Does your mind have the power to make you happy?


Happiness is a state of mind, one that blogger Gretchen Rubin and renowned author Dorothea Brande argue is without our mental control. These philosophers theorize that we can create our own happiness with a handful of mental exercises and reframing. Have you ever tried doing any one of these brain exercises?

1. Spend an hour each day without saying anything except in answer to direct questions, in the midst of the usual group, without creating the impression that you’re sulking or ill. Be as ordinary as possible. But do not volunteer remarks or try to draw out information.

2. Think for 30 minutes a day about one subject exclusively. Start with five minutes.

3. Talk for 15 minutes a day without using I, me, my, mine.

4. Pause on the threshold of any crowded room and size it up.

5. Keep a new acquaintance talking about himself or herself without allowing him to become conscious of it. Turn back any courteous reciprocal questions in a way that your auditor doesn’t feel rebuffed.

6. Talk exclusively about yourself and your interests without complaining, boasting, or boring your companions.

7. Plan two hours of a day and stick to the plan.

8. Set yourself twelve tasks at random: e.g., go twenty miles from home using ordinary conveyance; go 12 hours without food; go eat a meal in the unlikeliest place you can find; say nothing all day except in answer to questions; stay up all night and work.

9. From time to time, give yourself a day when you answer “yes” to any reasonable request.

-Expert from Brandes Wake Up and Live, 1936

Gretchen Rubin, a bestselling author, blogs about Dorothea Brande’s 1936 book Wake Up and Live that suggests these mental exercises make your mind keener and more flexible.  Stretching your mind allows you to view matters from multiple perspectives and remove yourself from the tunnel vision that many people create. With the ability of stretching and forming new views your minds strengthens and the more you test your mind the stronger it will become.  Tests for your mind can be as simple as doing a crossword word puzzle or a word search but they came also be a little bit of a challenge like the exercises above.  Either way you choose to exercise your brain is better than doing nothing and being a “couch potato.”

According to Brande, happiness depends on mental flexibility and an influx of new experiences. This path is not known for its simplicity, but for its results.  It’s the process of facing those challenges that brings the “atmosphere of growth” so important to happiness.  Happiness is not just a feeling people automatically have.  People must work for the things they want to achieve happiness and the process to not always black and white.  Creativity and the ability to stretch your mind’s ability will help you achieve your goals much easier than others stuck in their tunnel.

Brande’s theory on exercising your brain to produce happiness is just a matter of synthesis within the brain.  Our frontal cortex allows us to experience happiness through this process of synthesis and cognitive thinking. For example, picture yourself being happy from winning the lottery or getting your dream job; however can you picture yourself being happy with a disability or a mental disease?  Happiness created by picturing winning the lottery is synthesizes through our frontal cortex. The happiness we create from picturing yourself with a disability is produced from the cognitive process which helps us change our views to create happiness. Therefore, the happiness we think these brain exercises are creating is all just an experience produced by our mind.  Today’s science on happiness is based on the release of serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine across synapses in the brain.  Serotonin, dopamine and norephinephrine are the brain’s happiness chemicals and when the brain is stimulated these chemicals are produced and released into the brain generating the feeling of happiness. So what creates happiness? Is it our frontal cortex and cognitive thinking or is it the chemicals in out brain?


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