A New Year's Resolution for your Brain

Add this tidbit to the ‘news you can use’ column I know you all have percolating in that grey matter of yours. It may require shifting a bit of the info you’re hanging onto about fantasy football or how to make the perfect pot of beef stew. But, I think you’ll be glad to add this to your roster of go-to factoids.

I often tell both clients and myself that the day to be happy is now. Don’t wait until you’ve won the lottery of lost 50 pounds. Don’t even wait until your relationship is better or you feel more inner peace. As I secretly always thought, this advice is more than philosophical feel-goodism. Turns out the folks in the white coats are discovering concrete evidence that living this way does more than make you feel better–it may physiologically increase your capacity for happiness.

Science is now telling us that we have a sort of biological set point for the levels of happiness we feel. By that I mean that no matter how poor or great your circumstances, we all have a pretty consistent emotional range that we motor through on a daily basis–and it’s different for everyone. Imagine your emotional range as the speedometer on your car. No matter what may be chasing you, that car is only going to do what’s on that dial to do. This explains in part why it’s possible for a guy who wins the lottery to still be sort of ‘ho-hum’ about it and another guy who is suddenly a quadriplegic to demonstrate amazing resiliency. It’s literally genetic and hardwired.

But here’s the clincher to that rather sobering bit of news: you can change it.

That’s right, you can take what mama nature and the circumstances of your early life gave to you and mold it into something different. This is due to a fancy concept called brain plasticity. In the vernacular, that means that your brain can continue to change, and that by extension, you can change the direction in which it changes. In fact, the adult brain continues to make about 5,000 new cells a day. Whoa.

Though the research is still preliminary stuff, scientists are studying the brains of trained meditators to get a glimpse into how they are able to regulate their emotions and develop the parts of their brains responsible for happiness and compassion. And, combining this research with studies on identical twins who were raised in different households (but would have the same genetic capacity for happiness) they have found that a full 40 percent of how happy we are is fully in our control. Buddhist monks who spend hours meditating on love and kindness–literally forcing love and kindness into their brain–shape their brain and therefore their outlook in a very literal way.

This is lovely news, right? I think it is. But, it means that just as we must work out our bodies to get them to a position of optimum health, we must also exercise our minds regularly to promote happiness, kindness, and contentment. Good therapy can serve as a personal trainer for your mental and emotional systems. So why not give yourself the gift of a fit brain this new year? Give me a call and let’s make it happen!

Your Partner in Wellness,

Holly

www.lotustherapycenter.com

For a FREE 30-minute consultation and to see if I might be a good fit for your goals and needs, call (407) 913-4988 or email me at holly@lotustherapycenter.com

One Reply to “A New Year's Resolution for your Brain”

  1. Hello, Holly.

    I think you raise an excellent point about the new science of brain plasticity. It transforms the “but this is who I am” lament into “what would I like to be.”

    While we emerge into the world with certain given characteristics we also acquire many traits and habits of thinking or being along the way. But we now know that with practice, encouragement and training we can change the way we think and feel in response to various stimuli. A wonderful finding!

    Best wishes,
    Martin

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