From Dr. Jay Kumar - How Pleasure Is Good for Your HealthJun-29-2012
So what do good food, chocolate, watching a sunset, and getting a massage all have in common? In addition to perhaps being the key ingredients for a romantic and memorable evening, recent studies indicate how they all appear to promote health by decreasing stress and stimulating the pleasure centers of the brain. We all enjoy passion and pleasure in life, and I am the first one to admit that! I actually began writing this blog piece while in Paris, the city where food, wine, romance, art, passion, and pleasure are considered the very fabric of life. Of course, uncontrolled and excessive passion and pleasure in life can lead to unhealthy addictions. While I am not advocating you lead a hedonistic or excessive lifestyle, however, the latest research in neurobiology and in social neuroscience finds that by mindfully experiencing moderate doses of pleasure in your everyday life, you can promote a healthy immune system and even increase your longevity of life. In the first part of this series on the Neurobiology of Pleasure, we start by defining what is pleasure, its relevance for human survival, and how pleasure positively affects the brain and health.
Why We Need Pleasure?
When we speak about passion and pleasure in neuroscience, they are not the hedonistic, excessive aspects of debauchery or gluttony that come to mind. Rather passion and pleasure in neurobiology are defined as feelings or sensations, opposite to but also closely associated with pain. Just like pain, pleasure appears also to be a biological mechanism wired into our human nervous system and brain for survival. It's easy to understand how the human brain's pain mechanism is essential for survival, e.g. think of the first time you accidentally placed a hand on a hot stove and quickly learned as something not to do again. You might, however, wonder how can pleasure be an evolutionary tool for survival? I'll offer two good examples to illustrate this point-food and sex! Both eating and reproduction are essential for the survival of the human species. Neuroscientists now believe that over the course of time the human brain developed specific "reward circuits" and "pleasure centers" to associate and foster all pleasurable experiences as being joyful and beneficial for survival. Eventually, other pleasurable experiences that were not necessary for human survival, such as smelling the fragrance of a rose, watching a beautiful sunset, or hearing a piece of soothing music, would trigger these same pleasure areas in the brain. In all of these situations the brain releases a host of "feel good"neurotransmitters, endorphins and peptides that the brain ultimately associates with positive emotions and feelings. While small and regular doses of these neurochemicals in the body are now shown to be healthy, the problem arises when we experience too much or even too little of these pleasurable activities that might lead to addictive and compulsive behavior. I will explore this topic in my next piece.
Click the link below for to read the entire article!
Posted by Ken at 6:49 PM
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