What makes you happy? What makes you sad? And what do any of those feelings have to do with playing the Challenge on Vocabulary.com? A whole lot, apparently, as new research points to the idea that your brain, when happier, is better able to learn.

In our post about metacognition a few weeks ago, we wrote about the Blue School in Manhattan, a lab-style elementary applying techniques drawn from neuroscience to elementary education, including the idea that children need to prepare their brains for learning by calming their emotions. In a profile of the school, the New York Times described how Blue School students are taught that anger, stress, and fear create an “amygdala hijack.” For those of us who are scratching our heads, wondering if “amygdala hijack” isn’t a quick plot description of Star Wars, Episode I, the article goes on to explain:

With ample research showing that negative emotions impede learning while positive emotions broaden children’s attention and their ability to acquire and retain information, strategies for regulating emotions are getting more emphasis in progressive schools across the country.

And the same can be true for you when you play the Challenge. Next time you play, try transporting yourself to your happy place before you begin. Call that friend you’ve been mad at and make up the fight, go for a walk and take deep breaths of spring air, put on that new shirt you feel so good about, or, when all else fails, turn to espresso and chocolate and fake smiling.

Or...simply play the Challenge, because what can make you happier than learning new words? Chance are, if you’re playing a lot, we don’t even need to tell you how good the Challenge makes you feel, itself. Like meditation or a walk in nature, playing the Challenge can calm you down by letting your brain relax into a focused state. Especially now that we've added even more ways to tell you you're doing a great job. (Read about those here, and watch a quick video on how to use them here.)  So use the Challenge to find your true north. And then proceed from there.