Meditation is an effective treatment for anxiety.
Exercise helps ward off depression.
Consciously breathing can quickly reduce stress.
This isn’t really news, is it? What’s new is science continues to show that we can change our brain’s wiring by shifting our thoughts, breathing and movement patterns. Brain scan technology helps scientists expand understanding of our brain. Yes, we can train ourselves to be happier!
Richard Davidson, Ph.D., in his book on this subject, The Emotional Life of Your Brain, writes our emotions and thoughts are rooted in the structure of our brain. Scientists recently learned our emotions are contained in the pre-frontal cortex in addition to the more primitive limbic system of our brain. This means that we can use our intelligence, thoughts and breathing patterns to change our feelings. Feelings are a state not a trait.
Every thought we have releases chemicals in our brain. By guiding our thoughts toward contentment, we release endorphins, dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin which all contribute to feeling happier. On the other hand, when we are stressed the brain releases cortisol and adrenaline, our fight or flight survival mechanism which increases anxiety.
When we focus on an optimistic perspective and create patterns of thought that minimize anxiety, we can be more joyful and relaxed. As I shared in a previous blog post, optimism is linked to a longer, healthier life. See if you can try to tilt toward the positive in your thoughts as you go about your day. Remember “neurons that fire together wire together”.
So how do you train your brain to be happy? We circle back to the techniques I mentioned earlier – meditation, exercise and conscious breathing. Neuroscience shows that these happiness strategies, which have been used for millennia, increase our joy.
Let’s take breathing. Most likely you instinctively take a long, deep breath to relax and center yourself. The way you breathe, whether it’s fast or slow, shallow or deep, sends messages to your brain. Research suggests that mindfully breathing may improve health conditions including insomnia, anxiety and depression. There is no one way that is best, you can experiment for yourself or look online. My website has many resources for learning more about meditation and conscious breathing.
Click here for more information…..
Your optimism challenge:
Choose one of the happiness strategies – meditation, exercise or controlled breathing – and start to learn more about it. Then come up with a plan to integrate it into your daily life. Start with a short period of time daily.
And remember, if you need assistance in coming up with a customized strategy to train your brain and enhance your happiness, you can make an appointment so we can work on it together. Visit www.roguevalleycounseling.com to learn more.
Share your feedback, questions or comments at healthyoptimism.com/contact.