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Train your brain to focus on positive experiences

(Editor’s Note: we are pleased to bring you this arti­cle thanks to our col­lab­o­ra­tion with Greater Good Mag­a­zine).

The Neuroscience of Happiness

Best-selling author Rick Hanson explains how we can rewire
our brains for lasting happiness
By Michael Bergeisen

We’ve all been there: obsessing over a faux pas we committed at a party, infuriated by an unkind word from a colleague, ruminating over a tough break-up with a spouse or friend. We suffer some misfortune—big or small, real or imagined—and the pain or humiliation sticks with us for hours, days, or even years afterward.

“The mind is like Velcro for negative experiences,” psychologist Rick Hanson is fond of saying, “and Teflon for positive ones.”

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Drawing on some of the latest findings from neuroscience, Hanson has spent years exploring how we can overcome our brain’s natural “negativity bias” and learn to internalize positive experiences more deeply—while minimizing the harmful physical and psychological effects of dwelling on the negative.

For years, research has shown that, over time, our experiences literally reshape our brains and can change our nervous systems, for better or worse. Now, neuroscientists and psychologists like Hanson are zeroing in on how we can take advantage of this “plasticity” of the brain to cultivate and sustain positive emotions.

In his recent book, the best-selling Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom, Hanson describes specific practices that can promote lasting joy, equanimity, and compassion—and backs it all up with sound science.

Hanson recently spoke with host Michael Bergeisen about some of these very practical, research-based steps we can all take to rewire our brains for lasting happiness. Below we present a condensed version of the discussion. Read the rest of this entry »

Cognitive and Emotional Development Through Play

We sometimes neglect to mention a very basic yet powerful method of cognitive and emotional development, for children and adults alike: Play.

Dr. David Elkind, author of The Power of Play: Learning That Comes Naturally, discusses the need to build a more “playful culture” in this great article The Power of Play And Learningbrought to you thanks to our collaboration with Greater Good Magazine.

– Alvaro

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Can We Play?

— By Dr. David Elkind

Play is rapidly disappearing from our homes, our schools, and our neighborhoods. Over the last two decades alone, children have lost eight hours of free, unstructured, and spontaneous play a week. More than 30,000 schools in the United States have eliminated recess to make more time for academics. From 1997 to 2003, children’s time spent outdoors fell 50 percent, according to a study by Sandra Hofferth at the University of Maryland. Hofferth has also found that the amount of time children spend in organized sports has doubled, and the number of minutes children devote each week to passive leisure, not including watching television, has increased from 30 minutes to more than three hours. It is no surprise, then, that childhood obesity is now considered an epidemic.

But the problem goes well beyond obesity. Decades of research has shown that play is crucial to physical, intellectual, and social-emotional development at all ages. This is especially true of the purest form of play: the unstructured, self-motivated, imaginative, independent kind, where children initiate their own games and even invent their own rules.

Read the rest of this entry »

Peace Among Primates- by Robert Sapolsky

(Editor’s Note: One of the most original minds we have ever encountered is that of Robert Sapolsky, the Stanford-based neuroscientist, primatologist, author of A Primate’s Memoir, and more. We highly recommend most of his books. Above all, for anyone interested in brain health, this is a must read and very fun: Why Zebras Don't Have Ulcers- Robert SapolskyWhy Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers: An Updated Guide To Stress, Stress Related Diseases, and Coping. We are honored to bring you a guest article series by Robert Sapolsky, thanks to our collaboration with Greater Good Magazine.)

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Peace Among Primates

Anyone who says peace is not part of human nature knows too little about primates, including ourselves.

–By Robert M. Sapolsky

It used to be thought that humans were the only savagely violent primate.  “We are the only species that kills its own, narrators intoned portentously in nature films several decades ago. That view fell by the wayside in the 1960s as it became clear that some other primates kill their fellows aplenty. Males kill; females kill. Some use their toolmaking skills to fashion bigger and better cudgels. Other primates even engage in what can only be called warfare, organized, proactive group violence directed at other populations.

Yet as field studies of primates expanded, what became most striking was the variation in social practices across species. Yes, some primate species have lives filled with violence, frequent and varied. But life among others is filled with communitarianism, egalitarianism, and cooperative child rearing. Read the rest of this entry »

The Power of Mindsight-by Daniel Goleman

Daniel Goleman requires no introduction. Personally, of all his books I have read, the one I found most stimulating was Destructive Emotions: A Scientific Dialogue With the Dalai Lama, a superb overview of what emotions are and how we can put them to good use. He is now conducting a great series of audio interviews including one with George Lucas on Educating Hearts and Minds: Rethinking Education.

We are honored to bring you a guest post by Daniel Goleman, thanks to our collaboration with Greater Good Magazine, a UC-Berkeley-based quarterly magazine that highlights ground breaking scientific research into the roots of compassion and altruism. Enjoy!

– Alvaro

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The Power of Mindsight

How can we free ourselves from prisons of the past?

— By Daniel Goleman

When you were young, which of these did you feel more often?

a) No matter what I do, my parents love me;

b) I can’t seem to please my parents, no matter what I do;

c) My parents don’t really notice me.

Read the rest of this entry »

Mindfulness and Meditation in Schools: Mindful Kids, Peaceful Schools

Mindful Kids, Peaceful Schools

With eyes closed and deep breaths, students are learning a new method to reduce anxiety, conflict, and attention disorders. But don’t call it meditation.

— By Jill Suttie

At Toluca Lake elementary school in Los Angeles, a cyclone fence encloses the asphalt blacktop, which is teeming with kids. It’s recess time and the kids, who are mostly mindfulness exercises for teenagersLatino, are playing tag, yelling, throwing balls, and jumping rope. When the bell rings, they reluctantly stop and head back to their classrooms except for Daniel Murphy’s second grade class.

Murphy’s students file into the school auditorium, each carrying a round blue pillow decorated with white stars. They enter giggling and chatting, but soon they are seated in a circle on their cushions, eyes closed, quiet and concentrating. Two teachers give the children instructions on how to pay attention to their breathing, telling them to notice the rise and fall of their bellies and chests, the passage of air in and out of their noses. Though the room is chilly the heating system broke down earlier that day the children appear comfortable, many with Read the rest of this entry »

Announcing Expert Contributors to SharpBrains.com

Starting this week, you will start seeing a growing number of Expert Contributors writing in our blog and website, so that we can collectively discuss the latest research and trends on cognitive and emotional training, brain fitness and health, and the implications of brain research in general for our everyday lives. All of it, spiced up by stimulating brain teasers.

So, if you haven’t already, make sure to subscribe to our newsletter (above) and our RSS feed (on the right).

Let me introduce, In alphabetical order, the Expert Contributors who will share their knowledge with us in January and February.

Wes Carroll, SB in Computer Science and Engineering from MIT, and Puzzle Master for Ask a Scientist lecture series.

Simon Evans, PhD., and Paul Burghardt, PhD., who collaborate in the University of Michigan’s Department of Psychiatry and the Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience Institute, to study the effects of nutrition and exercise on brain function.

Greater Good Magazine, a quarterly magazine published by a UC-Berkeley center to “highlights ground breaking scientific research into the roots of compassion and altruism.” 

Gregory Kellett, a recent graduate from the Cognitive Neurology/Research Psychology Masters program at SFSU.

Eric Jensen, author of Enriching the Brain: How to Maximize Every Learner’s Potential, and well-known synthesizer of brain research information with implications for K12 education.

Pascale Michelon, Ph. D., an Adjunct Faculty at Washington University in Saint Louis, Psychology Department.

Tom O’Brien, professor emeritus in mathematics education, Southern Illinois University, and author of prize-winning games.

Joshua Steinerman, M.D., Postdoctoral Clinical Fellow in the Department of Neurology at Columbia University Medical Center.

David Rabiner, Ph.D., Senior Research Scientist and Director of Undergraduate Studies at Duke University. Dr. Rabiner maintains the highly-regarded Attention Research Update.

Please Note: if you would like to become an Expert Contributor, Read the rest of this entry »

Neuroscience, Psychology, Baby Boomers and more

Some good collections of articles in the blogosphere, if you are interested in these topics.
Neuroscience and Psychology (Encephalon)

Blogging Boomer

Job Search

Top 10 List

Towards Better Life

Economics and Social Policy

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