“Obsessing about getting what you want and avoiding what you don’t want does not result in happiness. Always maintain only a joyful mind.” (The Book of Joy by his Holiness the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and Douglas Abrams, 2016)
Human beings desire happiness and joy. We seek ways to obtain and sustain happiness in our daily lives.
In The Book of Joy, Richard Davidson, professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, contends there are four independent brain circuits that influence our lasting well-being.
First circuit: “Our ability to maintain positive states.”
Our ability to maintain positive states about life experiences directly impacts one’s happiness. The Dalai Lama and Archbishop Tutu suggest the fastest way to remain positive is to start with love and compassion.
Second circuit: “Our ability to recover from negative states.”
You may be good at maintaining positive states but one can easily fall into a negative state. I can attest to that. I can be positive about my consulting business, but when I’m with my elderly father, I quickly dive into a negative state due to all his demands. Now the challenge is to recover from it.
Third circuit: “Our ability to focus and avoid mind-wandering.”
The ability to focus one’s attention is fundamental. This can be nurtured through meditation exercises, purposeful pauses, and focusing on one thing at a time. All of these take consistent practice over time.
Fourth circuit: “Our ability to be generous.”
We have an entire brain circuit devoted to generosity! When we help others or are helped by others, or even witness others being helped, our brains feel good.
It feels great to get a promotion, a pay raise, a new car, recognition for service, or go on vacation, but these are only fleeting instances of joy. After a while, their glow dissipates and we look for another “hit” to make us feel happy. If we want to nurture a happy brain, to have a lasting sense of well-being, it is the internal work that must happen. The four circuits is the beginning journey for lasting well-being.
Are you nurturing a happy brain? I have ideas about how to incorporate mindfulness practices in your personal and work life. Contact me when you are ready to take the journey for lasting well-being.