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2020 in your brain: ‘Everything that involves emotion, you remember better’

Who doesn’t remember their first kiss, first job, first lover or your child’s first smile? “Everything that involves emotion is better remembered. Or things that happen for the first time,” says Erik Scherder, professor of neuropsychology. “Many important first things have a big impact. And these dig deep into your memory, because multiple brain networks are involved.”

Technically, this is how it works: “The so-called almond core in particular is strongly involved in emotions. Together with the hippocampus, this is in your ‘memory circuit’ and provides that emotional charge, which helps you to remember an event. things don’t necessarily hang better than positive things, it’s about how deep the emotion runs. “

“When an emotion is stored, new connections arise in the brain that respond to it, along with specific brain structures. In positive events, dopamine is released, which creates a pleasant feeling”, explains Pieter Roelfsema, director of the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience, from

If something negative happens, such as the corona crisis we were in this year, the brain reacts differently. Roelfsema: “During a negative event, connections arise in the brain in response to a certain concept. In this case, this concept consists of terms such as ‘corona’, ‘2020’, ‘crisis’, etc. Concepts related to the corona crisis of the past year, causing certain cells to be activated that evoke negative emotions. This is reflected in the wiring of our brains. “

Although a lot is known about substances that are released with positive emotions, we know less about the substances that are released with negative emotions. “We do know that when something disappointing or sad happens, less dopamine is produced in the brain, which makes you feel less or not happy. This could make you more depressed or unhappy,” says Roelfsema.

There are also certain brain structures that become more active when you feel bad or depressed. “These are the same brain structures that become active when you start talking about corona, 2020, or when you drop the term ‘crisis’.”

How about personal dramas? “Dealing with a major disaster or a personal drama basically boils down to the same thing, but there are differences in emphasis,” says Roelfsema. “Part of our memory is heavily concerned with remembering specific moments. For example, I was there on that exact date, with so and that person and then we did that activity. We call that ‘declarative memory’.”

Less negative about 2020

Unfortunately, it is almost inevitable that we feel motivated or depressed about 2020. There are, however, a few things that can help you feel less negative about the past year – and to help you start the new year positively. . “Sleeping helps to process negative emotions. People in depression often do not sleep well, which makes them feel even worse. If you slept well one night, there is a good chance that the next morning you will have the worries of the previous day. have forgotten again and that you feel better about yourself “, says Roelfsema.

Scherder agrees with this. “By maintaining your rhythm, a period like last year has the least impact on your mood and well-being. It helps you to sleep well and a lot, but also to keep doing the things you always did, such as going to the gym. station cycling, even if you don’t have to go to the office. Get up, get ready, cycle to the station and then back home. Then you always start your home working day well. “

Chances are that if you get out of bed now, half the day will already be over. According to Scherder, that is not the intention. “Your day and night rhythm are essential. Lying in bed longer may be tempting, but it causes you to lose those rhythms. That can have a negative impact on your mood. You also need to be physically active. Walk around regularly instead of continuously. sitting behind your laptop. That way you keep your biological household up to standard. Regular exercise has a positive effect on the circulation of your brain, organs and bowel movements. “

According to Scherder, maintaining a good rhythm is valuable for the entire quality of life. “You remain proactive and more positive. Many people are done with the situation of today. Feel lonely and gloomy. Studies show that SARS pandemics are accompanied by mood problems, inactivity and passivity. This is because you no longer have to go anywhere. But please do, because then you keep stimulating brain functions such as ‘wanting’, ‘motivation’ and ‘taking initiative’. “

‘Machine has to get going again’

The best way to process the past year and start the new year off right? “Pick up your rhythm. And keep doing it. Even if you don’t feel like it. Maybe you think: I actually like it, it’s fine like that. Watch out for that, because it creates laziness. The longer that pause. the more difficult it is to go for it afterwards, “says Scherder.

“Have you been on vacation for a long time and then you go back to work? Then you really have to put yourself in it. Think about it: we’ve been home for three months now and that can cause you to get into a rut. feeling of intrinsic motivation, the urge to have to hand in a certain piece on time and to be on time for appointments, that you are looking forward to your working day, that has to go back in. That is difficult, because that machine has to be turned on first Normally colleagues help with that and now you have to do it alone. But believe me, you can, as long as you keep your rhythm. “

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