23 January 2018

Brain stuff - Why do we feel sad?


I've always been intrigued by the way the brain works, why do we feel happy? What makes us feel sad? Why is it, that a simple smell can bring back a wave of emotions? And, while simple curiosity is my main reason for this post, I also find the notion of emotions being nothing more than mechanical/chemical changes of the brain somewhat comforting. I know, I’m a little odd. But seriously, take a minute to think about it, really think about it. It’s strange right. The idea that your mood essentially starts from a tiny electrical impulse. But sometimes after a really bad day, or when I start to get that nagging sad feeling, I can take comfort in this idea. I just take a moment to focus on why I’m feeling that way, completely remove myself from the external processes (although that can help too) and imagine the internal ones.

I find it funny that even at this moment, as you read this, chemicals in your body are transmitting from one neuron to the next to stimulate or inhibit certain areas of the brain. (1) Perhaps you’re feeling happy, so the ‘pleasure centres’ of your brain are being activated and releasing dopamine, an excitatory neurotransmitter. (2) Or maybe you’re just feeling painfully bored by this and the hormone melatonin is increasing (3), causing you to feel sleepy. See what I did there… technically it’s the hormone making you sleepy, not me! It all comes down to chemicals, which brings me to question, what are the chemical/s behind sadness?

While I found tons of information concerning happiness and the brain, I found a great deal less on sadness. Depression, yes, but the simple emotion of sad, no. Compared to depression, which is long term and known to be linked physical brain differences, simple sadness is brief and much harder to pinpoint. Although I never really found my answer I did find an interesting study explained on Newsweek about the emotion sad. It stated that Drs Peter J. Freed and J. John Mann conducted 22 studies with non-depressed sad volunteers and found that, “sadness appeared to cause altered activity in more than 70 different brain regions.” (4) These regions were also known to process things like, conflict, pain, social isolation, memory, reward and body sensation (& many more). They also noticed that sadness was triggered by different stimuli depending on the person. I found this fascinating, 70 different places... that's crazy! 

After looking into the actual areas that showed altered activity, I was particularily drawn to the ones that linked to memory (the hippocampus & amygdala) and taste (the insula). (4) I mean how does sadness link to taste!? The science museum website notes that "when you recall an emotional event, you recall not only what happened, but also how you felt," (2) which explains why the memory region of the brain showed altered activity. Perhaps whatever stimuli shown to the participants triggered another emotional memory? Along with this, strong emotional memories can also bring back memories of other senses that were present at the time e.g. smell & taste. You might be thinking, well of course, that happens to me all the time! And yes it does, but I'm interested specifically in why it happens. 


So, why write this? Well in all honesty its mostly just my string of thoughts, something that I find interesting that I thought I'd share. I'd also love to hear your thoughts on this and find out if you have any interesting mind/brain related posts! 

What are you particularly interested in? 

Follow me on twitter  & bloglovin' to stay updated

References: 
1. UPMC, (2016). How brain chemicals influence mood and health[online], Available at: http://share.upmc.com/2016/09/about-brain-chemicals/ [Accessed 22/01/2018].  
2. The Science Museum, (2017). Who am I[online], Available at: http://whoami.sciencemuseum.org.uk/whoami/findoutmore/yourbrain/whatareemotions/whichareaofyourbraincontrolsemotions/areyouhappy [Accessed 22/01/2018]
3. Harper, K. (2015). So tired in the morning... The science of sleep, American Chemical Society [online]. Available at: https://www.acs.org/content/acs/en/education/resources/highschool/chemmatters/past-issues/archive-2014-2015/the-science-of-sleep.html [Accessed 22/01/2018] 
4. Miller, M. (2008). Sad brain, Happy brain, Newsweek [online]. Available at: http://www.newsweek.com/sad-brain-happy-brain-88455 [Accessed 22/01/2018] 

Other resources: 
  • Integrative psychiatry, (2018). Serotonin, [online], Available at: https://www.integrativepsychiatry.net/serotonin.html [Accessed 21/01/2018] 

54 comments so far

  1. This is a super interesting subject! I really enjoyed reading this. I also love watching documentaries of human mind and how it works. Always some new information :).

    ReplyDelete
  2. I find this a very interesting topic. The human brain is so complex and it's amazing how hormones can affect your emotions and thoughts. Great read! I learn something new every day :)

    Stephanie
    www.stephanievivienne.com

    ReplyDelete
  3. I love this post. Honestly. While I do find it hard to think of emotions are purely brain and hormone activity, it is also really important to understand why certain emotions are surfacing and how to approach them.

    ReplyDelete
  4. What an interesting piece! I've never thought about this, in this way x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm glad you liked it, thanks for reading! x

      Delete
  5. Its great that you have actually broken it down and simplified the hows and whys..as its a strange and deep topic for me. What I do know is that I love eating chocolate and that somehow alters my sadness and I am happy again.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. hahaha that's a much simpler way of putting it! Easier to do too!

      Delete
  6. I commented over on Bloglovin too, but I forgot which one you preferred! So I will post it here too :]

    I absolutely love that you cited this post! I find it interesting too, to think about how many chemicals and neurons are firing away in my brain. One of the things which interests me is SAD, how weather and seasons can affect your mood. It's quite interesting :]!! Kelly http://www.thiswayandthatway.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. ahh I usually reply on here aha :)
      I'm so glad you liked it! That's something that really interests me too, thinking of maybe doing a post on it in the future!

      Delete
  7. This is so interesting. Great post xx

    ReplyDelete
  8. I found this soooo interesting! I've always wondered the same things!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm so glad you liked it! Thanks for reading.

      Delete
  9. Human brain is so fascinating! I love reading about how it works and your post had a lot of new interesting information!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It really is! I'm glad you liked it, thanks for reading!

      Delete
  10. This was so intesting! Girl, you do your research and I love it! 😍 Also, your new header with the small elephant is so so cute!! 💕

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love things like this! aw thanks Maud thats so sweet x

      Delete
  11. I love that you approached it through a scientific lens! It can help when we are in the thick of it to realize that this is just a chemical reaction

    ReplyDelete
  12. This is such a wonderful post - so well written and it really is amazing at how your brain and body works. There's so much which we don't think about and when you come across features like this, you realise how amazing everything is!

    Hope you're well!

    Layla xx
    http://www.sprinklesofstyle.co.uk

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. aw thank you, I'm so glad you liked it! I agree, I was amazed at everything I found out while researching xx

      Delete
  13. This was an interesting read! I studied psychology at a-level and wish i would have taken it up at university tbh as all of this interests me too - hope to see more posts like this! xx

    G

    www.teawithgi.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm actually going to be starting it at uni in September and am super ecited! Definitely will be writing some more similar posts soon xx

      Delete
  14. You're a girl after my own heart!
    I loved this blog post, so nice to see a unique topic covered! It's so hard to define sadness so I'm not surprised so many brain processes are involved. It's so subjective and can have so many effects on us both mentally and physically!
    As a fellow psychology lover, I hope to see more of these posts <3

    The Frugal Frenchie
    thefrugalfrenchie.co.uk

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. aww that's so sweet! I'm so glad that you liked reading it, and I will definitely be writing some similar posts soon <3

      Delete
  15. Such an informative, and original post - I've never read one similar to this before. Our emotions are super interesting, especially being a person that is very sensitive to emotions aha!
    jenny x | www.jennyrosee.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah I love covering more unique topics or things I haven't really seen. I also just LOVE this topic! haha me too don't worry! x

      Delete
  16. This is really interesting and insightful! The brain is incredible

    ReplyDelete
  17. This was so interesting! I absolutely love your posts, they're always so thought provoking. How we think and feel is such a fascinating subject. Like how amazing is the human brain?! I could read stuff like this all day x

    Sophie
    www.glowsteady.co.uk

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. aww thank you Sophie! I know it's incredible, will definitely be posting more like this in the future x

      Delete
  18. I think the brain is such a fascinating subject! I studied a lot about it in my science degree. I didn’t know sadness happened in 70 different brain regions though, wow! It really is a complex emotion. Well done on such a well researched and interesting post Meera! <3

    Bexa | www.hellobexa.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aw thank you! wow that must have been such an interesting degree! Thanks for reading <3

      Delete
  19. Great post and fab topic. The brain holds such amazing power. Emotions can be quite complex and it's great to explore them inmore detail!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm glad you enjoyed it! I totally agree, it's one of my favourite topics to research!

      Delete
  20. Good post. It's always good to be willing to put our thoughts out in the air.

    ReplyDelete
  21. This is actually so interesting. Taste... wow, didn't know that, I feel like I should try and see if it's real and try and notice it next time haha.
    Aleeha xXx
    http://www.halesaaw.co.uk/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. haha Go for it! do a little scientific experiment (I can just imagine feeling really sad and suddenly licking a lemon just to test the theory) xx

      Delete
  22. Now that you mention it there isn't much on sadness. This was a great post. Made me stop and check my emotions at the moment

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah I was surprised at how little there was. It's a shame because I would have loved to know more. Thanks for reading!

      Delete
  23. This is an interesting post! I like your approach with the subject. Keep up that good work!

    Anshika Xx
    www.thefoodroot.com

    ReplyDelete
  24. Love your post! The human brain and body in general are so fascinating - and I like taking a step back and look at my emotions from a scientific point of view. Makes a lot of my drama seem less intimidating. ;)
    Would love to read more posts like this about different discoveries and how they relate to daily life! xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree. It really helps when you're feeling overwhelmed, its nice to just sit back and remember whats actually happening to make you feel that way! Definitely going to do more on this subject! xx

      Delete
  25. I love reading about the science behind the human mind, especially emotions. Interesting read!

    ReplyDelete
  26. Thank you for posting about this! I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when I was in college and I realized that our brain, like our other boy organs, can get sick too. You're right; it could be because of lack of chemicals in our brain, that is, serotonin and/or dopamine. I used to take antidepressants, mood stabilizers, and sleeping pills but my parents and I decided to just deal with this in a holistic way; I started meditating, doing yoga, living a holistic lifestyle, and working on my faith. I think I've improved a lot :)

    Rox | Transcendent Light 🌱

    ReplyDelete

Meera's Blog © . Design by FCD.