rick hanson

The phrase ‘use your brain’ has taken on a whole new meaning, thanks to one pioneering scientist who has discovered how strong emotions such as stress or happiness can literally can change the shape of our brains.

According to Rick Hanson, author of  Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence, the physical shape of the brain can be changed and transformed completely by external events and our reactions to them.

The process of literally changing your brain and hardwiring it through the presence of strong emotions is known in the scientific community as neuroplasticity.

Hanson explains that the human brain is hardwired to latch onto unhappy and upsetting events which in turn creates a population explosion of unhappily shaped brains. Rather than an organ which stays the same throughout an individual’s life, the brain is a tool that evolved to anticipate and overcome dangers, protect us from pain, and solve problems.

As it happens, anger, pain and problems are the events that capture the brain’s attention.

This is the reason why we tend to latch onto bad news more strongly than we do with good news.

“The brain is like Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive ones. The natural result is a growing – and unfair – residue of emotional pain, pessimism, and numbing inhibition in implicit memory,” Hanson says.

However – the good news is that it can be re-wired. Yes – you can literally change the shape and make-up of your brain to hardwire a habit of harbouring more positive emotions.

In other words: happiness can be learned. But it takes time and effort. Here’s how it works:

Psychologists make distinctions between two types of memory: implicit and explicit. Implicit memory is a powerful force in the human consciousness.

Explicit memory empowers us to do things like remember the names of our friends or where we parked the car. On the other hand, implicit aka emotional memories are formed unconsciously.

These memories originate in the reptilian brain structures and are viscerally rather than logically initiated. They account for one’s sense of self and colour the inner atmosphere of the mind.

They can control whether we feel stressed or happy, angry or calm. They also govern our sense of being as well as our deepest assumptions and expectations about the world.

The amygdala is the center of the reptilian brain and it acts as the switchboard in assigning implicit memories, the feeling tone to stimuli and dictating a response. It helps us to define experiences as frightening and threatening. Once the amygdala flags an episode as negative, it immediately stores the event and compares it to the record of old painful experiences. If a pattern match is found, a series of chemical reactions signals alarm. Negative occurrences are prioritized precisely and purposefully to protect us from harm.

As a result, negative events are registered instantaneously while positive or beneficial events take five to 20 seconds just to begin to register.

This may go some way in explaining why so many people in our society appear to suffer from depression. When we are bombarded with daily stress, unemployment, bad news and traumatic events portrayed in the media, this helps to set off a chain reaction of chemical imbalances which result in excess stress.

This is why many people across the world find it easier to see things in an angry or negative light, and difficult to sustain than peace, happiness, and fulfillment.

But by rewiring and training the brain to think on a higher, more positive level, we can circumvent that negative programming and lead a happier, more fulfilled life.

Therefore, according to Hanson, deliberate effort is needed to sustain happiness. Deliberate effort is a function of the higher regions of the brain and researchers have shown that these areas are thicker in experienced meditation practitioners as compared to people with no meditation experience. In a separate study published in the journal Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, scientists investigated whether meditation could help to rewire our brains in a more positive way.

To discover this they placed a group of inexperienced meditation volunteers on an eight-week meditation program. Upon comparing brain scans taken before and after the intervention, the researchers reported that not only did the higher brain regions thicken, but also that the amygdala became less dense. According to the researchers, these findings open the door to novel ways to protect against stress-related disorders and depression.

Akashic Times is the UK’s only online, fully independent not-for-profit weekly newspaper that brings you real news from across the globe.

If you want to keep ahead of what is really going on in the world, subscribe to our newspaper via the subscribe button and join our Facebook & Twitter pages. Subscription is completely free ofcourse.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


(Spamcheck Enabled)