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Brains hard-wired for hard work

A prior section emphasized how brain research is showing that the way people interpret and respond to experience can trigger chronic stress reactions that harm the system (Aldwin & Revenson, 1987; Kreitner & Kinicki, 2008; Norden, 2007). Other emerging brain research is providing additional insights into the importance of stress for supporting wellness and productivity in human systems and can help identify a cause of the growing incapacity to cope with reality from an affluent state.

While modern science is treating rising depression rates with pills for adults, children, and even pets, Neuroscientist Kelly Lambert (2008) said that “research has yet to find convincing evidence” (p. 31) that the pills are treating the cause of depression. If Lambert is correct, general system theory might help psychologists to understand that treating symptoms with pills may not only allow the disease to fester but may also exacerbate the problem. The cure for mental dysfunction may be more complicated than popping pills.

Echoing Bertalanffy, Maslow, and thousands of years of religion and philosophy, brain research is showing that the more comfortable life is, the more depressed people become. Lambert said, “Our cushy, digitally-driven, contemporary lifestyles… may be at the root of the soaring rates of depression” (p. 32). The human brain appears to be hardwired to derive satisfaction from meaningful action that comes from effectively managing complex and challenging tasks.

The brain’s innate “effort-driven-rewards” process is an evolutionary tool that gave humans satisfaction in purposeful activities that fostered adaptability and survival, and that builds resilience against emotional disorders. The lifestyles of modern humans have significantly changed, but humans have “retained the innate need for achieving effort-driven rewards. The more humans fire the effort-driven-rewards system, “the greater the sense of well-being” (p. 34).

For example, an individual may gain more satisfaction from playing a soccer game than playing a video game, hunting and cooking a meal may provide more satisfaction than picking up lunch at the McDonald’s drive-thru, sharing stories with friends around a campfire may be more rewarding than exchanging text messages.

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