Happy: All about feelings (2)
DaCari: Those are the body's natural feel-good chemicals.
Molly: Right. Endorphins get released from the pituitary gland in the brain, right behind the bridge of your nose.
DaCari: That little thing attached to Chee's brain with the blood vessels and nerve cells is like the size of a pea.
Molly: Yes, it's super small but super powerful. The pituitary gland makes hormones like endorphins and it also sends messages to other organs about what kinds of chemicals they should be producing.
Chee: Endorphins affect your brain like the strongest pain medicines that doctor can prescribe, they tickle parts of the brain that process pain, kind of distracting it, so your brain stops remembering to tell you that you're hurt and because of the pituitary gland,-
DaCari:-the pea-size thing behind your nose.
Chee: Precisely, because the pituitary gland also directs how your body releases other neurochemicals. It's often sending out other neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine along with hormones like oxytocin to mix it up with the endorphins.
DaCari: Right We heard about those before, they make you feel happy.
Chee: Yes, when the mix of these chemicals are higher, you feel good. They even help you boost your immune system to keep you from getting sick. They help you manage stress and they can improve your overall mental health.
ENdorphins: Oh yeah!
Chee: Yes. Looks like I'm out of balls. I think I crushed it.
Molly: You totally did Chee. Now that you're smiling, I see even more endorphins, dopamine and serotonin.
DaCari: So smiling can make your body send out good neurochemicals too?
Molly: That's right. Just smiling can trigger feel-good neurotransmitters and it can lower a person's blood pressure and heart rate.
DaCari: Cool. I can see Chee's whole body calming more.
Molly: Yes, smiles are magic, because they're contagious, we're all feeling some positive vibes. That's why I like smiling. It helps me feel better mentally and physically and it helps others feel good too.
Molly: Awesome. That was some super-smart tennis.
Chee: Yes, I'm always happy to serve up the science.
DaCari: Thanks Chee.
Molly: Okay, let's get back to that mystery sound. Here it is again.
Before you take another guess, I'm going to give you a clue. You might hear this in a yoga class, any new ideas?
DaCari: It sounds like you're hitting something.
Molly: Definitely. Here is the answer.
Dimaun Coleman: It is a sound bowl, an Asian yoga tool, where this is what it sounds like.
Molly: That was Mr. Dimaun Coleman. He's a yoga teacher who works with kids in Baltimore. When you do yoga, you move your body through poses like downward dog or happy baby, while focusing on your breath. Yoga originally comes from India and is thousands of years old. Mr. Coleman uses the sound of the bowl to get his class' attention and get them to focus.
Coleman: My name is Mr. Coleman. I'm at Dallas F. Nicholas Elementary School. I am the yoga teacher for the school, the yoga and mindfulness practitioner, and this is my yoga class.
Everybody say sunrise.
Coleman: This is a full-body exercise. What that means is, you're working every muscle in your body that you use every day, from your toes to the top of your head. Everybody breathe in.
I've been doing yoga since middle school. It really enforces the importance of self and breathing.
Every time you breathe in, I want you to see yourself pulling positive energy, like happiness and joy. Every time you breathe out, I want you to see yourself pushing out any negative energy, like sadness or anger.
If anything made you sad, angry at school today, just breathe it out. Realize that is not happening right now. Focus on the present moment. What we're doing in this present moment is relaxing.
Student: I like it because I bring in the energy and the happiness and then sometimes when I'm sad, I just breathe out.
Coleman: Everybody say tree pose.
Students: Tree pose.
Coleman: Balance pose.
Students: Balance pose.
Coleman: Mountain pose.
Students: Mountain pose.
Coleman: All right.
Student 2: My favorite pose is the mountain pose because when you put your arms up, it looks like a mountain was formed.
Student 3: My favorite pose is the tree pose.
Student 4: Tree pose.
Student 5: The tree pose.
Student 6: The balance pose.
Coleman: Last breath, we're going to take together, breathe in and breathe out.
Molly: For some people like the students in that class, yoga is a way to get in touch with their bodies and their feelings. DaCari, have you ever done a class like that?
DaCari: Yes. When I first started, when I saw people doing this weird pose, I was like ‘what are they doing?' It looked so weird me. When I tried it, I thought it was really fun, so I wanted to stay in it.
Molly: You started taking these classes through the Holistic Life Foundation, which is an organization that teaches young people all about yoga, and mindfulness, and now you're a mentor in the program. What kind of classes have you done as a mentor?
DaCari: We have done classes for the little kids, we're teaching like the basics. Then as the kids get older, we tell them more and more.
Molly: So you're a teacher.
Molly: That is so cool. Can you tell me a little bit about what you tell the little kids, first of all, how old are the kids you're working with?
DaCari: Three to five.
Molly: What do you tell them?
DaCari: I tell them, when we first started to stretch out our bodies, so like you don't get hurt. Then after we stretch out, we do the first pose. This is the downward dog. Like you go on your own, your feet and your hands, and you put your legs up. You just sit there for like five seconds. Then when you exhale, you go down.
Molly: You use your breath to move through these different yoga poses?
Molly: When you're teaching them like, is the purpose of the class like helping to control your emotions or does it have a different purpose overall?
DaCari: It helps with emotions and behavior.
Molly: How do you think it helps that?
DaCari: It helps them with calming down more and not like more explosions happen.
Molly: Do you meditate and do yoga or do you just do yoga?
DaCari: I do both.
Molly: Do you find that when you do those that it helps you control your emotions?
DaCari: It helped me by making me a calmer person. It helps you with your anger problems or anything you need to be helped on.
Molly: How old were you when you started doing it?
DaCari: I was a five-year-old when I started. When I first started, it was weird to me, but it grew on me.
Molly: That is so cool. Well, for people who have never meditated before, meditation can help you quiet your mind. In some meditations, you focus on your breathing. In others, you notice your thoughts.
Some people call this mindfulness, which means being aware of what you're doing and thinking and feeling. That can help you listen to the logical part of your mind instead of just the automatic emotional side.
Researchers are starting to look at how mindfulness can help us. It's hard to understand exactly what it does to us because people and brains are really complicated. We'll talk a little more about how meditation might specifically help with feelings throughout the series.
Molly: Just like everyone has their own emotional thermostat, different techniques help different people. Some people connect with their feelings when they're taking walks, or petting their dog or praying, or volunteering, or singing, or journaling. In a way, these are all different kinds of meditation. That's something Mallika Chopra knows a lot about. She's been meditating since she was a kid.
DaCari: Welcome, Mallika.
Mallika Chopra: Thank you so much.
DaCari: When did you learn to meditate?
Mallika: I learned how to meditate when I was nine and I believe you may have learned even younger?
Mallika: That's so inspiring to me because I learned when I was nine, and I will admit sometimes I did it and sometimes I didn't, but I know how valuable meditation was to me growing up, so you're such a great role model for other kids. Congratulations.
DaCari: Thank you. Why should you use it when you're happy?
Mallika: That's such a great question because meditation helps us in all parts of our life; when we're happy, when we're sad, when we're angry. And so when we are happy, if we can focus on how we're feeling happy, then we train our body to feel that more and more.
So I like to recommend that when you're happy, you focus on what you're grateful for. Think about more things that you're happy about and then also just feel your body so that you can remember what that feels like.
DaCari: Is it good to always try to be happy?
Mallika: You know, I don't think anybody is always happy all the time. People have lots of emotions and that's totally normal, to feel happy sometimes, sad sometimes, angry at other times. No, I don't think we're all always, always happy, but there are ways that we can deal with sad angry feelings to make ourselves feel better.
Molly: In each episode of this series, Mallika will be sharing a meditation that you can try when you're experiencing different emotions. Today, she'll share a meditation for when you're feeling happy.
Mallika: So when we are happy, what we want to do is feel that in our body and continue the feeling of gratitude. This is a really simple meditation for when you are happy to also focus on what you're grateful for.
And I recommend doing this every night before you go to sleep or in the morning before you start the day. Either you can do it by yourself, or you can share these with your family or friends or even write them in a journal.
It's really simple. You just sit, put your hand on your heart and say, "What am I grateful for?" And maybe different things will come up, but I'd like you to choose just one thing, take a deep breath, in and out, and feel that throughout your body. Take another breath in and out and now that's it. You can continue with your day.
DaCari: Everyone has their own unique setting for feelings.
Molly: Some people feel things easily. For others, it takes a lot to change their mood.
DaCari: When we experience good things in the world, our brain signal our bodies to release chemicals called neurotransmitters.
Molly: Neurotransmitters like dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins.
DaCari: They help us feel happy.
Molly: Thinking about our feelings can help us decide what to do with them.
Molly: That's it for this episode of Brains On.
DaCari: Brains On is produced by Marc Sanchez, Sanden Totten and Molly Bloom.
Molly: This series was also produced by Menaka Wilhelm and Sam Choo, with support from Call To Mind - APM's mental health initiative.
We had production help from Stel Kline, Hannah Harris Green, Kristina Lopez, Elyssa Dudley and Jackie Kim. And we had engineering help from Johnny Vince Evans, Veronica Rodriguez and Bob White. Special thanks to Jamar Peete, Andres Gonzalez, Naundia Fitzgerald, Kaz Nelson, Elena Blanco Suarez, and Nancy Yang.
DaCari: Now, before we go it's time for our Moment of Um…
Catherine: When you first get snow, it's powdery, and then if you melt it and freeze it again, Why is there ice in that snow again?
Sarah Patterson: I think this is a really interesting question because it gets to the heart of what we as scientists try to do. We're trying to actually measure how much water is in snow. My name is Sarah Patterson. I am a scientist at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.