Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Icon

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

——————–

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.)

—————–

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

—————-

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 »

All Slidedecks & Recordings Available — click image below

Search for anything brain-related in our article archives

About SharpBrains

As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters, and more, SharpBrains is an independent market research firm and think tank tracking health and performance applications of brain science.

Enter Your Email to receive Sharp­Brains free, monthly eNewslet­ter:

Join more than 50,000 Sub­scribers and stay informed and engaged.