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Happiness is
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Society teaches us that happiness is a result, something you achieve or gain through accomplishments.

But a growing body of scientific research shows the opposite. Happiness is a state of mind, an attitude that can be nurtured and nourished regardless of external factors.

In fact, science demonstrates that people who are happy first are more successful later on: they have more energy and show more passion. And their enthusiasm is contagious. This is the foundational idea behind ABSRI: happiness matters now.

We unleash the passion of individuals, teams, customers and others by helping them put happiness first. We harness happiness to make a difference in lives, in businesses—and in the world.

Happy family in the parkWishing your mom a “Happy Mother’s Day” is a greeting she’ll enjoy more than just one day of the year. It turns out a happy mom just might be the key to your own happiness. That’s precisely what a recent study from the UK seems to indicate—if you want to enjoy a lifetime of happiness, make sure your mom is happy. More precisely, the findings suggest that the level of happiness mother’s experience with her partner influences the future happiness of her children.

According to the article Mom’s Happiness Influences Adolescent Happiness, “In families where the mother is unhappy in her partnership, only 55 percent of young people said they are ‘completely happy’ with their family situation compared with 73 percent of young people whose mothers are ‘perfectly happy’ in their relationships.”

Perhaps the biggest revelation from this pioneering study is that when growing up, it’s your mom’s level of happiness—more so than your dad’s—that has the larger influence on your happiness in life. I guess we have yet another reason to be grateful for our mom’s this Mother’s Day. A happy mom is the key to your happy life.

 

 

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Human Brain - Polygon Infographic Illustration with IconsMore studies on the brain are beginning to advance a powerful truth: meditation is a powerful medication. Whether it’s treating anxiety, depression, addiction, or a host of other mental health issues, meditation is now proven to change your brain for the better.

A recent New York Times article on “How Meditation May Change the Brain” reports that “those who meditated for about 30 minutes a day for eight weeks had measurable changes in gray-matter density in parts of the brain associated with memory, sense of self, empathy and stress.” Enjoy learning more how meditation builds a better brain in the video below.

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The medieval Persian poet Rumi once penned: “When gratitude brainyou do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.” What timeless spiritual wisdom has always taught to humanity, current findings in brain science appear to hold truth. Humans are driven to seek joy; we are driven to pursue what enlivens the soul.

At the core of all the world’s religions resides a universal spirituality that advocates how the search for meaning and the seeking of wisdom are a path to achieve happiness. Whether it’s meditation, contemplation, prayer, chanting, or sacred ritual, they provide the portal for discovering the soul and our source for happiness.

Science now affirms this to be accurate. Time magazine reports that a 2015 study—conducted by the London School of Economics and the Erasmus University Medical Center in the Netherlands—found that people who have a regular spiritual practice or belong to a religious group report greater levels of happiness, as well as lesser depression and anxiety than those who don’t

According to the same Time article, “It’s as if a sense of spirituality and an active, social religious practice were an effective vaccine against the virus of unhappiness.” Why would this be the case? As I discuss in my upcoming book Science of a Happy Brain, the four strategies for a Happy Brain are: Comfort, Contribution, Connection, and Compassion. In many ways, spirituality and religion provide comfort to us in times of struggle; allow us to feel a sense of contribution in the world; offer to us the opportunity for connection with others; and help us to cultivate greater compassion in life.

The idea behind why spirituality and religion act as agents for promoting happiness can best be summed up by one word—resilience! The 4 Cs of Comfort, Contribution, Connection, and Compassion help us to achieve resilience in our brain, body, and being. The more we operate from a place of resilience, the more easily it becomes to live from our soul and experience joy in all we do.

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Group of young hikers in the mountainsWhether it’s a walk in the woods, a swim in the sea or staring at a sunset, nature makes your brain happy. Do you ever wonder why we crave nature so much? The answer goes back into our distant human past that reveals how the human brain evolved. Let’s face it, humans weren’t meant to sit for endless hours a day in cubicles facing a computer screen. The human brain developed surrounded by nature. It’s a concept in science known as “nature connectedness” or “biophilia”—the intimate relationship between nature and your happy brain.

Another emerging field, known as eco-psychology, advocates that though the human brain may be adapting to our fast-paced world, its original function was to respond to the natural world in which we dwelled and evolved over millennia. 

A study cited in my book Brain, Body & Being reports, “When study participants were put into fMRI machines and shown images of hectic urban life, the area of the brain, known as the amygdala, showed greater activity. This is the area of the brain that governs the ‘fight-or-flight response.’ When this mechanism runs rampant, we experience heightened levels of stress and anxiety…. In the same experiment outlined above, when participants were shown images of the outdoors, activity in the anterior cingulate—the area of the brain that governs altruism, contentment, and an overall sense of peace—flashed with activity.”

If you’ve been putting off relaxing because you think it requires the expense of a massage or visit to a spa, think again. You may find the same benefits from a short walk along a lake, a tree-lined street or during a romp in the park with your pooch. So what does the all mean for you and your ability to achieve greater health and happiness? Discover the answer in my piece This Is Your Brain on Nature.

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Girls making arts and crafts togetherIf there’s one aspect of human behavior that favored survival, it’s our deep ability to express compassion and empathy toward others. More so than being driven by conflict, the human brain is a social organ that evolved for cooperation and caring. It was this functional strategy that allowed humans to become the dominant species today.

It’s what you’ll discover in my upcoming book Science of a Happy Brain that states, “In our Age of Disconnection, our ability to experience community and connection is the crucial key lacking today in order for you to claim your Happy Brain. Why is compassion so vital for your and society’s ultimate happiness? Without the love and nurturing received from your parents or other adult caregivers, you wouldn’t have survived childhood. A life lacking in the caring and concern from your friends and family is one of despair and dismay. A society that values acts of kindness and charity to all its members fosters a Happy Brain for all.”

There’s a remarkable discovery emerging about your brain that relates to human behavior—compassion is a trait you can cultivate. Just as you train the muscles in your body, it’s possible to build your “compassion” muscle. I find that the opposite of compassion is comparison. While comparison is an attribute that highlights our differences, compassion is a human quality that reveals our similarities. Compassion is the invisible hand that allows you to relate to those around you.

We sadly live in an age that promotes division and discord. Now, more that ever it’s important for children to learn the tools for empathy. A new study finds the link between Arts Education in schools promotes more than creativity, art builds compassion. As a lead researcher in the study states, “Arts learning experiences benefit students in terms of social, emotional, and academic outcomes.” Arts Education is more than a nicety, it’s an absolute necessity for raising happy and healthy kids. Art is one way to engender compassion, which in turn allows you to enjoy the benefits of a Happy Brain. My motto continues to be: Happy brains make happy people. Happy people make a happy world.

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gratitude brainWe all want to lead a happy and healthy life, but one key to cultivating health and happiness may reside in your brain—more specifically with the power of your breath and learning to control your thoughts. How do the latest research in brain science and behavioral medicine mirror sacred Yoga teachings and timeless meditation practices to cultivate a Happy Brain? As I discuss in my upcoming book Science of a Happy Brain, I define a “Happy Brain” as enjoying balance, longevity, and resilience in an age of anger, anxiety, and addiction.

Yoga is more than mastering physical postures. The 3,000 year-old philosophy of Yoga declares how Yoga is a practice to “calm the incessant turnings of the mind.” Meditation is more than simply sitting in quietude. Meditation is a timeless contemplative practice observed among all the world’s spiritual traditions that brings you into the present moment.

Many ancient healing traditions—such as Yoga, meditation, and Tai Chi—have all recognized that one of the simplest and most effective tools we have to alleviate stress and create more balance, longevity, and resilience is by harnessing the power of your breath.

You may be surprised to learn that recent advances in neuroscience and mind-body medicine offer a deeper understanding of how something as simple and available as the breath is the key for unlocking a Happy Brain! A phrase I’ve always said: How you choose to breathe, determines how you choose to live. How you choose to live, determines how you choose to heal. How you choose to heal, determines how you choose to be happy.”

So when someone says to you “take a breather,” there might actually be some medical merit to it. I find that one of the easiest ways to achieve greater calm in your day is to focus on your breath for as little as five minutes. As Dr. James S. Gordon, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the Georgetown University Medical School, states, “Slow, deep breathing is probably the single best anti-stress medicine we have.” Doing mindful, calm breathing exercises for just five minutes a day can begin to shift your emotional and mental health. So it just might be that focusing on your breathing, specifically on the quality and state of your breath, could be the key to unlock your potential for a Happy Brain!

WARNING: Slow, deep breathing may cause long-lasting side effects such as increased happiness, optimism, health, calm, and alertness.

If you’re curious to discover how ancient Yoga philosophy and meditation techniques align with cutting-edge brain science research to help you achieve greater health and happiness, join us Sun. Feb. 24th at Loyola Marymount University’s Center for Religion and Spirituality’s workshop on “Yoga & Your Brain.”

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Couple in LoveLove is the bridge between you and everything. This one phrase—penned by the noted 13th century Sufi mystic and poet Rumi—is precisely what brain science now reveals and what timeless spiritual traditions always knew. We are wired for love and connection. Love is the sacred bridge that connects you to the world.

Love does more than rejoice the heart and warm the soul, it also powerfully benefits your brain. It’s a key concept that I look forward to sharing with you in my upcoming book Science of a Happy Brain. So potent is the drive for love and social bonding that in their absence, something remarkable happens in your brain, body, and being.

The pain felt when you lack love or healthy human contact is processed in shared regions of your brain that regulate physical pain. What does that mean? Your brain experiences equally the pain from a broken bone, a broken heart, and broken bonds. Prolonged social and emotional pain are shown to impair immune system function and DNA replication—two leading factors for disease and decreased lifespan. 

Conversely, the more you cultivate love and meaningful relationships—not just romantic—the happier and healthier you become. Love is also what cultivates the 4 Cs of a Happy Brain—Comfort, Contribution, Connection, and Compassion. From the perspective of brain science:

1) Love gives us comfort in times of strife.
2) Love acts as a form of contribution allowing us to express our calling and purpose in the world.
3) Love provides deep and nurturing connection to others in our life.
4) Love teaches us the gift of compassion and the ability to empathize the suffering of others.

As I share in Science of a Happy Brain: “The drive to know you are loved, valued, and cared for by others is just as fundamental to your health and happiness as are the importance of food, water, warmth, and sleep.” It all goes back to how the human brain evolved as a “social organ” for connection and caring.

Rumi was right! Love does connect you to everything and everyone.  Learn more about “Love on the Brain.”


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Golden Retriever dog giving paw owner, closeup photoEver wonder why your dog becomes so passionately excited seeing you even if you’ve only been gone for five minutes? How do you know exactly what your dog is feeling from simply its bark or gaze? It turns out you speak “dog” better than you think. It all goes back to the powerful bond developed between dogs and humans. Archeological research reveals that our special bond with dogs is extremely ancient with the discovery of burial sites showing dogs being buried alongside humans nearly 14,000 years ago. The bond between you and your dog is more than powerful, it’s primal.

What’s even more incredible is how current discoveries in brain science indicate the human brain evolved to communicate non-verbally with “man’s best friend.” Here’s a fun act—the same neuro-chemicals released in a dog’s brain when it sees you are identical to those released in your brain when you’re deeply in love. That’s right, your dog is constantly in love with you and isn’t shy to show it! Enjoy learning more about this special bond in  “Why Dogs & Humans Love Each Other”

 

 

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Screen Shot 2019-01-02 at 11.12.50 PMAwaken to a new way of parenting with proven tools that will help your amazing children be EVEN MORE resilient, authentic, mindful and aware — because we can all use support to be the best parents we can be! Whether you desire to be a more mindful parent or your kids to achieve balance, longevity, and resilience, join Dr. Jay Kumar and numerous noted experts at the free online Mindful World Parenting Summit Jan. 21-27, 2019. to explore the latest research and applications for raising healthy and happy kids. Register for this free online seminar and enjoy my interview “Achieving Balance, Longevity & Resilience” for your kids.

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As you start the New Year, enjoy our short video on Dr. Jay’s upcoming book “Science of a Happy Brain” coming out in 2019.

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