According to the new positive psychology movement, optimism is an integral component of flourishing; essentially living a pleasurable life.
There is increasing evidence to demonstrate that brain structure may in fact influence the capacity to experience optimism. Neuroscience focused on emotional regulation suggests that meditation & mindfulness reduce density and activation of a region of the brain known as the amygdala (responsible for emotional regulation). The amygdala responds to stress related situations that have negative connotations attached. This could be an argument with a loved one, a relationship ending, a new illness, a mean comment made about you on social media, a looming deadline for a meeting or an exam, constantly questioning your capacity as a good parent, financial stress, replaying a story about our past etc. Rick Hanson states in his book ‘Hardwiring Happiness’ that ‘ negative stimuli are perceived more rapidly and easily than positive stimuli’. All these factors (real or perceived) thicken and activate our amygdala.
Equanimity; a perfect, unshakable balance of mind can evolve with regular meditation & mindfulness practice and subsequently, deactivate the amygdala. Consider for a moment the significance of this capacity to change how we regulate our emotions, particularly in the treatment of anxiety & depression.
From a neuroplasticity perspective (the capacity of the brain to change its function & structure), increasing awareness of and, engaging in positive thoughts & emotions strengthens these neural connections. Meditation & mindfulness allow the space for which you can tune into these positive thoughts and emotions and, the flow on effect they have in both the brain and the body.
Positive psychology, philosophy and quantum physics all agree that the state of your mind directly influences & creates your actual experience of the world. So why not tap into the innate mental health that we all have access to; after all, we all want to flourish
“By Happiness I mean here a deep sense of flourishing that arises from an exceptionally healthy mind. This is not a mere pleasurable feeling, a fleeting emotion, or a mood, but an optimal state of being.
Happiness is also a way of interpreting the world, since while it may be difficult to change the world, it is always possible to change the way we look at it.”