The Arousal Factor

Dear Reader,

I considered writing this post about the weather. The majority of posts that I have written about the weather is basically code for “I have absolutely nothing to say!” (examples here and here). So, instead of writing something about how the air in Boston is cold and the nights are longer (no duh, it’s December!), I’m going to write about why I have nothing to say.

Have you ever been so happy or excited about something that you are just looking for excuses to bring the topic up in conversation? For example, I remember in college when discussions would ceaselessly revolve around new love interests. Similarly, who doesn’t know someone who always has a picture of their pet at the ready to share in the course of conversation? I remember when I got into my Master’s program, I could not help but broadcast the news across Facebook fewer than 24 hours after receiving the acceptance letter! For some reason, we just want to share things that amuse us!

^^Seriously! I didn’t make that up! A Psychological Science research article found that feelings of fear, anger, and amusement drive people to share news and information. Specifically, the researcher found that emotions driven by high “arousal” and action make us want to share while low arousal emotions like sadness or contentment make us less likely to share. To be clear, high arousal is not necessary a good thing — unless, you find all stark emotions, like anger and fear, to be joy ride. High arousal, like the name implies, simply refers to increased levels of excitement and an inclination toward action. Similarly, low arousal is not always bad. Contentment, in fact, can be a pleasant feeling, however, it is considered to be “low arousal” as it does not inspire action.

When I look over my blog, I am intrigued but not shocked at these findings. I have written a number of posts (particularly in 2019) about stress, which was fueled (in my case) by the high arousal emotion of anger. Similarly, whenever I engage in a particularly wonderful experience (like my traveling adventures), I am literally typing up posts on the ride home. However, I am not very much inspired to write when I experience the “low arousal” emotions such as contentment. For me, the onset of the pandemic was—interestingly—a long period of low arousal. During this time, at a loss for what to write, I began blogging about cooking/ baking recipes (more here) as well as book reviews (more here).

Right now, I am very fortunate to be experiencing a period of “low arousal” — color me content! My classes this semester are coming to a close (woohoo!) and I’m in the midst of working on finals. I have loads of grading to do, writing to do, and I’ve fallen into a comfortable routine that honestly…does not really inspire within me too much creativity. My brain is tired; my body is tired (I’m exercising pretty regularly to combat the long sedentary work hours), and things are just fine. Ho hum.

I have some adventures on the horizon to look forward to (more to come on that later, of course!). I will have busier periods, more exciting periods, and most likely sad periods as well. However, in the absence of high energy and excitement, I will gladly accept contentment (and not much to say).

Wishing you happiness and good arousal, dear Reader!



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