Rick Hanson explains how you can intentionally change your brain to create lasting happiness and well-being.
This month, we feature videos of a Greater Good presentation by Rick Hanson, the best-selling author and trailblazing psychologist. In this excerpt from his talk, Dr. Hanson explains how we can take advantage of the brain’s natural “plasticity”—it’s ability to change shape over time.
There’s this great line by Ani Tenzin Palmo, an English woman who spent 12 years in a cave in Tibet: “We do not know what a thought is, yet we’re thinking them all the time.”
It’s true. The amount of knowledge we have about the brain has doubled in the last 20 years. Yet there’s still a lot we don’t know.
In recent years, though, we have started to better understand the neural bases of states like happiness, gratitude, resilience, love, compassion, and so forth. And better understanding them means we can skillfully stimulate the neural substrates of those states—which, in turn, means we can strengthen them. Because as the famous saying by the Canadian scientist Donald Hebb goes, “Neurons that fire together, wire together.”
Ultimately, what this can mean is that with proper practice, we can increasingly trick our neural machinery to cultivate positive states of mind.
But in order to understand how, you need to understand three important facts about the brain.
Fact one: As the brain changes, the mind changes, for better or worse.
Fact two: As the mind changes, the brain changes.
Fact three: You can use the mind to change the brain to change the mind for the better.