The Happiness Connection  

Curiosity can conquer fear

I’m not a huge fan of winter. More accurately, I’m not a huge fan of the kinds of winters we have in the Okanagan.

I’d probably love a Hawaiian winter. But as a happiness enthusiast, I do the best I can to be positive during the winter months.

I’ve decided that the icy roads and sidewalks give me an opportunity to for physical adventure that I might not consciously choose.

During the most recent cold snap, I had one of those adventures while driving. We live in a hilly area of town and as I approached the stop sign at the bottom of one of those hills, I realized that the road was like a sheet of ice.

I put all my winter driving knowledge into action, and managed to come to a stop, just in time to prevent my car from sliding onto the busy road at the bottom, but it was a narrow escape.

I took a deep breath to let my racing heart slow, and to let my hands and lower arms stop tingling. Does fear cause a sensation to sweep down your arms and into your hands?

I noticed this phenomenon years ago, but I didn’t think too much about it until recently when I came across a study on body mapping.

Bodily Maps of Emotions was published in 2013. A team of Finnish biomedical engineers wanted to know more about the link between emotional states and sensations in the body.

A group of 701 participants from Finland, Sweden, and Taiwan were shown emotional words, stories, movies, or facial expressions to induce one of fourteen feelings. To avoid bias, the name of the mood the participants were being exposed to was never used.

The researchers were interested in immediate, conscious reactions not in biological changes like body temperature, or heart rate.

To record these sensations, subjects were given two body silhouettes, and asked to colour the areas of their body where they felt an increase or decrease of activity, or sensation.

For example, I noticed an increase of activity in my head, chest, arms, and hands. I would have coloured these areas of the silhouettes red (high increase in activity) and yellow (very high increase in activity.)

If there were any areas with a decrease in sensation, or activity, I would colour them blue, or light blue.

There was individual variation on the areas of the silhouettes that were coloured, but when the researchers averaged the maps together, patterns emerged for the different feelings.

As you might expect, the research showed that the head was affected with every emotion, but there was only one feeling where the activity was decreased rather than increased.

Depression resulted in a lowering of sensation in the head, which might explain why people in this state find it difficult to engage with what is happening around them.

The body map for fear shows that I am not unique to having increased sensations in my hands and arms. In fact, many of the negative emotions showed increased activity in the hands.

Perhaps this happens to help us with the fight-flight response. You need to have your hands ready for movement if you plan to fight.

As this column is called the Happiness Connection, I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the body map for happiness. This was the only emotion that showed an increase in activity in every part of the body, including the legs.

Maybe this explains why we jump for joy.

Love was a close second in this regard, although the legs were far less active.

I won’t attempt to describe the findings of the study for each emotion, but I’ll add the link, so you can look for yourself. http://www.pnas.org/content/111/2/646.full

An important question for any writer to ask themselves is “Who cares?”

I’ve shared this with you because I found it fascinating and expect that some of you will too, but there is another reason.

We know that if you smile, it will boost your feelings of happiness, even if the smile is fake. So, is it possible for you to boost your happiness by imagining an increase in sensation in your entire body?

I don’t know the answer to this question, but I think it is worth exploring. When I do my next meditation, I’m going to spend some time with this idea.

Does it matter whether I find a new way to boost happiness or not? No.

In face, as I write these words, I realize that the best lesson to take away from this column has nothing to do with body mapping. Happy people nurture their sense of curiosity, and that’s what the study into body mapping has given me an opportunity to do.

I encourage you to do the same. Find something that interests you, and make some time to be curious.

More The Happiness Connection articles

About the Author

Reen Rose is an experienced, informative, and engaging speaker, author, and educator. She has worked for over three decades in the world of education, teaching children and adults in Canada and England.

Research shows that happy people are better leaders, more successful, and healthier than their unhappy counterparts, and yet so many people still believe that happiness is a result of their circumstances.

Happiness is a choice. Reen’s presentations and workshops are designed to help you become robustly happy. This is her term for happiness that can withstand challenge and change.

Reen blends research-based expertise, storytelling, humour, and practical strategies to both inform and inspire. She is a Myers Briggs certified practitioner, a Microsoft Office certified trainer and a qualified and experienced teacher.

Email Reen at [email protected]

Check out her websites at www.ReenRose.com, or www.ModellingHappiness.com

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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