Thursday, October 31, 2013

“How to Build a Happier Brain”

That’s the theme of an October 23rd article by Julie Beck in the Atlantic magazine:

If there’s one thing that I’ve learned from presenting to brain tumor/stroke victims and caregivers, they all could be happier. That’s not to say that these victims haven’t been unfairly assaulted with horrific diseases, they have. I wish, though, they could enjoy the moments of happiness or fun or humor that drifts into their lives a bit more.

That thought is at the heart of this article, learning to enjoy the moments you should be able to enjoy instead of relentlessly focusing on the negative.

Beck says it much better, though, saying “There is a motif, in fiction and in life, of people having wonderful things happen to them, but still ending up unhappy. We can adapt to anything, it seems—you can get your dream job, marry a wonderful human, finally get 1 million dollars or Twitter followers—eventually we acclimate and find new things to complain about.”

Beck goes on to cite Dr. Rick Hanson, a neuropsychologist, a member of U.C. Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center's advisory board, and author of the book Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence, in which he observes that “our brains are naturally wired to focus on the negative, which can make us feel stressed and unhappy even though there are a lot of positive things in our lives.”

The rest of the article relates an interview with Dr. Hanson in which he discusses “A neuropsychological approach to happiness, by meeting core needs (safety, satisfaction, and connection) and training neurons to overcome a negativity bias.”

As an exercise advocate, I also want to point out that, regarding exercise, “Research shows that exercise is a very good physical health factor obviously, but it also confers mental health benefits. For example, regular exercise is roughly as powerful on average for mild depression as medication is, studies show.”

Image credit: <a href=''>mybaitshop / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

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