This is your Brain on Joy
I recently did a workshop on the Neurobiology of Happiness. (A word to the wise-- signing up to do a 1-hour talk on a topic so vast that it could comprise an entire graduate program may prove to be a little consuming. But I digress.).
I'm so excited to discover new ways that knowledge about the inner workings of the brain can improve our emotional, relational, and spiritual depth. One concept that blows my mind (pun intended) is that, even as our brains are biased toward remembering negative experiences & memories, we can overcome this "negativity bias" by intentionally sitting with the good. Taking it in, enriching it, holding onto it for 12-30 seconds before we move onto the next thought or task.
I've known about this through contemplative prayer and meditation. What's fresh is the knowledge that we can now use technology to see the brain "light up" while this is happening. The wisdom of ages (I particularly like the early Christian Mystics) is being confirmed; we actually build new layers of brain cells when we sit and contemplate beauty, God, mystery, and joy.
One of my favorite movie scenes is from American Beauty. The character has seen his share of pain, but he practices pausing to take in the good. Check it out here.
We are all capable of stopping, even briefly, to contemplate beauty. Your brain will thank you.