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IAF aircraft fly over Jerusalem’s Sacher Park for Independence Day

How Moving from Sadness to Joy can Affect the Brain

Remembrance Day is one of the most difficult days on the Israeli calendar. For 24 hours, people gather in collective mourning for the country’s fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism. Two sirens mark the day, one at nightfall and one the following morning. The country’s cemeteries are packed with families and friends of fallen loved ones, and with those who did not know them, but still wish to remember them.

Then, as the sun begins to dip and the sky begins to darken, a change occurs. Firework displays are prepared, grills are fired up and the country shifts into celebrating Independence Day. After 24 hours of shared sadness, the country turns to 24 hours of shared celebration.

The holidays of Remembrance Day and Independence Day are not one after the other by coincidence. Rather, they follow the belief that without one we cannot have the other, and that the shared grief must turn into shared joy, to honor what was saved and created by those who fell protecting it.

But how does this affect us psychologically? Is it really something that can be done with ease, this shift from intense grief to happiness? What toll does it take on the human mind and body to make this transition? Can we trick our brains into feeling happy?

A common belief is that faking a smile can actually make you experience real happiness. A 2013 study carried out by researchers at the University of Cardiff in Wales found that a surprising side-effect in people who had undergone Botox injections was that the inability to frown appeared to actually make them happier.

Other similar research has backed up this idea that faking a smile or being unable to frown, can cause real happiness.

Remembrance Day is a painful day for many people. It can be a day in which intense trauma is relived – whether it is the trauma of learning of the loss of a loved one, or the trauma of actually watching their death, as is the case with many IDF veterans who lost friends in military operations.

So how do people reliving and re-experiencing trauma manage to “switch it off” in order to celebrate Independence Day?

Psychologists believe that with trauma comes a certain level of dissociation, ranging from a mild feeling of disconnection from the body to depersonalization and out-of-body experiences. However, while dissociation can be harmful and damaging, it can also play into the way we experience joy, allowing people to still feel positive emotions, even after extensive trauma.

Left untreated, post-traumatic stress can result in a person learning to shut off their emotions at will, whether they feel anger, fear, or sadness. However, because a person cannot select which emotions to shut out, positive ones such as joy, curiosity, and excitement also become blocked out. Only through correct treatment can a person restore the ability to feel the full extent of their emotions without being overwhelmed by them.

This process, although lengthy, will also allow a person to develop a healthy relationship with dissociation, allowing them to feel their full range of emotions, while still being able put them at the back of the mind when needed. This allows them to shift dissociation in a healthy and fluid process.

This is one way in which a person might be able to shift from the intense sadness of Remembrance Day to the celebratory atmosphere of Independence Day. (JPost / VFI News)

The suggestions, opinions, and scripture references made by VFI News writers and editors are based on the best information received.

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