Brain research shows that it is not money, status and luxury but the quality of our relationships that is essential and that we speak of a happy life.
Our thoughts are the result of electrical excitation patterns. Which ones will prevail depends on various factors. When we think, our brain evaluates our current experiences on the basis of existing structures. This leads to permanent self-affirmation and consolidation of assumptions and positions.
Our brain is already in contact with the outside world in the womb and under its influence. The first impressions after birth are stored by our brain throughout our lives. An infant is not yet an hour in the world and can already imitate the mother’s facial expressions. That’s what our mirror neurons do – a resonance system in the brain that reflects the feelings and moods of other people. Signals can thus be sent quickly and clearly understood.
Our brain is addicted to reward. Something that we can and do ourselves drives us – through the release of the messenger substance dopamine. Dopamine is released when success is expected or when we reward ourselves. Our brain rewards us all the more the more we have achieved something ourselves. And it remembers how we did it. Dopamine thus also increases the learning ability of the brain.
Stress leads us to overcome unpleasant or threatening moments and to be successful. Stress becomes threatening when what the body has actually intended to do to combat crises quickly and selectively becomes a permanent condition. Permanent stress increases the production of the hormone cortisol. This blocks the recovery phases and prevents mental repair processes. In the long run, too much stress can lead to depression and increase the risk of dementia in old age.
As long as our explanations for our actions seem consistent, we feel good because we feel coherence. Even if it doesn’t make sense to others. “Successful living” is based on these four pillars: “on good relationships, active action, sufficient stress regulation and a subjective sense of coherence”.
Neurobiologically, satisfaction can be defined as a state in which feelings and the mind are in harmony. The limbic system and the cerebral cortex are then in balance. Unfortunately, this striving for coherence is also the cause of many evils. Our brain tends to tinker a little with the world when in doubt. The main thing is that the picture is coherent. For the limbic system, for example, it does not matter whether dangers are real or imaginary: Fear is the result in both cases. Our mind can learn to recognize and classify the thought-provoking impulses of the limbic emotional system.
Our brain loves it when we do something self-determined out of free will and concentrate on one goal. Our curiosity drives us. Ideally, our brain provides realistic goals and clear directions. Stress can lead us to high performance in the short term, but when it becomes a permanent condition due to overwork, smouldering conflicts or traumas, it makes us sick.
Our brain is constantly busy making our own decisions seem logical, conclusive and coherent. It makes us feel good to know our way around. A small step towards a good life is to serve yourself a bit of coherence every now and then: In extensive projects we should not put the brain off for the big picture, but divide the process into many partial steps and intermediate goals. Every stage victory is then a small celebration of coherence. If you even exceed the goal you set yourself, the “positive surprise effect” will make you feel even better. Sharing results with others not only strengthens ties and relationships but also gives us the pleasure of coherence.
For our life to be good and meaningful, we must live in a “brain-friendly society”. This society must meet not only our physical but also our psychological needs. Above all, however, a brain-friendly society should strengthen our bonds and strengthen our appreciation for relationships, even in childhood and adolescence and both at home and at school.