There is is this place in our brain that helps us with motivation, reward, and handling the critics. It is called the anterior cingulate cortex, or ACC. This region of the brain also has been implicated in several complex cognitive functions, such as empathy, impulse control, emotion, and decision-making. I listened to an amazing podcast from “The Science of Happiness” on the way home from visiting my daughter in North Carolina.
So many golden nuggets happened when I listened. I continued my study the next morning using the transcript to dig deeper into the content. My first affirmation or nugget was the fact that this was a part of my research on a team from work in which we incorporate the research and activity into our training. The other nuggets came from my personal experiences helping my daughter, and, honestly, myself in my day-to-day conversations and activities. Let’s face it. When you wake up and join the world you open the door to critics and to opinions. From what you are wearing, to how you said something, to work related actions and projects. What I adored about this podcast is the honesty of someone who every day puts herself in the position to receive negative feedback due to the nature of her work. I’m thinking people who sign up for a job like that probably love conflict. Not in this case. I kept saying, “I get it sister.” or “I feel ya’.” Then the podcast hosts went into the research of value-based affirmations, and how this helps you put things in perspective, cope, and have a healthy ACC.
You’ll find the activity in the transcript included in the link above. In my work, we extend the activity to include ongoing engagement and the importance of building relationships in a safe/caring classroom environment. Also, the values shared in the activity from the podcast are not the list that we used. We had added values like empathy, humor, spirituality, integrity, and trustworthiness. We also included a write in. If you don’t see your value on the list, you can add one. Once you pick your top 3 values, you write about how this is played out in your life–tell a story. They also challenge us to write a future story of the value played out. The research behind this activity is mind blowing. This is also found in the podcast and through the research from Dr. Cohen of Stanford University
Well you know Shuka we’ve learned a lot about the flight or fight response that causes you to feel panic, what happens in your body. And you know, Cortisol, the stress hormone is released and it activates your heart. And we’re also learning that two regions of the brain, the amygdala and the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex are really involved in panic. So the amygdala picks up information about very basic threats to our survival. And then Naomi Eisenberger down at UCLA is finding the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex detects more social threats, right, like somebody’s criticism or a snarky remark from a teenager or rejection on the playground. The Science of Happiness
What if we could put critics and what they say into a healthy perspective? What if the next time you are confronted, or you get that email or text, you can work through the encounter like a champion?
Get a pen and start writing stories and share with someone your values, and why they are important to you. For the guest on the podcast, she had made work her number one value which was contradictory to her actual values as a person. She was allowing her work to define who she was in life and her self-worth. She found herself miserable and in constant internal conflict. Once she engaged in the value based affirmation activity, she began to respond differently and gained a more healthy perspective.
The ACC and how it works with other parts of your brain is fascinating. When someone is suffering from depression, this area can really need some work. Using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and working through the science behind our feelings, thoughts, and actions, along with re-framing, can create a healthier view of our critics. This is not a one and done, but a lifetime of work.
My daughter and I did this activity together. What a great conversation.
For me personally, I combined some recent events of critics, my 30 Day Challenge with my husband from the Gottman Institute, and my Bible study this morning. I’m committed to put my values of family, my marriage, and love as a priority. I’m in my prayer garden reading Psalms. The sun coming up lead me out. And as I read the simile of the sun rising like a bridegroom, I was reminded of my love for my husband, and his love for me. We’ve had some meaningful conversations with our 30 Day Challenge.
In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
5 It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
6 It rises at one end of the heavens
and makes its circuit to the other;
nothing is deprived of its warmth.
7 The law of the Lord is perfect,
refreshing the soul.
The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy,
making wise the simple.
8 The precepts of the Lord are right,
giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the Lord are radiant,
giving light to the eyes.
I think of the words spoken to encourage and affirm me from my family, and, most of all, I think of the everlasting love of God that covers us. He is trustworthy and brings joy to our hearts. If I can see my worth in these values, I can love self and others with a compassionate heart–even the critics.