Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Don't worry, be happy - keys to Buddha's brain

This is a good read before Christmas, to remind us of simple steps to happiness, and to inform on the evidence behind them. Many thanks to Elissa Morris in Queensland for sharing this link with me.

The article reminds me of Buddha's Brain. The practical neuroscience of happiness, love and wisdom , by Rick Hanson and Richard Mendius. It's a great book that combines neuroscience with contemplative practice, and give a scientific background to the current surge of interest in mindfulness in psychology. It's not a highly technical book, which is great, because everyone deserves to be able to understand the material within it. I like the way it presents neuroscientific information in a simple, straightforward manner, and gives practical hints on how to make our brains better at being happy. I'd recommend it as a pleasant read for neuropsychologists, as it also provides an update on areas of neuroscience that we don't always attend to in our quest to assess and diagnose dysfunction and to remediate cognitive and behavioural weaknesses. It's also an interesting volume for anyone interested in science-informed self-help.

I hope you'll forgive me for a moment of Proustian reminising - I remember first hearing "Don't worry, be happy" in Bali at the end of 1989, when I was just about to embark on postgrad studies in neuropsychology. The song was being played everywhere in Kuta, and wa a blast of happiness after several weeks of beaches, rainforests, and freedom in Bali and Lombok. We'd been away from radios and television for 6 weeks, and had been astonished to come back to a world where the Berlin wall had fallen and the Romanian leader had been overthrown. There were so many images of chaos and revolution on the satellite television screens, and everywhere in the background was "don't worry, be happy." We brought in the New Year wondering what the world would be like in 1999, and if global warming would have been halted by then. It's wonderful how the a song, a sound, or a smell can bring memories flooding back as if they'd only happened yesterday. And it's wonderful that we can change the way we feel through a few simple steps, practiced daily - explained simply in Hanson and Mendius's book.

Thanks for reading

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