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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 »

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