Our content covers a large number of well-being topics. Some of the topics (e.g. dopamine, oxytocin, cortisol, attachment) each have 10,000+ scientific studies. Due to the volume of research, this document is not intended to be a comprehensive list of supporting research but rather a good place to start.

Note: We try to present a simple form of the science that is both easy to understand and leads to positive behavioral change. Our goal is not to fully educate on a single topic (e.g. oxytocin, attachment, etc.). We cover such a large number of topics that, even at a simplified level, it is a challenge to avoid overwhelming our users.



Related Research terms: Toxic Stress, eustress (good stress) and distress (bad stress), Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)

The amounts of cortisol along the length of a hair correspond to cortisol levels at the time that part of the hair was growing. This allows researchers to estimate levels over time. Studies of cortisol in hair show that children with a stable and warm family life have lower levels than children from homes with high levels of conflict.

“Social relationships have been widely recognized as protective factors for psychological well-being (Taylor, 2011) and physical health (Cohen, 2004; Uchino, 2006). With respect to mental illness, higher levels of social support are associated with lower prevalence, milder manifestations, or better treatment outcomes for a number of psychiatric conditions (Kessler, Price, & Wortman, 1985). Two broad sets of mechanisms are believed to underlie these beneficial effects: stress-buffering effects and main effects (Cohen, 2004; Thoits, 2011). First, social support networks can promote positive outcomes by buffering (i.e., reducing or blocking) the impact of stressful life experiences (Cobb, 1976; Cohen & Wills, 1985). Stressful life events are important risk factors in the development and maintenance of psychopathology (Grant et al., 2003), whereas social relationships have been shown to serve as coping resources (Taylor & Stanton, 2007), which are known to impact individuals’ affective, cognitive, and neurobiological stress responses. Secondly, main effect models suggest that relationships are important regulators of psychological well-being and of many physiological functions (Gunnar & Donzella, 2002; Reis, Collins, & Berscheid, 2000) and, critically, that loss or lack of relationships is stressful and can increase risk for mental illness (e.g., Monroe, Rohde, Seeley, & Lewinsohn, 1999; Tyrka et al., 2008). Much of this work has been conducted with adults, and relatively little is known about these types of mechanisms in children and adolescents. We briefly review extant work in this area focusing primarily on stress-buffering effects, then describe some of the myriad questions that still remain and argue that in order to fully understand the processes through which relationships impact stress regulation, we need to adopt a developmental perspective. We focus primarily on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical (HPA) axis as a stress-mediating biological system, but the important role of the autonomic nervous system and its interaction with the HPA axis are undeniable and should continue to be explored in this area of research.”


“Oxytocin, a neuropeptide produced in the hypothalamus, has gained considerable attention given its presumed role in prosocial behaviors (Donaldson and Young, 2008). In this regard, endogenous oxytocin levels have been associated with trust behaviors (Zak et al., 2005, Kéri et al., 2009), maternal sensitivity (Feldman et al., 2012) and empathy towards strangers (Barraza and Zak, 2009). Furthermore, administration of oxytocin by nasal spray promotes enhanced generosity (Zak et al., 2007), trust (Kosfeld et al., 2005), empathy (Domes et al., 2007), positive communication (Ditzen et al., 2009), and helping behavior (Riem et al., 2013).

Through interactions with other biological systems, oxytocin can modulate stress responses, such as cortisol and cytokine reactivity, and may thus be germane to stress-related psychological disorders (McQuaid et al., 2014). For instance, intranasal oxytocin attenuated salivary cortisol elevations elicited by a physical stressor (Cardoso et al., 2013), limited the cortisol rise elicited by social ostracism (Linnen et al., 2012) and that associated with couple conflict (Ditzen et al., 2009). “

Labeling Emotions

“Putting feelings into words can be an effective way to manage unwanted emotions and the distress associated with aversive events. A century of different forms of talk therapy and countless bedside diaries attest to this notion. In the past two decades, there has been a great deal of research demonstrating that putting feelings into words leads to long term improvements in mental and physical health (Frattaroli, 2006; Pennebaker & Beall, 1986). Most recently, it was demonstrated that writing down one’s worries regarding an impending exam significantly improved performance on that exam just moments later (Ramirez & Beilock, 2011). Nevertheless, broad consensus is still lacking regarding the mechanisms that allow putting feelings into words to be beneficial. In the current research, we suggest that part of the benefit results from the fact that putting feelings into words involves ‘affect labeling.’ Whereas putting feelings into words can involve a lengthy characterization of one’s feelings along with attempts to find new insights and understandings, affect labeling refers to the simple act of using words to characterize feelings or the emotional aspects of stimuli and events. A number of fMRI studies have examined the neural correlates of affect labeling (Berkman & Lieberman, 2009) and the results are consistent with an emotion regulation account of the benefits of putting feelings into words. However, neural responses are just one measure of emotional responses and no study to date has examined the subjective emotional consequences of affect labeling.”

Building Deep Bonds/Sprinklers

Related Terms: Attachment, Bowlby, Gottman

“Self-criticism appears to originate, in part, through experiences with critical, rejecting parents displaying inconsistent love (Koestner, Zuroff, & Powers, 1991; McCranie & Bass, 1984; Thompson & Zuroff, 1999; Whiffen & Sasseville, 1991). Children are postulated to internalize these experiences to form negative internal working models of self, other, and self-other relationships, which influence subsequent interpersonal interactions (e.g., Baldwin, 1992; Blatt & Homann, 1992). Maladaptive social relations then perpetuate negative representations of self and others and may contribute to the maintenance of self-criticism (Andrews, 1989), which, according to longitudinal research, is highly stable (r = .57, p < .01) in females from age 12 to 31 (Koestner et al., 1991) and is associated with personal and interpersonal dissatisfaction and maladjustment throughout this period (Zuroff, Koestner, & Powers, 1994). Self-critics’ negative childhood experiences thus seem to contribute to a pattern of entering, creating, or manipulating subsequent interpersonal environments in ways that perpetuate their negative self-image and increase vulnerability to depression (for a review of relevant literature, see Shahar, Joiner, Zuroff, & Blatt, 2004; Zuroff, Mongrain, & Santor, 2004). Empirical support for this unconscious, self-fulfilling feedback loop (Andrews, 1989) comes from Swann and colleagues, who argue that such dynamics help increase one’s sense of intrapsychic and interpersonal prediction and control (for a review, see Giesler et al., 1999). These negative interpersonal cycles may also extend to parent–child relationships. For example, Thompson and Zuroff (1998) reported that self-critical mothers provided more negative feedback and were more controlling and punitive of their adolescent daughters.More recently,Besser and Priel (2005) investigated personality vulnerabilities, depression, and attachment styles among three generation triads of women. They found not only that insecurely attached, self-critical mothers were vulnerable to depression, but also that maternal depression might lead to daughters’ insecure attachment, which can consequently contribute to self-criticism and depression (Besser & Priel, 2005).”

Activation/Fight or Flight

Naming Emotions

John Gottman calls these types of practices “emotion coaching”. A lot of good studies are referenced in this article.

“Children who are coached have fewer emotional and behavior problems, including problems with anger, anxiety, and acting out (Hurrell et al 2017; Dumcombe et al 2014; Short et al 2010; Gottman et al 1996).
Emotional regulation (ER) deficits have been identified as risk factors for poor socioemotional adjustment and increased symptomatology (e.g., Cicchetti et al. 1995; Zeman et al. 2002). Even though non-clinical youth can show ER deficits, clinically anxious youth have been identified as displaying significantly more emotional competence deficits than non-clinical youth (e.g., Suveg et al. 2008; Suveg and Zeman 2004). These deficits include more difficulty regulating negative emotions (Hurrell et al. 2015; Suveg and Zeman 2004), lower confidence and knowledge about how to modify emotional states (Southam-Gerow and Kendall 2000; Suveg and Zeman 2004), and parents report that anxious youth are generally more emotionally labile and negative (Hurrell et al. 2015; Suveg and Zeman 2004). Moreover, when anxious youth with poor ER are compared to anxious youth who do not have poor ER, greater impairments in social functioning and more difficulties with several mood states are apparent (e.g., Kerns et al. 2014). Among non-clinical samples, researchers have established that several parenting factors are related to ER in children (Gottman et al. 1996). In particular, parents’ meta-emotion has been identified as impacting children’s ER (Gottman et al. 1996). Parental meta-emotion is defined by Gottman et al. (1996) as the feelings and thoughts that one has about emotion. Further, Gottman et al. (1996) state that parents’ meta-emotion philosophy refers to the organised set of thoughts and feelings that parents have about their children’s emotions and their own emotions.”

They also tend to develop better social skills and peer relationships (Denham et al 1997; Gottman et al 1996).

Recommended further reading: Raising an Emotionally Intelligent child by John Gottman


This study covers a lot of topics we address.  We all have micro-trauma’s, little “t” traumas, that we need to process.  If we have close relationships with others and are trained in helping each other process emotions, then the effects of these little “t” traumas will be mitigated and have little or no impact on our long-term well-being.


"Dissociation is any of a wide array of experiences from mild detachment from immediate surroundings to more severe detachment from physical and emotional experiences. The major characteristic of all dissociative phenomena involves a detachment from reality, rather than a loss of reality as in psychosis.[1][2][3][4]Dissociation is commonly displayed on a continuum.[5] In mild cases, dissociation can be regarded as a coping mechanism or defense mechanisms in seeking to master, minimize or tolerate stress – including boredom or conflict.[6][7][8] At the non-pathological end of the continuum, dissociation describes common events such as daydreaming. Further along the continuum are non-pathological altered states of consciousness.[5][9][10]"

Serve and Return

Positive Parenting/Parents Treat siblings differently

"To date, researchers have established both that there are significant sibling differences in parental treatment within families (Feinberg & Hetherington, 2001; Reiss et al., 1995) and that these differences are predictive of child and adolescent outcomes (Anderson, Hetherington, Reiss, & Howe, 1994; Conger & Conger, 1994; Feinberg & Hetherington, 2001; Kowal, Krull, & Kramer, 2004). For example, parent–child conflict appears to contribute to adolescent adjustment largely at the child-specific level (Anderson et al., 1994), results that appear to persist over time (Conger & Conger, 1994)suggesting that social comparisons between the child’s own treatment and that of his or her sibling may lead to attributions regarding who is the favored child (Baker & Daniels, 1990; Kowal et al., 2004; McHale, Crouter, McGuire, & Updegraff, 1995)."

"Almost 60% of variance in adolescent antisocial behavior and 37% of variance in depressive symptoms could be accounted for by conflictual and negative parental behavior directed specifically at the adolescent. In contrast, when a parent directed harsh, aggressive, explosive, and inconsistent parenting toward the sibling, we found less psychopathologic outcome in the adolescent. Parenting behavior directed specifically at each child in the family is a major correlate of symptoms in adolescents. Furthermore, harsh parental behavior directed at a sibling may have protective effects for adolescents, a phenomenon we call the 'sibling barricade.' ”

"Some factors may influence behavior towards children. These may include; "Relationship-driven effects‟. These effects refer to the matching of parent-child characteristics. For example, perhaps the child’s temperament does not match the parent’s preferences or expectations (Feinberg, Solmeyer, & McHale, 2012). Another aspect may involve "Parent-driven effects‟ which means that parents might treat their children differently for reasons of their own. A parent might have a particular reason for favoring or rejecting a particular child: for example, because the child was unwanted-its conception was unplanned (Eriksen & Jensen, 2009) Sometimes a child might be treated in a particular way by a parent, not because of that child’s own characteristics, but because of the characteristics of his or her sibling. If parents find the first born to be difficult; they may have a tendency to consider their next child comparatively easy and vice versa and as a result, they would have a different attitude towards each child and consequently lead to increase preexisting differences between siblings (McHale, Updegraff, & Whiteman, 2012) people's subjective experience, or their self-concept, is seen as the core of individuals‟ personalities. Since parents are generally the major source of influence in the early years of child development, the way parents deal with their children and provide a certain type of home environment influences their personality development (Kennedy & Kramer, 2008).

Most studies of child temperament suggest that sibling differences rely mostly on parents' perception and evaluations of their personality differences. If parent rating measures are prone to contrast effects, it might be due to parent expectations about their children’s temperament, rather than actual child behavior, influencing these perceptions. Plomin and Daniels (2011) found that parents’ perceptions of differences between siblings’ were a more important predictor of adjustment and suggest that parents may label one child as maladjusted on the basis of perceptions of behavioral differences between siblings that are not objectively valid. Therefore, in an attempt to explore a potential consequence of parent contrast effects, it is important to examine whether the association between sibling differences in temperament and the quality of sibling relationships or differential parental treatment differ across parents Parental Influence seems to be more important."


Centeredness in early tribal societies
Early tribal societies all around the world would often have the more senior leaders in the center of the camp (Sources). We believe this occurred because early humans were not attacked from above (e.g., birds), but rather from the side (e.g., other tribes, animals). When a group was camped in an poorly protected environment, there was a chance of attack from other tribes or animals. These tribes tended to put the highest ranking members in the center of the camp since that is the safest location and put the lower ranking members on the edges. Only people who obsessed about their position in the group survived to pass on their genes. This goal appears to persist even though it is no longer needed in a modern society.

The Default Mode Network is Social
We have certain parts of our brain that are active when we aren’t busy with a specific task (e.g. cleaning the house, doing math, etc.) or a specific need (e.g. hunger). This is called our default mode network (DMN). This network appears to largely be the social parts of our brain.

“Increasing studies have shown that regions of the default mode network (DMN) largely activate in tasks requiring participants to understand and interact with others, such as perceiving and interpreting other's emotion status, showing empathy to other people, inferring other's belief and intention, and performing moral judgments on other's behavior (Schilbach et al., 2008; Laird et al., 2011).” 

“We, henceforth, suggest that the physiological 'baseline' of the brain is intimately linked to a psychological 'baseline': human beings have a predisposition for social cognition as the default mode of cognizing which is implemented in the robust pattern of intrinsic brain activity known as the "default system". 

The Default Mode Network appears to change during puberty
The default mode network appears to change during puberty to be more focused on social status compared to earlier childhood.  This may be a reason middle school is so difficult.  Middle school children are suddenly focused on social status but haven’t been trained on how to achieve it.

“Moreover, early adolescents experience “social reorientation”, associated with increasing sensitivity to social cues and peer relationships and enhanced social learning ability in external cultures “ Development of the default-mode network during childhood and adolescence

Current Research
We currently have a research paper in peer review about two studies we performed. The studies were about a year apart and surveyed a total of 1750 participants. The question we found that most predicted long-term well-being was “Did you feel like an outsider in your family?”. Also, our battery of “Centeredness” questions outperformed other famous scales like Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), Benevolent Childhood Experiences (BCEs) and Experiences in Close Relationships (ECR) in predicting young adulthood mental health.

Selfish Herd Theory
The selfish herd theory describes a form of antipredator behavior and was first proposed by W. D. Hamilton in 1971 (Hamilton, 1971). It dictates that within a herd or social structure, animals will position themselves in such a way as to reduce their risk of predation. It is based on the fact that predation risk will be highest on the periphery of the group – and that animals placed in the center of the group will be safest. This theory contradicts the belief that social behaviors evolved to benefit the population or species, but rather focuses on the “selfish” behavior of animals in preserving their own life. This hypothesis has also been employed to explain why animals with a high predation risk often form larger, denser groups (Hemelrijk et al., 2017; Krause, 1994; Morrell et al., 2011). From a behavioral modeling perspective, the theory assumes that each animal has around it a domain of danger (DOD), which can be decreased by surrounding itself with more peers at closer proximity through a series of “movement rules”, ultimately resulting in larger, more compact herds (Morrell et al., 2011).