MENTAL HEALTH MATTERS: Your skill set for well-being

By Bill Mory
Special to the Herald Democrat

Good mental health is something that can be learned and practiced. Modern neuro science tells us that well-being is a different and learning how to play the guitar, tennis or learning your ABC’s.

If we practice skills of well-being, we get better at it. Based on research by Richard Davidson, PhD, a neuroscientist and researcher at University of Wisconsin-Madison, there are four basic skills that can be improved that will turbo-charge our well-being if practiced. Consider these….

1) Resilience: This is the rapidity with which we recover from adversity. Research at Dr. Davidson’s lab demonstrated that mindfulness meditation practice benefitted the brain circuits that promote resilience. Another neuroscience-based approach you may have heard of is Emotional Brain Training.

2) Outlook. This refers to the ability to see the positive in others, the ability to savor positive experiences and experience positive emotions. Studies show that relatively modest amounts of compassion training heled people build the positive outlook skills and change their brains.

3) Attention is the third skill. Our minds can, and do, go in to a default mode fairly easily. Sometimes we call this ‘mind wandering’. Today we have practical steps to help people training their attention. As example of this, check out the plethora of meditation apps that have crowed the app stores on our phones. An important reason to train our attention is that a majority of mind wandering leans toward the negative. Brain science calls this the Negative Bias of the Brain. We can better balance this inherent negative bias with a little attentional training.

4) Generosity and Acts of Kindness. There is abundant data showing that when people engage in generous and altruistic behavior circuits are activated in the brain that are fundamental to fostering well-being. We actually come in to this world with these innate skills but they need to be developed. Just like language, which also is innate, if we never heard a word or practiced speaking, we would never speak words.

Our brains are constantly being shaped whether we are aware of it our not. Much of the time we are not. By purposely training and shaping our brains in ways that will strengthen these four basic skills, we can contribute in a big way to expanding out well-being.

Bill Mory

Bill Mory is licensed therapist in private practice, in Texoma, who is an active member of the local behavioral health network and a provider of workplace training on Mindfulness, Emotional Brain Training and other topics. Learn more at www.morytherapy.com. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Herald Democrat.