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Human emotions and thermodynamics!

Sometimes we feel that the most exciting moment in our lives had faded out so fast, right! For instance, a kid getting her favourite toy as a gift gets so excited, the kid immediately starts playing with it. After few hours of play, the kid loses her excitement naturally. It is identical with adults too. Imagine getting your dream car as a gift on your 25th birthday. The enthusiasm seems to be overpouring, but how long will it last? A week? A month? But what happens after a week or a month? The excitement drops down, and at some point, it fades out.

Consider another situation. You fancy buying a house. You are motivated by the thought of owning a dream house with a pool and a garden. You have the support of your family in your new venture. As a result, you do some research browsing through the real-estate websites about the suitable locality, architecture, cost and so on so forth. You visit and inspect the houses on sale. Initially, you may see a couple of houses on sale in a week. You are lucky to land yourself a good deal on the house you like in the first few weeks. Usually, it may not be the case for everyone! After going through a dozen houses in a couple of weeks, you will start to lose enthusiasm. As time goes by, you may end up buying a house without a pool or a garden, which is not the dream house you planned for in the beginning. It is also possible sometimes that you may drop the idea of buying a house and end up buying a car or a plot of agricultural land. What happened to the excitement that you had initially backed up by your strong motivation and family support? It faded out, right! What makes such excitement fade out? Why can’t we stay excited longer than the usual amount of time? Perhaps, a straightforward answer could be that we get bored!

There is a thermodynamic point of view to explain such behaviour where one loses excitement with time. Gibb’s free energy concept, which generally explains which state of matter is stable at a given pressure-temperature condition in a closed system, can be applied to the behaviour of human emotions. In nature, the atoms or ions – the basic building blocks of the substances – always tend to attain the lower energy state. For example, consider a book placed on the floor and a book at the height of 2 meters from the ground. The book held at an altitude of 2 meters from the ground has higher gravitational potential energy than the book placed on the floor. Because of the higher energy configuration of the book at a height, it always tends to fall on the ground to attain the lower energy configuration. The opposite, i.e. the book on the floor rising above, can never happen on the surface of the Earth.

Similarly, in a closed chemical system, the reaction always proceeds in the direction in which Gibb’s free energy is minimum. In simple words, the ice is the stable phase at temperatures below 0˚C because, at this temperature, the Gibbs free energy of formation of ice is lower than Gibb’s free energy of formation of liquid water. At temperatures above 4˚C and less than 100˚C, Gibb’s free energy of liquid water formation is lower than Gibb’s free energy of formation of water vapour (or ice!?).

This same principle can be applied to human emotions as well! We are constantly bombarded with various emotions in our day-to-day life, and our mind always tries to attain a stable state. Because the stable condition is the lower energy configuration of our mind, whereas the various emotions tend to take our mind to the higher energy configuration. The excitement of the kid when she finds her favourite toy, or the excitement of an adult when they get their dream car, or the motivated mind to buy a dream house are excited states where the mind is at the higher energy configurations. Instincts kick in with time, and the mind subdues to the lower energy levels. That is when a person starts to get bored because we are not trained to be in a stable state since our childhood. When we were kids, our parents or teachers or relatives kept us excited about so many things. Being happy (positive emotion) or sad (negative emotion) were the two fundamental emotions we faced as kids. But as we grew, several other emotions – like being angry, jealous, and depressed – kicked in. These emotions can be generally classified as positive and negative emotions. Emotions that keep us happy and motivated are called positive emotions, whereas the emotions that usually demotivates us are called negative emotions.

If you analyse your cognitive behaviour carefully, both positive and negative emotions are short-lived. How long these emotions live with us depends on the turn of events in our lives. Positive emotion can stay long with us if we see things and events positively, whereas negative emotion can kick in when you have a lousy turn of events. If you yield to either of the feelings for a prolonged time, you lose control of your mind. As these emotions fade out, your mind retains a stable state, and you don’t know what to do at that moment. You get bored!

Train your mind to be in a stable state. Learn to enjoy yourself because, ultimately, you must live with yourself!


Geoexplorer and Thinker

This Post Has 21 Comments

  1. Pradeep

    Excellent writing. Connecting emotions to thermodynamics so seamlessly is a master stroke. Overpouring or overpowering ?

  2. Saniyah

    This is a very interesting way to look at human emotions with correlation to science .
    Very nice read .
    Thank you.

  3. Saswat Subedit

    Nicely explained, great words sir as you always did in lectures

  4. Kiran

    Superb, relating emotions with the Gibbs free energy.

    It will help me to understand my emotions better

  5. Dr Vishwanath R

    Implying Gibbs free energy concept to human emotions its really a new approach & well correlated.

  6. Adyasha Nanda

    Beautiful correlation between science and human psychology. 👍👍

  7. Sayed Waliallah Abrar

    Sir this article is really apt for the mind conditions in current times of pandemic and the blues that come with it. These tough times have been testing the stability of mind for quite some time and its not helping. The fact that this article addresses the issues of human psychology with the help of thermodynamics, with all it’s technicalities, is actually amazing.

  8. Ahijit Sharma

    So dopamine release would be the gibbs free energy

  9. Kishan Sharma

    Dear professor you proved again that thinking and creativity are the tools to show once potential and 100 percent involvement in a particular field of a mans life.

  10. Mariya John

    We read emotions explained in biological sense. But this one connecting it with thermodynamics is extraordinary Sir. Wonder how we will be if we don’t go back to stable state… Excellent piece of writing. Congrats Sir.

    1. Cam-in

      Jojo! Cool!! A balance of humans reaction and physics. We are an integral organisms.
      I think I have Gibb’s free energy in my PhD… going the enthusiasm down ! Need to train the mind

  11. Priyadarsini jena

    Very interesting writing. The correlation of human emotion and thermodymatics is really very new approach and it also well explained. It appriciated air.

  12. Priyadarsini jena

    Very interesting writing. The correlation of human emotion and thermodymatics is really very new approach and it also well explained. It appriciated Sir.

  13. Devi Parvathy

    Good initiative

  14. Shubham

    Thank you sir, for writing and relating these two components. I would usually put myself into the crisis whether I’m in a metastable state( psuedo) or stable state. I guess, it would fade eventually. Thank you.

  15. Priyadarsini jena

    Very interesting writing. The correlation of human emotion and thermodynamics is really a very new approach and also it well explained. It appriciated sir.

  16. Anagha

    Amazing writing dear sir!! The observation of yours into mortal beings merged in thermodynamics is simply inexplicable. Thankyou for this productive writing and looking forward for many more!❤️

  17. Tejas K

    Theory of relativity at its best 👏👏👏👏

  18. Anita George

    Nicely affiliated the human emotions and thermodynamics. I could learn about Gibbs Free Energy. Thanks. Keep writing.
    Best Wishes

  19. Monalisa Mahanta

    Nicely explained sir, correlating human emotions and thermodynamics is amazing.

  20. Tejaswi

    Excellent writing. All through, people used to apply principles of thermodynamics only to different branches of science but this article is an eye opener as to how scientific principles can be made to understand easily by showcasing their applications in everyday life emotions!

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