The Neuroscience of Happiness

The Neuroscience of Happiness - The Neuroscience of...

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The Neuroscience of Happiness: An Interview with Rick Hanson, Ph.D. By Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. I am delighted to bring to you neuropsychologist, meditation teacher and author of the hit new book Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom, Rick Hanson, Ph.D. Rick is co-founder of the Wellspring Institute for Neuroscience and Contemplative Wisdom, which also publishes the monthly Wise Brain Bulletin and hosts the website. He is also author of the Meditations for Happiness audio download and co-author of the Meditations to Change Your Brain CD set. Today Rick talks to us about how we can use our minds to change our brains, to help our minds in everyday life. Elisha : You quote a popular phrase that came from Canadian psychologist Donald Hebb, saying that “neurons that fire together, wire together.” Can you let us in on the significance of this quote? Rick : Hebb and others were trying to understand how we learn things, from remembering what we had for breakfast to the emotional learning that is the residue of happiness – at one end of the spectrum – and trauma, at the other end. In other words, how does mental activity change neural structure? A pretty important question! Hebb developed the theory, since borne out in its essence by subsequent research, that it is the simultaneity of firing (within a few thousandths of a second) of neurons that are connected with each other that leads to strengthening existing synapses – which are the junctions between neurons – and to building new ones. For example, if you routinely dwell on your resentments and regrets, the neurons involved in that particular mental activity will fire busily together, and automatically start wiring together as well. Which will add one more bit of neural structure to feeling discontented, mistreated, angry, or sorrowful. On the other hand, if you regularly focus on the good facts around you and
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The Neuroscience of Happiness - The Neuroscience of...

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