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Train Your Brain to Be Happy, Positive, & Stronger Than Ever.

The mind controls all. Our emotions. Our actions. Our muscles. Everything. It is the source of our greatest happiness and worse misery. Most people think our circumstances drive happiness or lack thereof. But it is actually our brains, or more specifically our minds (I will address the differences between the brain and the mind in another writing). Otherwise why would someone with a billion dollars and seemingly everything in life lead a shallow, hallow, generally miserable existence, while someone with no legs and nominal means engages life to the fullest wearing a perpetual grin?

The eternal question is: can we train our brain to be happy, positive, full of thoughts of joy and peace?

Can we ‘exercise’ our minds, can we take actions which counter its inherent tendency towards negative thoughts and endless worries?

The answer is an emphatic YES. The way we achieve progress, growth, in anything in life is through action. Think about it: want to build muscle? Lift weights – take action. Want to learn a new skill? Take a course or read a book; action. Want to nurture a relationship? Take action – pick up the phone, write a letter, get together, spend quality time. Action action action. Even if you want to ‘lose’ something (e.g .weight), that requires action. Altering your diet, exercising, etc. Of course action for action sake does not necessarily lead to a positive result. As my daughter says, you need the 3 P's:

3 P's for Enhancing Happiness:

  1. Practice

  2. Perseverance

  3. Perfection (as in practice well, not poorly).

So what actions can you take (or avoid) to enhance your happiness?

Food For Thought

  • Love, affection, closeness and compassion bring happiness. When you express these feelings towards others your happiness grows. It is not coincidental that those who commit horrific acts like terrorism tend to be isolated from society, or loners.

  • Giving to others brings happiness. Just doing something kind. It seems counter intuitive, but we tend to be happier when we give rather than receive. Again I’m talking about true, deep down, meaningful happiness. Not the superficial stuff that drifts away with the changing winds.

  • Happiness comes from within. The external world will not give you happiness, especially things. In fact, excess material things often bring the opposite of happiness; misery. Perhaps there is a sense from others that those who have large amounts of material things – cars, jewelry, etc – but material things in and of themselves won’t bring happiness. You need to work on yourself – just like buying all the exercise equipment in the world won’t make you fit. Happiness is an inside thing, not an outside thing.

  • Being mentally disciplined leads to happiness. According to the Dalai Lama, “…a disciplined mind leads to happiness and an undisciplined mind leads to suffering, in fact it is said that bringing about discipline within one’s mind is the essence of the Buddha’s teaching.” When I read that recently it really struck me.

  • Balance the process of learning, of evolving the mind, with that of compassion. When you learn to respect other’s views, when you have empathy, then you tend to be happier. Empathy is a form of connecting with others. Human connection, in many different forms, leads to happiness.

  • Anger and hatred lead to unhappiness. Holding onto these emotions ultimately hurts you, not the other person. This is an amazingly profound idea. We intuitively think that any hatred or anger is directed towards someone else, but in reality it exists within your mind, and therefore only causes you harm. Having such emotions is of course natural as humans. The question is not how can we never be angry or hateful. The question is, how can we let these emotions go as quickly as possible. I would encourage you to learn more about this, contemplate it, and most importantly put what you learn into practice. Train your brain to let go of these self-destructive emotions as quickly as possible.

  • Learning leads to happiness. When we fill our minds with interesting, enriching information, we tend to be happier.

  • Being healthy leads to deep down happiness. Drinking alcohol in excess or eating junk food may provide a temporary joy, but sustained, ongoing happiness is achieved through a healthy mind and body.

I realize these concepts are not concrete. But I ask you to take some time to think about them. Perhaps you train your body an hour a day, a few days a week. You dedicate 40 hours or more a week to your financial security. Is the health of your mind, the driver of your minute to minute thoughts and happiness, worth some of your time as well? You know that if someone, who does not exercise at all, dedicates even 30 minutes a day to his body that he can achieve amazing changes over time. Why does the same concept not apply to the brain?

Invest a little time. Be aware – engage in conscious thought about when you are happy, what brings you joy. True, deep down emotional well-being. If you are not sure, observe your thoughts and feelings for a period of time and take note. You will start to see a pattern. Do more of those things that bring you happiness, and less of those things that lead to negative emotions. This includes people: spend more time with those people who bring light to your life, and less with those who are a source of negative energy for you. Just as over time a conscious course of action for your physical health will lead to visible results, the same will be true of your mind and your emotions.

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