“The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell and a hell of heaven.” – John Milton, Paradise Lost

In last week’s message, I told you that what we think about affects our brain health. I’m so impressed with this research, I want to tell you more about it.

At Harvard, where Shawn Achor* studied and worked for 12 years, he saw that students who fretted the most did the worst and were susceptible to more stress and depression.

Per Achor, the Ancient Greeks defined happiness as: The joy we feel striving for our potential.

There’s joy in learning when we choose to view it that way. Achor talked with poor school children and influential leaders in Africa. He was surprised at how happy the kids were in school. Why were they happy? Because they viewed getting an education as a privilege.

At Harvard, the privileged kids who focused on fear and lack, worried about grades instead of focusing on the joys of learning and exploring, were miserable and did poorly. Their outlook negatively affected their brain.

We’ve all experienced frustration and fear of failure with some roles and projects. Maybe you’re going through that now.

So, what can you do to improve your brain? Last week I suggested two simple things. Here’s another one that will take just 2 minutes and can significantly impact you for the rest of your life. Breathe.

Many people (including me) have difficulty meditating. Our brain is so active, always multi-tasking, it’s hard to quiet it. But I believe we can do this.

Achor said: “Here’s what we found: For two minutes, watching their breath go in and out — literally two minutes — it gave their brain a new pattern… [It went from] multitasking to single-task… Their happiness levels improved, their stress dropped, and, amazingly, the stress of the people around them dropped as well. It starts to cause this chain reaction.”

Wouldn’t you like that? Let’s do it. Set the timer on your phone for 2 minutes. Put it down. Focus on your breath going in and out. Do it every day. Because, done regularly, those 2 minutes can positively impact your brain, raising your intelligence level, your creativity and your energy level.

I’m going to do it daily for the month of August and see what happens. Want to join me?

*Shawn Achor authored The Happiness Advantage / How a Positive Brain Fuels Success in Work and LifeWatch or listen to Achor being interviewed by Oprah on Super Soul Sunday. 

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