The notion that you can “think your way” to, well, any number of things, is hardly new. You can think your way toward success! Think your way through that last set of push-ups! Think your way… happier. Some people scoff, but research has shown time and again that this so-called “brain training” is a real thing. With enough practice, thought patterns can be altered.
If you live in the vicinity of Northwestern University, you might want to check out what promises to be a fascinating symposium next week—Richard J. Davidson, renowned psychology researcher and New York Times best-selling author, is presenting on the topic of Happiness as a Skill on October 16th, 2014. There will be both a lecture and a panel discussion.
The notable bit here is that Dr. Davidson’s research shows that this isn’t just about habits and actions, but real physiological brain changes which can be deliberately curated. From the lecture description:
This talk will examine the brain’s ability to change itself and enhance emotional well being through mental training and contemplative practices. The presented material will address the concept of neuroplasticity, which is the idea that our behaviors, thoughts, and actions have a robust and measurable effect on brain function and structure. By cultivating positive thoughts and behaviors we literally, at the level of biology, can alter our brain a positive manner.
Cultivating the skills which boost happiness actually changes our brains. How cool is that?? So working on being happier can alter our brains in all sorts of positive ways, making the human brain the only entity I can think of which can decide to change itself on a molecular level and then just… do it. (Nike should totally be using brains in their commercials instead of athletes.)