The path towards a happy brain

In this time for sharing, we wanted to share with you the best tools for a happy brain. A compilation of some of the best experts on Emotional Intelligence, Mindfulness and Positive Psychology that will help you become the best version of yourself. Enjoy!

Make peace with your inner mammal by Loretta Breuning

The research on animals really helped me understand myself and my automatic responses and to redirect those responses. That’s the whole goal of my work: first, to be honest about our inner mammal and second, to understand our power to redirect it individually in our own heads. 

We tend to idealize the social bonds of animals and it’s easy to project onto them that they’re all warm, fuzzy and nice to each other, but the reality we know is that animals have a lot of conflict in their groups. Animals stick with their groups despite the conflict because it gives them protection from predators.

We all like our independence but when we feel threatened, we look for the safety of social support; so we want both. We want that independence, but we want that safety of social support. Both are natural so self-acceptance is a big part of making peace with your inner mammal.

We know an isolated mammal is quickly killed by predators, so natural selection builds a brain that rewards you with the good feeling of oxytocin when you find social support. When I have social support I can lower my guard because if there’s danger, the rest of the herd will alert me and that’s what allows a herd animal to relax enough to eat, rather than constantly being on high alert for predators.

Our brain is not designed to release oxytocin all the time. This is the frustrating part: the truth is everybody’s oxytocin is low until they do something to stimulate it and then in a short time it’s metabolized, then it’s gone and then you have to do something to stimulate it again.

That is how our brain is designed to work. If you had oxytocin all the time, you would lower your guard when you should not. Trust is what the mammal brain is really looking for. 

We define trust with oxytocin pathways built from past experience which is, indeed, complex. Each brain expects conflict or rejection where they found it before. The conflict or rejection -and we all have both- of your youth is what built the biggest pathways in your brain. If you build trust with individuals you’re less dependent on the herd for your oxytocin. It’s all about small steps repeated, small acts of trust stimulate oxytocin. 

Let’s quickly talk about realistic expectations. This is the complication of life: we have big expectations about social support. We define social support in some grand way because when we’re young we need so much support and when we’re young is when our brain is wired so we wire in the expectation that the world should support me and that’s just not realistic, but nobody’s out there telling you that, so I’m telling you that.

Read the complete article here.

The importance of emotional management by Emiliya Zhivatovskaya

I’m the CEO and founder of The Flourishing Center and since 2008 we have been training practitioners from all over the world in how to put the science of Positive Psychology and mind-body medicine into practice.

When we talk about being happy, we are talking about a number of different things but in Positive Psychology, we define happiness as a “sense of satisfaction with one’s life”. I personally like to think of it as having personal mastery, the ability to feel the way you want to feel when you want to feel it.

What better way to learn how to master oneself than to master being able to shift how you feel in real time? Before we start applying an intervention, we want to get to what we call a SUD. SUD stands for a Subjective Unit of Distress. 

Before I use these skills with people, I usually just have them check in and ask them: “On a scale of zero to ten, how strong is what you’re feeling?” Because if we’re going to talk about shifting feelings, we want to first understand where are we starting off with. 

That was within one of the simple ways that we can begin to cultivate what we call Emotional Intelligence: giving people the opportunity to pause and check in and ask themselves “How am I feeling right now, in this moment?”. This also becomes really important because we need different tools at different levels on the scale. 

There’s no right way to feel, but what is important is to feel. We, as human beings, feel first. We think of ourselves as thinkers but really we’re feeling creatures. Emotions are the spice of life, they are the things that color our lives. 

Get all the techniques for emotional management here.

Give yourself permission to feel by Marc Brackett

When I was thinking about writing a book on Emotional Intelligence, I wondered “Do I call it Emotional Intelligence?” and I was like “I don’t think so”. There’s something deeper that I think we have to get to before we learn about Emotional Intelligence and it’s what I call “Permission to feel”. My first hope is that we create a world where people have the permission to feel all emotions, where they feel safe, valued and capable of doing that.

We need to become curious explorers of our feelings, I call that being an emotion scientist vs. an emotion judge. It’s naming your feelings before wanting to get critical: Am I feeling angry or am I just irritated? Am I jealous or am I envious? Am I stressed am I overwhelmed? And then we have to become skilled.

  • Emotional Intelligence is about using our emotions wisely. I call those skills The Ruler Skills and there are five: 
  • Recognizing emotions in ourselves and others 
  • Understanding the causes and consequences of our emotions 
  • Labeling our feelings precisely 
  • Knowing how and when to express our feelings 
  • Having the strategies to regulate them 

I think most people are looking for strategies to be happy and, while I think happiness is important, I think it can’t be the only goal; because what happens is that, if we strive all the time just to be happy, then we’re missing out on the informational value of frustration, anxiety and stress. To me it’s more about a balance of emotion. I do feel strongly that we want to experience more pleasant emotions than unpleasant ones in life, but we don’t want to get rid of the negative ones. 

We’re more complex than we give ourselves credit for. Our bodies and brains can handle more than one feeling at a time, so I grant you now the permission to feel all emotions!

Read the complete article here.

Mindfulness tools by Jay Vidyarthi

If you really look at the heart of it, technology is a very broad topic area. It basically means “based on some theory or science to create something skillfully”. It’s sort of a craft or an art form of manifesting our ideas and applying them in the real world to create something.

Here’s how I think about it: Technology manifests its creator’s values into the world. Whatever those values might be, we can manifest them into technology and the technology can reflect, amplify and expand those values that will lead to both intended and unintended consequences.

Sometimes, it can spin out of control all the way to the point that we actually have a mechanistic understanding of how this affects the brain. Not only do we start to see changes in the brain when you meditate, we can also see long-lasting traits and long-term changes in the brain of people who actually spend a lot of time meditating, people who’ve meditated for years or even decades and, perhaps most interesting, we’re also correlating those changes to positive impacts on symptomology related to anxiety and depression.

We’re seeing physiological impacts. We’re seeing changes to relationships, pain and the immune system, even on skin conditions, heart disease and we’re even starting to see Positive Psychology in terms of how Mindfulness increases your sense of well-being and your Psychological and Mental Health.

I want to shift your perspective about technology. I want you to understand that, sure you can say something like “I’m addicted to technology” or “Technology is ruining society” or whatever it might be and there are areas where that’s true, but there’s also areas where technology is extremely beautiful and actually transforming society in a wonderful way. We need to get a little bit more nuance. 

The second reason I want to talk about this is: I’m super passionate about what these technologies can do in our lives and I want all of you to try some of them. Some of these are things you can look up, you can watch youtube videos about, you can actually download to your phone and play with. The third reason is: I know some of the people behind the technologies I’m going to talk to you about and their work is amazing, I think it deserves more attention and I really want to profile someone them.

There’s a lot of really cool technologies out there, I really wanted to encourage you to try them out and to shift your perspective on what technology can be in terms of happiness. I hope this was helpful, my name is Jay, have a lovely lovely day.

Find all the tools by categories here.

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