Recently there has been much publicity about the dangers of texting, talking on the phone, posting, and taking selfies when you are driving. On April 24, 2014 a young woman in North Carolina posted on twitter how happy she was while listening to the Happy Song on the radio. A minute later there was an emergency call. She had gone into the wrong lane while she was posting and hit a waste management truck head on. The car swerved off the road and caught fire. By the time help arrived she was dead.
While everyone wants happiness, sometimes your level of euphoria can get so high that you lose your reasoning capacity. It creates the same effect as alcohol or drugs where the pleasure center of the brain get stimulated and the reasoning centers of the brain don’t work as well. Although the effect is much less intense than alcohol or drugs, it impairs reasoning.
The brain has chemicals that make you feel pleasurable feelings. Serotonin is the chemical that makes you able to feel good even when nothing exciting happens. Dopamine makes you go into a happy stupor when you just had good news. That is not a bad thing. norepinephrine makes you excited and ebullient. Some people who have a deficiency of these chemicals need antidepressant medication.
When you are very happy and excited, these chemicals get secreted in greater amounts than the usual. It can create a decrease in your reasoning capacities. Suddenly you feel as if the laws of nature do not apply to you. For example, you don’t have to drive right, study for a test, or do anything that is a nuisance. The feelings are addicting so you don’t want to stop feeling this high and go back to your duties. A basic example would be when you go out to lunch with a friend, have a great time but then let out a sigh when you change your thoughts back to the afternoon work agenda.
You might ask, “So was should never get very happy so we can survive, who wants to do that”? No the trick is to keep thinking and to realize that you can return to your euphoria later. When you are doing something that requires concentration, being present with your endeavor is a form of quiet happiness. Even if you drive down the same road every day driving down it and focusing on your driving is not only good sense but you always feel happy when your mind is in the present moment. You can return to feeling good about your good news. If you are happy about a song on the radio you will do okay enjoying it now and texting your friends only when you get to your destination. You will live, both literally and figuratively.
When you feel intense emotion, whether it is happy or unhappy, your lower brain gets active and your higher brain (cerebral cortex) is not as active. Alcohol and drugs intensify this. This is why it is important to focus and think when you do an activity. You re capture the happy feeling when you finish the task and enjoy it safely.
Finally, by writing this I am not condemning the woman who died in the accident. Anything that happens is meaningful. Her death is meaningful as it can make others aware of the dangers of texting and driving. It can save lives.