Martin Guptill reacts as he is run out on the final ball of the Super Over. Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images.

How to juice your brain for joy after watching the Black Caps lose

The Black Caps’ World Cup loss at Lord’s this morning has much of the country feeling pretty shit. From massage to mindfulness, here are five ways to feel just a tiny bit better.

There’s a lot of weepy people out there today folks, a lot of real sad individuals. When you draw twice and still lose because God himself reached down to guide a tiny ball halfway across the pitch into the horizontal bat of a man running at full sprint with enough force to ricochet all the way to the boundary, everything can feel a bit shit. A bit meaningless. And WTF is a Super Over anyway? Three grown men wore sunglasses to The Spinoff’s weekly editorial meeting this morning. The wind outside carries the sound of sobs and leathered wings. Neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine are in short supply. 

Low serotonin is no joke, and it’ll probably turn you into a bit of a dick. A lack of the good stuff can lead to a decrease in impulse control, increased aggression, compulsive, addictive behaviours and generally feeling overwhelmed and helpless. The relationship between serotonin and depression is complex, of course, but substantial research indicates it’s a good idea to keep your levels topped up. Similarly, a lack of dopamine is linked to all manner of mental health issues and addictions to both substances and activities like gambling and compulsive sex.  

So what to do? As in all things, start with a bit of coffee. Don’t even talk to me before I’ve had mine ha ha ha. The good brew is a quick way to stimulate serotonin and dopamine levels – albeit temporarily – and also has the happy side effect of keeping you awake. While we may have lost the cricket (debatable), you need not lose your job. Caffeine functions on the same mechanism as heroin and cocaine, so if self-destruction is your favoured coping mechanism, that’s something to keep in mind.  

Exercise is the oldest trick in the book, but without sufficient serotonin, your motivation can be significantly decreased, meaning it’s going to be harder to convince yourself to do anything more strenuous than sob. That’s why it’s important to create a virtuous cycle, ideally months ago, but even a quick gym session can help set you right. 

Even better, go outside. The sun, believe it or not, is better than halogen globes. We call that “the miracle of nature”, the old “Vitamin D” – drink it in, young flower! Consider pairing the two and run some hill sprints: elevate your heart rate, elevate your mindset. From the crest of your chosen hill, cast your eyes out over the homes around you. There are millions of people out there, all living their own vivid lives, and some of them don’t give a shit about cricket. Try to be like them.  

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As little as 20 minutes of massage has been shown to reduce feelings of depression and anxiety in pregnant women – who have it harder than you – as well as increase levels of serotonin and dopamine, and lower levels of stress-related hormones like cortisol. Find someone with strong hands and a kind heart to rub you down, or sell your vintage Black Caps jerseys and pay a professional. If you haven’t been dumped for being a mopey shit all morning, the touch of your significant other goes a long way too. Even more so if they’ll still sleep with you.

Gratitude is, as they say, the attitude. What are you grateful for today? It could have been Australia! Ben Stokes is technically a Kiwi! Think back to a happy moment, like say the 49th over, before everything went totally, disgustingly, heart-breakingly balls up. How did you feel? How did Trent Boult feel, with his wee little smile? Open your heart to that space. Mindfulness meditation can help you deal with the turbulence of a traumatic time. You are a deep lake, and your thoughts are but ripples on the surface. Watch them pass like clouds in the sky. 

A guided meditation: Think of a lotus flower on the surface of a still pond. It’s unfurling. Kane Williamson sits cross legged in the middle, a cricket ball of pure light in his gently folded hands. “Anger is like holding a coal and expecting someone else to get burned,” he says. His smile is beatific. This is what it is to be in the presence of the guru. As the lotus begins to turn it rises above the surface of the pond. A single droplet of water falls from its base. Within the droplet, the universe. “A game of cricket is like a flash of lightning in the eyes of the Buddha,” Kane says. His mouth hasn’t moved: the voice is within you. The ball of light leaves his hands. It enters through your heart chakra, filling you with a wave of peace. You’re weightless now, rapturous, rising through the astral plane. Kane takes you by the hand. You join him in the lotus. The petals enclose you. It’s warm, and dark, and quiet. 

“Don’t fear,” he whispers. “We’re going home.”


The Spinoff’s science content is made possible thanks to the support of The MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology, a national institute devoted to scientific research.

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