Lisa Feldman Barrett in The Guardian:
Last week, my whole outlook on the world was transformed by a sheet of blank paper. Not just any paper, but beautifully embossed stationery, silky to the touch and decadent to write on. It was a gift from a dear friend and colleague. We collaborate over Zoom every week, so I could have thanked him on video, but instead I wrote a short note of gratitude and love, and posted it to him. His delight on receipt a few days later mirrored my own, and we shared a moment of emotional connection.
Before that moment, I was immersed in yet another “Blursday” full of Covid-saturated, this-will-never-end moroseness, staring alone at a screen that makes my skin look pallid. Afterwards, to my surprise, I was alight in a sprawling web of human connections. But I shouldn’t have been surprised: I am a neuroscientist who studies how the brain creates your mood. In fact, if you understand a bit about your brain’s inner workings, it may help you to cultivate comfort from those around you, whether physically or in spirit, in difficult times.
Research shows that in every moment of your life, your brain regulates the insides of your body, including your organs, hormones and immune system, to keep you alive. The process is like running a household budget, but instead of money, your brain budgets water, salt, glucose and other bodily resources as you gain and lose them. Actions that spend resources, such as exercise or stressful conversations, are like withdrawals from your account. Actions that replenish resources, such as eating, sleeping, and cuddling a beloved pet are like deposits.