Appreciation

The article 4 Most Postive and Negative Behaviours identifies the 4 behaviours present in a successful relationship, which was based on 20 years of research of married couples.

The second behaviour in the article is one based around showing appreciation, fondness & admiration, and is a essential component in all successful & loving relationships.

So Why is it Important?

When we feel appreciated the good feelings that follow trigger a biological event in our brain.

We have approximately 10 billion neurons - which are actually just  another type of cells. Each neuron has one axon and on average 10,000 dendrites.

All brain activity is the result of electrical and chemical activity involving these neurons. An electrical signal goes out from a neuron to the end of its axon, where a chemical is then released (neurotransmitter) across the synapse. This is received by a neighboring neuron’s dendrites where it is turned back into an electrical signal and then travels back along the dendrite to that neuron.

The chemical released from the axon is based on the purpose. All emotions, experiences and learnings trigger different chemicals. Dopamine (see article ‘What is Love') is one chemical that is released when a ‘feel good’ emotion is heard or seen. The more pleasurable the feeling the higher the firing rate of the dopamine (think of the process as being like a miniature aerosol scent spray).

Therefore, feeling appreciated and valued causes the brain to release some of its own natural opiates. What a far better solution than having to resort to drugs or alcohol to experience a similar feeling - especially given that with chemical stimulation, the brain becomes quickly addicted to it, while at the same time also becoming used to it, thus requiring more and more as time goes on.

The release of dopamine then results in stimulation of the fibres of the Medial Forebrain Bundle (MFB), which are found in the Limbic System . This plays a key role in all behaviour responses, learning and reinforcement.

So not only do you feel good when praised, but over time that positive feeling towards your partner becomes reinforced, and as a consequence the behaviour will be repeated – resulting in an even happier relationship. In addition, when you are made to feel good about yourself, you are far more likely to reciprocate and make your partner feel good about themselves in return.

This wiring is a necessary part of human survival, as it enables us to want to keep doing things that support our survival and well being. The brains reward systems act like a wise parent rewarding a child whenever they do things that are positive and beneficial. This is also why, as part of a positive  parenting, encouragement and not negativity is soo important for children too.

The MFB also carries signals to the hippocampus, which is an important memory structure in the brain. Appreciation (reward) signals make experiences more enjoyable, and are thus more likely to be stored permanently in long-term memory.

Janov, who wrote the Primal Scream says “positive thoughts are not like opiates, they are opiates. When someone says you are really good or we care about you - these thoughts are tranquilizing”.

And remember – everything written above also works in exactly the same in reverse.

For example, criticism or defensiveness triggers an opposite set of biological events - creating and storing negative feelings, emotions and memories – thus destroying long term relationships.