Scientists Have Found That The Brain Perceives New Experiences As Happiness
American psychologists have found that new impressions and experiences cause increased activity in the human brain, similar to that associated with feeling happy. The results are published in the journal Nature Neuroscience.
Researchers from New York University and the University of Miami studied the relationship of diversity in people's daily lives with their emotional state.
Volunteers who participated in the experiment in New York and Miami for three to four months regularly sent organizers text messages describing their emotional state, and scientists tracked all their movements using GPS.
It turned out that on days when people had a lot of trips and visited a lot of places during the day, they reported themselves more positively, using the words "happy," "excited," "relaxed," or "attentive." According to psychologists, such epithets in everyday life are associated with a sense of well-being.
"Our results show that people feel happier when they have more diversity in their daily lives when they visit new places and acquire a wide range of new experiences," said one of the authors of the study, associate Professor of psychology Catherine Hartley, in a press release from New York University. "Most likely, there is also a feedback loop. the expectation of positive feelings may encourage people to search for this useful experience more often."
This is the pattern scientists have observed in previous animal studies.
The researchers then tried to determine how the relationship between new experiences and positive emotions affects brain activity. Participants in the experiment were regularly examined in the laboratory by MRI at the end of the day.
It turned out that in people with the most strongly manifested "effect" of positive emotions caused by new experiences, there was a clear correlation between brain activity in the hippocampus and the striatum. These brain regions are associated with novelty processing and reward, respectively.
"The results show a mutual relationship between the new and diverse experiences we have in our daily environmental research and our subjective sense of well-being," notes Hartley.
"We see a clear link between the effects of fresh and varied experiences in real life and an increase in positive emotions," adds another author of the paper, Aaron Heller, Associate Professor of psychology at the University of Miami.
The authors, who conducted their research before the COVID-19 pandemic began, admit that the current restrictions on movement have an impact on the psyche. However, scientists note that even small changes that people can make to their routine of exercise, walking around the block, a new route to the grocery store or pharmacy will have a potentially positive effect.