Save a life per day – it is as easy as cutting a cake. It’s just that you’re not even aware of the fact that you just did that. One simple action or a kind gesture can make the difference between life and death.
To better paint that picture, here’s the text I stumbled upon recently, that reminded me of one horrible statistic and fact of life. It was written by a young woman:
“I noticed that my boyfriend would always wave to everyone while we were driving around. No matter who it was, he’d flash a smile, and wave happily, even if they gave him weird looks and didn’t wave back.
I asked him why he waves to strangers like that, and he said, ‘I heard about some people who had tried but failed to commit suicide. Many of them said that if a stranger had just acknowledged them with a smile or a wave, they wouldn’t have tried to end their lives. I want to save a life today’.”
How can this save a life?
You see, a large number of suicides is caused by nothing more but the feeling of loneliness and complete rejection. We are talking about the people who suffered from severe deprivation of one important brain chemical (neurotransmitter) – serotonin.
When our expressions get validated by our social environment, the serotonin neurotransmitter gets activated, creating a euphoric effect. We feel overwhelmed and eager to achieve even more because we know that we will be rewarded with that same feeling again.
But when that validation voids, serotonin doesn’t get activated and we fall into a state of depression. More times we are exposed to this state of mind, more likely it is for us to start thinking about ending our lives.
I’ve personally met a few people who openly admitted that the only reason they were planning the suicide was their invisibility to the other people in their environment. They felt like shadows nobody is noticing. Dull jobs and hardly any kind of excitement pushed them into the state of boredom at first. Next came the chronic procrastination that led to yet another serious deprivation – dopamine.
Dopamine is a special neurotransmitter that fires when we are happy about some sort of our personal achievement, for example. In other words, every step of the progress is being rewarded with the small drop of dopamine. As we are moving to the closure, that dose increases and reaches its peak when we successfully complete something.
Take a simple to-do list and you’ll feel the small dose of dopamine every time you cross some errand.
And when we are able to combine these two chemicals (when our personal achievement gets validated and recognized by our social environment, for example), we feel the ultimate “high.”
Some folks choose the shortcut and inject the heroin to trigger the secretion of these two chemicals, but as there is no oxytocin activation, they soon become addicted.
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In social contact, when our expressions get validated, we are simultaneously rewarded with all three and it is important to earn your highs because dopamine is a highly addictive substance. Only the proper dose of oxytocin chemical can prevent addiction because oxytocin inhibits the unwanted addictive effect of dopamine.
The above situation is most likely your everyday life. You’ll feel this combo on several occasions throughout the day.
We can’t live without it
Now imagine your life without any of these 3 primary chemicals. Just try to imagine a single day where you haven’t been able to “earn” the activation of these 3 life-important neurotransmitters. It is one of those unbearable days we all feel from time to time. You just need someone to come and “save a life”.
What about a week without it. A month. A year.
The neural activity in the brain would become abnormal and the state of chronic depression would trigger dark thought. Your life would lose every meaning and you’d feel like you’d be better off if you cease to exist.
Next, you’d be dressing up and walking to a hardware store to buy a rope. In a few hours, there will be no more of you. Only a faded memory of a guy who once lived there.
But, let’s say that on your way, you trip on a bump and lose your balance. Destiny kicks in and hand of a complete stranger grabs your arm and lifts you up. You look at those brown eyes and see the guy smiling at you, telling you to be more careful.
That simple gesture fired up all 3 chemicals at once at both of you. Our mirror neurons are responsible for that. What you felt, he felt and vice versa. All of those who witnessed his act got a shot of oxytocin. It’s the way we form the group and choose our leaders.
The weak neural activity of your brain just got revived. Neurons are firing on the optimal frequency and life gets back to normal.
All it took was that one simple kind gesture from a complete stranger for you to even forget what you were doing there.
Remember that. A smile goes a long way. It can save a life. And you can actually save many lives every day.