Happy: All about feelings (1)
Sanden: Yes, yes, YES! I would love the part.
(indiscernible phone voice)
Sanden: Thank you so much. I will not let you down!
(indiscernible phone voice)
Sanden: For sure. For sure. See you Thursday. I'll be ready!
(indiscernible phone voice)
Sanden: Bye! Oh man this is so exciting. I gotta tell someone. I know! I'll tell HARVEY. Our ever-present, disembodied robotic voice assistant. HARVEY, I got some new you are not gonna believe.
HARVEY: I am programmed to believe facts.
Sanden: Are you familiar with the series of plays based on superhero Alpaca Jack?
HARVEY: Yes. An orphaned alpaca named Jack is found by world-renowned physicist and karate enthusiast, Dr. Kate Calhoun. While raising Jack, Dr. Calhoun discovers a new neural pathway and enhances Jack's brain capacity far beyond any alpaca or human. Plays include: Disturbing the Fleece, Keep the Fleece and Sweater Weather.
Sanden: Yep, well, now you're talking to the newest Alpaca Jack! WOOL YEAH!
Sanden: I got the part in the next play: Fleece of My Mind! (singing) Ooo I - got the part. Yeah I - got that part.
HARVEY: I am sensing an elevated heart rate. Sometimes when I am given a new part, my circuits overheat. Would you like me to call a doctor?
Sanden: No, no, HARVEY. I'm just over the MOON about getting to play Alpaca Jack!
HARVEY: My GPS shows that we are on earth.
Sanden: Good one Harv-ster… what I mean is that I'm jumping for joy.
HARVEY: I do not detect a person named Joy in this room. Only Sanden.
Sanden: Okay. Harvey, I am having strong feelings right now.
HARVEY: Does not compute.
Sanden: Wow. Ok. The thing going on with me is called happiness. Check it out. I am happy! See my smile?
HARVEY: Smile acknowledged.
Sanden: I'm smiling, because I'm happy. And I'm happy because I'm going to play Alpaca Jack. Get it?
HARVEY: Smile equates feeling of happiness. Information downloaded.
Sanden: Yeah. Wow, reading people is not your strong suit pal. Anyway. Oh man, I can't wait until rehearsals start… I have to start practicing my two-toed walking… and, and I'm going to go on an all-grass diet…Gotta get into character. And I have to hire a trainer to work on my spitting technique.
Molly Bloom: You're listening to Brains On from American Public Media. I'm Molly Bloom. You're going to hear more about Sanden's role as Alpaca Jack at the beginning of the next few episodes because they're all part of our long-awaited series all about feelings. And here to help me with these episodes is co-host DaCari from Baltimore. Hey DaCari.
Molly: This episode is the first of a four-part series on a subject near and dear to our hearts and our brains and our bodies.
Molly: Where they come from.
DaCari: Why we have them
Molly: And what we can do with them.
DaCari: And that's because you have a lot of questions about emotions.
Nikita: Hi, I am Nikita from the Bronx. My question is how do people feel certain emotions?
Aiden: My name is Aiden from Topsfield, Massachusetts. And my question is, what are feelings and how do we get them?
Katie: My name is Katie from Sterling, Virginia. My question is, why do we feel emotions?
DaCari: First things first, we talk about feeling from the heart. But it's not really our hearts that makes feelings. It's more of our brains and our bodies.
Molly: When you see or hear touch things, your brain sends signals telling you how you feel about that, but it's a two-way street. Sometimes, your body tells your brain information too.
DaCari: It's like if you bang your knee against the chair and your knee tells your brain, "Hey, that hurt," you feel pain.
Molly: Even though you can't always see feelings like joy or anger, the way you can see a scratch or a bruise, feelings still affect your brain and your body in a very real way.
DaCari: So let's get into how feelings work in our brains.
Molly: Brains do all the things they do, feel feelings, think thoughts, move our bodies with chemicals called neurotransmitters. These little molecules are how brain cells, or neurons, talk to each other.
DaCari: We asked Rapheal Williams to fill us on molecules that matter for happiness. He studies our brains and how we make choices at the University of Washington.
Molly: Rapheal says a few chemicals are particularly important for feeling happy. They're serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin.
DaCari: Rapheal actually gave us a play by play of what's going on with the neurons and their neurotransmitters when something is making you happy.
Rapheal Williams: One of the things that makes me happy is that I love painting.
Sport announcer 1: This painting might be Rapheal's best one yet. The brushstrokes alone speak volumes.
Sport announcer 2: It's certainly the best piece this season.
Rapheal: When I finish a painting, and if my friend says, "Yes, that's a really great piece of work", then my dopamine neurons release dopamine which is a messenger to other neurons to tell your brain, "Hey, that felt good."
Sport announcer 1: Before that dopamine release, maybe he was feeling okay, but after that dopamine reward, wow, he is feeling excited, motivated, he probably wants to make another painting.
Sport announcer 2: That's just great. And oh wait, that's about the only thing coming in.
Rapheal: You also get a release of oxytocin because your friend is telling you that that felt good. Therefore, the oxytocin, which is a bonding molecule is released in the brain.
Sport announcer 2: So that oxytocin is going to make him feel closer to his friend.
Sport announcer 1: More trusting, more connected, what a great molecule.
Rapheal: Then you also get that serotonin release as well.
[music and applause]
Sport announcer 1: Holy neurochemicals, that serotonin it's interesting because our gut makes most of our body's serotonin, but it has such an effect on the brain.
Sport announcer 2: I know, it can be tough to pin down exactly what serotonin does. It does so many things in the brain, but it seems to stabilize the way we feel.
Sport announcer 1: It'll likely keep Rapheal feeling good even after this conversation ends.
Sport announcer 2: Just amazing work out there neurons, truly incredible.
Molly: We know that a mix of different brain chemicals helps create feelings like happiness and contentment.
DaCari: And everyone's mix is a little different.
Molly: Just like no two people look exactly the same, our brains don't work exactly the same either.
DaCari: Some people feel happy pretty easily, but for others, it might take more to make them smile.
Molly: The same goes for other emotions too. It's kind of like each of us has our own thermostat set for what it takes to feel certain feelings.
DaCari:You know, a thermostat is that thing that controls the heat in your house.
Molly: Exactly. This metaphorical thermostat controls your moods.
DaCari: An emotional thermostat.
[music: ooh, emotional thermostat]
DaCari: And this emotional thermostat is set by your genes.
Molly: Not your pants. Those are jeans with a J. These are genes with a G. There the instructions that tell all the cells in your body how to be. You inherit them from your parents.
DaCari: And this emotional thermostat is also set by experiences you have.
Molly: We'll be talking more about regulating our feelings throughout this series.
Okay DaCari, I have something for you that might release a little dopamine in your brain. It's the mystery sound. Here it is —
DaCari: It sounds like a bell.
Molly: It definitely sounds like something ringing. We're going to give you another chance to guess and we'll reveal the answer a little later in the show.
Molly: Oh man, we are SO thrilled to bring you a new season of our debate podcast: Smash Boom Best. Our roster of debaters is ready to wow the judges with great stories and fascinating facts.
DaCari: In each episode of Smash Boom Best, get ready for an epic match up to decide which is cooler…
Molly: Like Unicorns or Dragons! DaCari in the unicorns or dragons debate which would you say are cooler?
DaCari: Dragons, all the way.
DaCari: They're just cooler and they breathe fire.
Molly: It's hard to compete with breathing fire. I might be on team unicorns because I've heard their skin and horns have some pretty cool magical powers but we're going to have to hear the whole debate.
DaCari: Well, we are in luck because at the end of this episode, there's a smash boom best SNEAK PEAK!
Molly: Ohhh I can't wait. Full length episodes drop in June.
DaCari: And if you have a debate idea - send it over!
Molly: We'd also love it if you sent us a question, drawing, or a mystery sound at brainson.org/contact
DaCari: That's what this listener did:
Catherine: Hi, my name is Catherine. My question is when you first get snow it's powdery but then if you melt it and freeze it again why is it ice and not snow again?
Molly: We'll answer that question in the Moment of Um at the end of the show. We'll also read the latest listeners to join the Brains On honor roll.
DaCari: And then! We'll roll that Smash Boom Best Sneak Preview!
Molly: Keep listening!
DaCari: You're listening to Brains On from America public media. I'm DaCari.
Molly: And I'm Molly. We asked you, our lovely listeners, to tell us what your body feels like when you're happy. And here's what you had to say.
Veda: Every time I'm happy, my stomach just up and down and really wants me to move.
Amaia: My body feels really energetic.
Bar: When I'm happy, I feel like I can bounce on balls.
Amelia: When I feel happy, I feel like I can fly.
Sulayman: When I feel happy, I feel all light and jumpy and excited about things.
Caleb: It feels like all the energy is like pumping up itself.
Kathy: I feel light as a feather, I feel free.
Randall: When I am happy, I get excited, and I feel a jump of energy and I feel like I want to run.
Molly: Thanks to Veda, Amaia, Bar, Amelia, Sulayman, Caleb, Kathy and Randall for sharing those answers with us. Doesn't it just make you feel good inside to hear all those happy feelings?
DaCari: Yeah. It also makes me wonder if the feelings we feel actually make changes in the rest of our bodies beyond our brains.
Molly: You mean like whether feeling positive can make your body feel better?
DaCari: Right. Like when you get hurt, sometimes something funny can make you forget the pain. How do our good feelings affect our bodies?
Molly: Let's find out. I have our trusty zoom ray. I know just the person to zoom in on, Our pal Chee is super positive. She's usually in the gym around now.
Chee: Okay, Chee's about to score the winning point. Will she make it? There's a serve. Chee goes for it and the crowd goes wild.
Molly: Hi Chee.
DaCari: Hi Chee.
Chee: Hi Molly. Hi, DaCari I'm just playing against this tennis machine. Practicing for Wimbledon, you know. Is that the zoom ray?
DaCari:Yes, we're trying to find out how good feelings affect our bodies.
Chee: Well, point your zoom ray right this way 'cause I am feeling pretty good.
DaCari: Wow, your heart is beating really fast from your practicing.
Chee: Makes sense. How's the rest of me?
Molly: Well, let's look up at your brain.
Molly: Whoa, your endorphin levels are high too.
Endorphins: We got this. I'm at the top of my game. Yes, never felt better. I feel great.