“The chief function of the body,” said Thomas Edison, “is to carry the brain around.”
I’m not so sure I agree with that, but I do believe it’s vital to keep our brain healthy and happy. Neurosciences are are making many exciting discoveries about the brain, and I ran across some in a recent blog by one of my favorite bloggers, Eric Barker, who writes “Barking Up the Wrong Tree.”
According to Barker, there are four rituals neuroscientists tell us that make our brain happy and thus makes us happy.
The first ritual is simply asking the question, “What am I grateful for?” Having gratitude for the positive aspects of our lives sets off a flood of serotonin and dopamine, both chemicals that act as anti-depressants as well as energizers for the brain. When we can express our gratitude to others, it sets up a positive feedback loop that enhances relationships giving us an even more natural high.
Another way to make a happy brain is to name the emotions we feel. Suppressing and denying emotions confuses the brain and obstructs its ability to cope with a situation. But putting a name to our feelings of sadness, depression, anxiety, frustration, grief, clicks our noggin into gear so that it can begin the process of constructive action. I’m convinced it also helps to name positive emotions, such as satisfaction, happiness, joy, love, and peace, because too often we’re not aware that we are actually enjoying ourselves.
Making a decision is another way to energize the brain. Trying to make the perfect decision can keep us from making a decision at all, and that’s like shifting your car to neutral and gunning the engine — you burn a lot of energy but go nowhere. Our goal should be to make a “good enough” decision, not the perfect decision, trusting that if the results are not what we want then we can make other decisions down the road. By making a good enough decision, we shift our brain back into drive so it can work for us instead of against us. Since I read this, I’ve been practicing making “good enough” decisions, and wow, is it freeing.
Lastly, our brain wants us to experience human touch — not inappropriate and manipulative touch — but the handshake, pat on the back, hug, from people we care about and who care about us. Hugs especially make for a happy brain, and not every now and then, but little hit-and-run hugs but frequent big, warm, loving hugs that express our love and caring and that move us towards healing and happiness.
I encourage you to read Barker’s entire blog and to make these four rituals a part of your daily discipline.