Why the gray matter is distracting us in lockdown


Simply put, when vomiting occurs during an epidemic, it is difficult to say “no”. Drinking an extra glass of wine here, eating half a birthday cake in a person sitting there – whatever, to avoid the constant stress of life under lockdown. It felt appropriate in March, anyway.

But nine months, when experience has demonstrated that a packet of chain-cigarettes does not compensate for human interactions, why do bad habits compel us?

Prolonged traumatic, or “chronic toxic,” stress that is experiencing an epidemic in most people makes it more difficult to keep desires in check, and this in turn promotes achieving irrational pleasure, Drs. Said Robert Lustig, a professor emeritus at the University of California, San Francisco, in pediatric endocrinology and “metabolic.” In scientific terms: When the brain is replenished on a long-term basis with the stress hormone cortisol, it inhibits the function of the prefrontal cortex, leading to excessive activation of the brain’s “reward center” – excessive baking, triggering alcohol. Smoking and shopping that filled the 2020 idle hours.

“Dopamine is the reward neurotransmitter. It is held in check by the prefrontal cortex. When this inhibition is released, the reward center looks for hedonic stimuli,” Lustig said. “They can be chemical – cocaine, heroin, nicotine, alcohol, sugar – or behavior – shopping, gambling, internet gaming, social media, pornography.”

Take dear carbohydrate sugar. At the onset of the epidemic, a culinary frenzy swept the country, offering both relatively accessible quarantine hobbies and a constant supply of carbs. Like hand sanitizers and toilet paper, flour and yeast went from hot supermarket staples to hot-ticket items, which were quickly nabbed from store shelves.

But what exactly about baking is so conducive to quarantine? Was this a twist of dough-kneading or something more hedonistic? According to NPD Group data, total kitchen sales in the US grew 15 percent in the first nine months of the year, while sales of bread-specific books grew 145 percent. It was 200,000 more bread cookbooks sold in 2019. Meanwhile, cookbooks about vegetarian and other comparatively healthy recipes went on sale in March and April.

Lentig said that the preparation of baked goods in quarantine was clearly more than just the joy of cooking. “Baking means carbohydrates and especially sugar – both for diversion and for intoxication. And aren’t they really the same?” he said.

Flour can range from shifting flour to full addiction, but it raises the question of why people turn to certain things for comfort when they know that the feeling is fleeting.

“It’s the million-dollar question,” said Laurie Santos, professor of psychology at Yale University and host of “The Happiness Lab” podcast. “We know neurosynthetically that there is a disconnect between the types of things we want and the kinds of things we like. Desiring is a motivational process. How you’re going to feel when you get it.”

She said that addiction is the strongest in the field of drugs: craving, or “wanting,” the drug will drive people to extremes to obtain it, but the actual payoff, or “choice”, is lower because they first got It is a habit only.

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“The other side is that we don’t have the ‘desire’ for things that work. We don’t have time to experience social connections, to do good for others, to take time to feel gratitude. . Santos said that the mechanism to search for that stuff. We don’t realize what’s missing.

One thing that was widely desired during the epidemic: alcohol. Women, in particular, were more susceptible to the stress of drinking in quarantine. As a group, they experienced decreased job security and increased social isolation – factors that historically have driven alcohol consumption.

In April, online liquor sales rose more than 500 percent from the previous year, with nearly all Americans under orders to stay home. According to Nilsson, online sales survived in the early days following the epidemic, as bars and restaurants temporarily opened, but online liquor sales in October also boosted sales of most other consumer goods, according to Nielsen.

Another more fake habit that made a comeback was smoking. Given the effects of coronaviruses on the respiratory system, burning cigarettes may seem unfathomable to some this year, but sales indicate that nicotine’s chemical incentives remained an attraction for many. Overall US tobacco sales were slightly curbed in March through October. And it is not just stress that is reducing consumption. The companies attribute higher sales to an increase in disposable income for Americans, who were boosted by incentive payments and spent less money on social activities like eating out – which meant they had more opportunities to smoke at home.

As Americans coped with the epidemic’s discretionary spending, it wasn’t just the big tobacco that benefitted: it became Cyber ​​Monday, the first Monday after November 30, the largest online shopping day in American history, A grand total of $ 10.7 was held. Billion in purchase – a number as indicative of the collective brain’s quest for satisfaction as any other. And one category that was remarkably self-care.

“Buying new physical assets simply doesn’t make us as happy as we think. In fact, we would be better off spending money on other people.”

“Self-care is the ultimate form of expressing self-love,” said Colin McCain, author of “Crystal Rx” and founder of Style Richuel, a fashion-meets-mysticism brand. McCann’s services include energetic closet cleaning and self-confirming crystals and tarot readings, after which customers receive a highly curated “me-time” kit and a mood board. McCain said that as a high-end, niche offering, StyleRichael continues to do business even though it has moved completely online.

Consumer spending estimates from RetailMeNot indicate that people will spend more money on gifts for themselves this weekend than their parents, in-laws or best friends. Santos said, but arrogant shopping would not bring the joy of the holiday that one might expect.

“Buying new physical assets simply doesn’t make us as happy as we think. In fact, we’d be better off spending money on other people. Doing good for others is really the one thing that makes us happy., ” he said.

With the help of vaccines, the return of society can be a mere replacement of enduring satisfaction-seeking habits such as encouraging testing with more permanent promotion.

Santa said, “After the lockdown, we are going to start afresh on these routines, how we interact, who we interact with.” “It will actually give us opportunities to build more positive habits and build a more wholesome life for ourselves using what we have learned during this time.”

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