Mindful

For too many of us work is associated with stress, unhappiness, and anxiety, but world-renowned neuroscientist Richie Davidson and his colleagues show TODAY that through a few simple steps, we can increase our well-being.

Davidson works to find connections between the brain and our happiness, and his research has shown that we can intentionally change our brain and learn to be happier. Davidson explains:

“By focusing on wholesome thoughts, for example, and directing our intentions in those ways, we can potentially influence the plasticity of our brains and shape them in ways that can be beneficial.”

The 5-3-1 Practice

One method for learning to be happier that Davidson and his colleagues at the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds (CIHM) recommend are three daily tasks that are simple, easy, and rewarding.

1. Start with five minutes of meditation every day.

This can help you go into your work day feeling more energized, relaxed, and ready to tackle the day. You can check out our Getting Started page to learn more if you are interested in starting a meditation practice, even if it’s only five minutes.

Shilagh Mirgain, a senior psychologist at CIHM and assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin, mentions that people who did this kind of practice for 20 minutes a day for approximately 30 days had gained new gray matter in their prefrontal cortex, which is the area associated with attention, emotion regulation, and executive decision-making.

2. Make a list of three good things that happened in your day.

They can be anything from a really good cup of coffee or a compliment from your boss. By listing good things in your day, you are focusing on the positive aspects of your work, which can help you feel happier.

3. Perform one random act of kindness.

Not only is this step helpful in making you feel happier and more rewarded at work, but also gives someone else a hand and a smile to cheer up their day.

To learn more about Davidson’s groundbreaking work, you can check out this infographic about all the different spheres that his research has influenced, including early childhood education, PTSD treatment, and treatment for individuals who suffer from depression.

Pearl McLeod

Pearl McLeod is a content creator for Mindful.org. She is a student at UC Berkeley interested in history, sociology, and linguistics.

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