Train Your Brain for Happiness
As part of living the Brighton Jones way of helping people live richer lives, we are highlighting one happiness skill each month throughout 2017 and sharing simple practices you can do daily in order to turn these happiness skills into habits. We are motivated by research that suggests happiness is a skill and that it is quite contagious, so please join us! [i]
We start the year off by highlighting mindfulness. Being mindful means maintaining a non-judgmental, moment-by-moment awareness of your thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment. You are focused on the now and paying attention to what you are sensing in the present moment. When we practice mindfulness, we are developing control over our attention by learning to place it where we want it, keep it there, and pull it away from unproductive mental chatter. Bringing our attention under conscious control is a critical part of training our brain for happiness.
January Practice – Mindful Breathing
For this practice, set aside 5-10 minutes every day in a quiet place. Find a comfortable position, seated or lying down, and then, with your eyes open, simply turn your attention to your breath, focusing on the actual physical sensations of each inhalation and exhalation. When you notice your mind has wandered away, gently bring your attention back to the feeling of breathing. It is perfectly natural and acceptable for the mind to wander, and this will likely happen many times. The training comes from catching yourself when it happens and gently bringing your focus back to the breath.
We close with these words from Thich Nhat Hanh: “The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.”
[This blog post is part of our Year of Happiness & Compassion series. The initial post in that series can be found here. We invite you to visit this blog each month and be part of our journey as we learn a new happiness skill. Also, if you’d like us to send you reminders and help keep you on track, please just let us know]
 “Well-being is a skill that can be cultivated. There are very simple ways of cultivating a positive outlook. When you do those simple kinds of practices, we’ve shown that both behavior and the brain changes. It doesn’t take much.” – Richard Davidson, renowned neuroscientist