortex
- unconscious habits: striatum
The striatum, unlike the prefrontal cortex,
- is not rational; it doesn’t distinguish between good and bad habits at all.
- happy to carry out bad habits
- routines: actions we take simply becuase we’ve done them so many times before
- impulses: actions driven by a momentary desire, such as, clicking on a Facebook link
example of a routine bad habit
- withdrawing from the world when you start to feel overwhelmed
Impulses and routines are both controled by the striatum
- routines: rely on the upper part of the striatum: dorsal striatum
- impulses: initiated by the lower part, the nucleus accumbens
Both region reply heavily on the neurotransmitter dopamine.
actions taken because of the interaction among the prefrontal cortex, nucleus accumbens, and dorsal striatum
- the prefrontal cortex:
- choose actions based on what’s good for us in the long term.
- the only part of the circuit that cares about long-term goals.
- the dorsal striatum: choose actions based on what we’ve done before
- the nucleus accumbens: choose actions based on what’s the most immediately pleasurable
比喻: members of Congress
3 regions sometimes support each other and sometimes disagree.
Everything pleasurable releases dopamine in the nucleus accumbens, such as sex, winning money, drugs, chocolate
Nucleus accumbens learns what is pleasurable and how to anticipate getting it.
when you eat a Snickers for the first time, dopamine is released in the nucleus accumbens.
The next time you pick up a Snickers, dopamine is released as soon as you open the wrapper.
And the next time, dopamine is released simply when you see the Snickers from across the room.
Pretty soon, dopamine is released as soon as you walk into the store, just from the anticipation of seeing it, opening it, and eating it.
After the nucleus accumbens learn imuplses, someting you do or sense triggers the anticiplation of a specific pleasurable outcome.
Problem: the dopamine that is released in anticipation of pleasure actually motivates the actions that lead to that pleasure. Each step along the way gives you a little boost of dopamine that propels you on to the next step.
Dopamine itself doesn’t create hapiness itself – the feeling is more like arousal
Dopamine is for action, not happiness.
High levels of dopamine amplify the lure of immediate gratification, less concerning about long-term consequences.
Dopamine triggers the release of stress hormones. You feel anxious when you anticipate your object of desire.
There are too many easily obtainable pleasures which are triggers to release dopamine in the nucleus accumbens => more tendency to act for immediate gratification
More problems in depression
because less dopamine activity in the nucleus accumbens
- things that used to be enjoyable no longer are
With reduced dopmaine activity, the onlhy things that releases lots of dopamine
- junk food
=> Actions are guided only by what’s the most immediately pleasurable, not usually good in the long term
routines (dorsal striatum): the most insidious bad habits 作者: 这里的routine就是常规意义下的habit, 这时候作者把3个词等价habit=pattern=routine
Routines often cause downward spirals becuase
- we act them out even though we don’t derive any pleasure from them. (lack of pleasure)
- and we are often unaware when we’ve initiated (unconsciousness)
Unlike nucleus accumbens, dopmaine relased in the dorsal striatum doesn’t make you feel pleasure; it just compels you to act.
Every action activates a specific pattern in the dorsal striatum.
Each time you follow the same path, it becomes more and more defined in your brain, i.e., the neurons in the dorsal striatum are wired together more strongly.
Each time you activate that brain pattern, it becomes easier to activate the next time.
=> Soon, it’s nearly impossible to create a new path, i.e., all brain wants to do is to follow old tracks.
Once parttens are formed in the dorsal striatm,
patterns will be there forever.
eliminate old habits: patterns get weaker when you create newer, stronger patterns.
patterns no longer care about pleasure
When the pattern first get in because nucleus accumbens is motivating to act
But once a routine is engrained, it no longer requires the nucleus accumbens to motivate it.
Addiction is a routine/pattern
- start out as pleasurable impluses in the nucleus accumbens
- over time, the nucleus accumbens stops responding, addiction/routine/patten no longer feel pleasurable
- Because addiction/routine/patten are engrained in the dorsal striatum => increase dopamine in dorsal striatum => you feel complled to have another drink or another cigarette anyway.
depression: energy drains away, and everything feels difficult
- a common symptom of depression
- the prefrontal dysfrunction: reduced serotonin => make planning and decision sluggish
- reduced activity in dorsal striatum 这就是为什么in depression, 会忘记利用habits来做事情.
- Proper prefrontal functiong is required to create new actions.
- When the prefrontal is dysfunctional, it lets the stratum take over to create actions. (Fatigue happens in the prefrontal.)
Hence, when you are fatigue, any actions will probably be old routines or impulses. impulse 会增加. 使用的routines比normal mental status要少, 因为reduced activity in dorsal striatum
However, because dorsal striatum activity is also reduced, an impulse is the only motivation to do things. This explains why on some days it’s just so hard to get out of bed
Stress and negative emotions such as, anger, sadness, self-doubt, and anxiety, increase impulses and trigger coping routines
- Stress causes dopamine release in the dorsal striatum. (no pleasure)
- The dorsal striatum automatically activates coping habits.
Coping routines are some of the deepest, most ingrained routines.
Coping routines reduce amygdala activity and the body’s stress response (hypothalamus) => make us feel better, at least for the time being.
use good coping routines
=> the dorsal striatum takes over
=> put you out of an impending downward spiral & set life back on course.
use bad coping routines
=> the dorsal striatum takes over
=> do not stabilize mood in the long term
=> act them out creates more stress later on
=> down the rabit hole
Example我的coping routines 是说
Coping habits do a lot to explain Billi’s situation. Why did he eat so much? As a kid, with the chaos in his house, eating became his coping mechanism for stress. Eating provided a distraction, an immediate pleasure, and it also reduced his body’s stress response. In the beginning, it was just an impulse to eat, but eventually it became deeply ingrained as a routine. Once a routine, pleasure was no longer a part of it, nor was attention, but it still provided a sense of control in a crazy world. It became an addiction. When he was stressed, if he stopped paying attention to his actions for even a few seconds, he would find himself walking to the kitchen or driving to McDonald’s or calling up Domino’s. Your oldest habits are probably the ones that used to distract you from life’s greatest stresses, but now that your life situation has changed, they’re no longer helpful. And yet you still do them, because they’re there.
weight => a lot of stress
stress => eat more
if you don’t act on your habit, you feel anxious
=> this anxious makes you want to act on the habit even more
if you do the habit, it causes more stress later on
=> retrigger the habit
Billi was able to do this in a pretty ingenious way; he channeled his addiction to food into carving elaborate food art—a rose from an apple, a swan from a cantaloupe. When he felt compelled to eat, he now had something less destructive to occupy his attention. He also took measures to reduce the stress that triggered his bad habits, mainly through exercise, writing, and mindfulness. The combination of these things has helped him lose two hundred pounds in the first few years.
Stress biases the bain toward any of old habits over new actions.
calm & relaxed: prefrontal cortex takes control 我初中时候的想法是对的, 要calm才能冷静理智客观.
other emotional states: the dorsal striatum and nucleus accumbens take control.
example: you might be exercising regularly until family drama raises its ugly head.
When stressed, you usually act out most deeply engrained routines or impulses.
- playing sports
- attending a religious service
- listening to music
- spending time with friends or family
- getting a massage
- going outside for a walk
- meditating or doing yoga,
- spending time with a creative hobby
the least effective strategies
- playing video games
- surfing the Internet
- watching TV or movies for more than 2 hours
the real stress relievers boost mood-enhancing brain chemicals like serotonin and GABA, as well as the feel-good hormone oxytocin. They also help shut down the brain’s stress response, reduce stress hormones in the body, and induce the healing relaxation response.
Once a habit is tirggered, the only way to control it is through activation of the prefrontal cortex.
- initiate willful actions
- inhibit impulses rquires proper serotonin function in the prefrontal cortex.
limited supply of serotoninWhat is the relationship between serotonin and willpower
- Each time inhibit an impulse, it makes it harde to inhibit other impluses.
- Eventually run out
Use prefrontal cortex which takes mental effort. It takes even more mental effort in depression.
You won’t always feel like to do the actions that needed to be formed a habit because the right connection within the striatum haven’t yet been established and strengthend.
The dorsal striatum responds to repetition.
- It doesn’t matter if you want to do something – every single time you do it, it gets further wired into the dorsal striatum.
- The first few times will be the most difficult, because they will reply on the prefrontal cortex.
Some habits require less reptition than others, beause some actions release more dopamine. Unfortunityly, bad habits are the ones that often release lots of dopamines.
- Smoking releases a lot of dopamines.
- Flossing doesn’t release very much dopamine, so you have to floss every day for a long time to make it a habit.
Thinking about your positive qualities makes it eaiser to change your habits.
happy memories boost serotonin. Positive self-reflection likely has the same effect on increasing serotonin activity. This is important, because serotonin is essential for proper functioning of the prefrontal cortex.
In addition, self-reflection and intentional regulation of emotions activate the medial prefrontal cortex.
Thus self-affirmation helps the thinking prefrontal cortex override the habitual striatum to great results.初中的时候, 我用我不聪明, 但可以用勤奋来弥补, 来self-affirm
Stress biases the brain toward old habits over intentional actions.
The stress causes the decision-making orbitofrontal cortex to shrink. Rleasing stress, the size or obitofrontal and the activity of the dorsal striatum return to normal.
- deicision making
- improve sleep hygiene
- social interaction
A little stress has some benefits: habits are learned more deeply when you are stressed.
3. making mistakes is normal because of limited serotonin and because the prefrontal cortex cannot be conscious all the time = not to be too hard on yourself = self-forgivenss
Research shows that taking this point of view reduces guilt but increases personal accountability—the perfect combination to get you back on track with your willpower challenge. Bring to mind a specific time when you gave in to temptation or procrastination, and experiment with taking the following three points of view on that failure. When you experience a setback, you can bring these perspectives to mind to help you avoid a downward spiral of guilt, shame, and giving in again.
What are you feeling? As you think about this failure, take a moment to notice and describe how you are feeling.
- What emotions are present?
- What are you are feeling in your body?
- Can you remember how you felt immediately after the failure?
How would you describe that?
Notice if self-criticism comes up, and if it does, what you say to yourself. The perspective of mindfulness allows you to see what you are feeling without rushing to escape.
You’re only human. Everyone struggles with willpower challenges and everyone sometimes loses control. This is just a part of the human condition, and your setback does not mean there is something wrong with you. Consider the truth of these statements. Can you think of other people you respect and care about who have experienced similar struggles and setbacks? This perspective can soften the usual voice of self-criticism and self-doubt.
- What would you say to a friend? Consider how you would comfort a close friend who experienced the same setback. What words of support would you offer? How would you encourage them to continue pursuing their goal? This perspective will point the way to getting back on track.
In request for self-control, the usual weapons – guilt, stress, and shame – don’t work.
guilt, stress, and shame use limbic system, not the prefrontal cortex.
We are easily using guilt, stress, and shame becuase limbic sytem uses less energy to activate and is a more automatic organ.
The more you try to push away a thought, the more liekly it is to fight its way back into consciousness.
a paradoxical effect: People thought about it more than when they weren’t trying to control their thoughts, and even more than when they were intentionally trying to think about it. The effect was strongest when people were already stressed out, tired, or distracted.
- opeartor: direct attention toward anything other than the forbidden thought: the prefrontal cortex, self-control, require mental energy
monitor: look for any evidence that you are thinking, feeling, or doing whatever you don’t want to think, feel, or do: threat-dection system: automatically without much mental effort
If operator is tired, monitor takes over.
The brain is constantly processing the forbidden content just outside of conscious awareness.
Is there something you try to keep out of your mind? If so, examine the theory of ironic rebound. Does suppression work? Or does trying to push something out of your mind make it come back stronger? (Yes, you are going to give the monitor the job of monitoring the monitor.)
stop trying to control unwanted thoughts and emotions: less intrude into conscious awareness
Paradoxically, permission to think a thought reduces the likelihood of thinking it.
When an upsetting thought comes to mind, instead of instantly trying to distract yourself from it, let yourself notice the thought. Oftentimes, our most disturbing thoughts are
- familiar—the same worry
- the same self-criticism
the same “memory.
- “What if something goes wrong?”
- “I can’t believe I did that. I’m so stupid.”
- “If only that hadn’t happened. What could I have done differently?”
These thoughts pop up like a song that gets stuck in our heads, seemingly out of nowhere, but then is impossible to get rid of. Let yourself notice whether the upsetting thought is an old, familiar tune—that’s your first clue that it is not critically important information you need to believe. Then shift your attention to what you are feeling in your body. Notice if there is any tension present, or changes to your heart rate or breathing. Notice if you feel it in your gut, your chest, your throat, or anywhere else in your body. Once you’ve observed the thought and feelings, shift your attention to your breathing. Notice how it feels to breathe in and breathe out. Sometimes the upsetting thought and feelings naturally dissipate when you do this. Other times, they will keep interrupting your attention to your breath. If this happens, imagine the thought and feelings like clouds passing through your mind and body. Keep breathing, and imagine the clouds dissolving or floating by. Imagine your breath as a wind that dissolves and moves the clouds effortlessly. You don’t need to make the thought go away; just stay with the feeling of your breath.
Trying to avoid unwanted feelings often leads to self-destructive behavior, whether it’s a procrastinator trying to avoid anxiety, or a drinker trying to avoid feeling alone. For your willpower challenge, see if there is a feeling you are trying not to feel. What would happen if you gave yourself permission to feel it, using the breath and cloud imagery?对我来说就是旅游
accept whatever thoughts or feelings they had about the chocolate, but also remember that they didn’t have to act on those thoughts and feelings. While not controlling their thoughts, they still had to control their behavior.
- Notice that you are thinking about your temptation or feeling a craving.
- Accept the thought or feeling without trying to immediately distract yourself or argue with it. Remind yourself of the white-bear rebound effect.
- Step back by realizing that thoughts and feelings aren’t always under your control, but you can choose whether to act on them.
Remember your goal. Remind yourself of whatever your commitment is, as the students reminded themselves of their agreement not to eat the Hershey’s Kisses.
try one of the following strategies for flipping your focus:
What could you do instead of the “I won’t” behavior that might satisfy the same needs?
Most bad habits are an attempt to meet a need, whether it’s reducing stress, having fun, or seeking approval. You can get the focus off of prohibiting your bad habit by replacing it with a new (hopefully, healthier) habit. One of my students was trying to quit coffee and turned to tea as a substitute. It had all the same benefits—being a good excuse for a break, giving him more energy, easy to get anywhere—without as much caffeine.
If you weren’t doing the bad habit, what might you be doing instead?
Most of our addictions and distractions take time and energy away from something else we could be doing. Sometimes focusing on that missed opportunity is more motivating than trying to quit the bad habit.
One of my students felt like she was wasting her time getting sucked into reality television shows. She had more success at turning off the TV when she set a goal for what she should use the time for instead—learning to be a better cook. (She started by substituting cooking shows for the shows she had been watching—a good first step—then transitioned from couch to kitchen.)
Can you redefine the “I won’t” challenge so that it becomes an “I will” challenge?
Sometimes the very same behavior can be thought of in two different ways. For example, one of my students redefined “not being late” as “being the first person there” or “arriving five minutes early.” This may not sound like much of a difference, but he found himself far more motivated—and less likely to be late—when he turned being on time into a race he could win. If you focus on what you want to do, instead of what you don’t want to do, you sidestep the dangers of ironic rebound
When the urge takes hold, pause for a moment to sense the body.
- What deos the urge feel like?
- Is it hot or code?
- Do you feel tension anywhere in your body?
What’s happening with your heart rate, your breathing, or your gut?
Stay with the sensations for at least for 1 minute.
Notice whether the feelings fluctuate in intensity or quality.
Not acting on an urge can sometimes increases its intensity. See if you can stay with these sensations without trying to push them away, and without acting on them.
The posite of suppression is not self-indulgence.
tempation, self-criticism, stress
The mashmallow experiment is a test of prefrontal cortex’s serotonin function and its ability to override the routines and impluses from striatum.
delayed gratification: greater ventrolateral prefrontal activity which helps control impulses.
- self-affirmation (坐着就能实现 positive pictures in mind)
recall happy memories (坐着就能实现 positive pictures in mind)
Remember positive events that happend in your life.
increase serotonin production in the anterior cingulate cortex
- increase serotonin
- keep you from thinking about negative events
the ultraviolet (UV) rays produce vitamin D.
Vitamine D promotes serotonin production.
Bright sunlight improves serotonin production and keeps the serotonin transporter from sucking it away. Why?
Brinol, P., Petty, R. E., & Wagner, B. (2009). Body posture effects on self-evaluation: A self-validation approach. European Journal of Social Psychology, 39: 1053–1064.
Exercise increases both serotonin production and release
In particular, aerobic exercises
In depression, goal-directed, intentional actions are not in balance with habits and impulses, because the prefrontal cortex is not appropriately controlling the striatum. To start creating good habits, you need to activate the prefrontal cortex in the right way.
- keep values in mind (坐着就能实现)
Keep long-term goals in mind, such as thinking about how life would be better (坐着就能实现)我初中的时候一直记得自己的long-term goal
When pursuing the long-term goal, the prefrontal cortex has the ability to modulate dopamine release in the nucleus accumbens.
Peper, E., & Lin, I. (2012). Increase or decrease depression: How body postures influence your energy level. Biofeedback, 40(3): 125–130.
So suppressing impulses can be rewarding, as long as it’s in service of your larger values. Suppressing an impulse doesn’t always habe to decrease dopamine, i.e., feeling bad.
Focusing on how life would be better reduced activity in the dorsal striatum and nucleus accumbens 这大概就是接近deadline的时候努力, 因为可以visualize结束后的美好生活:)
初中时候提醒自己long-term goal是calm, 自己的value是勤奋
Carney, D. R., Cuddy, A. J., & Yap, A. J. (2010). Power posing: Brief nonverbal displays affect neuroendocrine levels and risk tolerance. Psychological Science, 21(10): 1363–1368.
thinking about long-term goals and values help activate the prefrontal cortex in a right way.
Self-awareness is a mindful technique that helps activate the prefrontal cortex.
consciously aware of emtoions and emotional response to other people and the outside world.
Emotional awareness increases activity in the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex, which then communicates through the medial prefrontal cortex to reduce amygdala reactivity
Larsen, R. J., Kasimatis, M., & Frey, K. (1992). Facilitating the fur- rowed brow: An unobtrusive test of the facial feedback hypothesis applied to unpleasant affect. Cognition & Emotion, 6(5): 321–338.
When you recognize the feeling when you are upset, sad, anxious, or stressed, you will actually feel a little better.
habits are triggered by
- a thought (not always controllable)
- a feeling (not always controllable)
- something in the environment
The limbic system can pick up subtle environmental cues
because the limbic system has a lot of connects with the stiatum, even subtle changes can have a big effect.
just start doing something productive – anything productive – even if it’s not the thing you’re supposed to be doing.
- wash one dish in the sink
- put on shoes
- send one work email
Once you start being productive, dopamine is released in the striatum and parts of the prefrontal cortex.
Suddenly you’ll have more energy and motivation to do the thing you really need to do.
brain circuits interact to create the downward spiral of depression. The prefrontal cortex worries too much, and the emotional limbic system is too reactive. The insula makes things feel worse, and the anterior cingulate isn’t helping by focusing on the negative. On top of that, the prefrontal cortex has a hard time inhibiting the bad habits of the dorsal striatum and nucleus accumbens. Depression is so hard to overcome because each circuit pulls the others downward.