Brain, Healing & Happiness

I’ve studied the brain for more than 25 years - as a researcher, teacher, therapist, and meditator. Advances in research and especially technology have provided amazing windows into the brain, unlocking fresh insights into key brain circuitries and they work together.

We can harness these discoveries to understand our own brains, what brings healing and happiness, and which concepts and practices are helpful in our everyday lives.

Here you’ll find practical knowledge and insights about your brain that can help you make sense of

  • Thoughts
  • Emotions
  • Behaviors
  • Values and motivations that shape your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors

You’ll find guidance – grounded in cutting-edge scientific knowledge and the wisdom of humanity’s great religious and spiritual traditions – for healing suffering and bringing genuine happiness into daily life.

Some Cautions

The human brain is incredibly complex, with about 100 billion neurons (or brain cells). Neuroscience research is similarly vast in its breadth and depth.

As a psychologist who has studied neuroscience for decades and conducted brain imaging studies to understand traumatized people, I appreciate that vast complexity. I’ve also learned some important things about studying the brain and making that knowledge accessible.

To make sense of what we learn about the brain, and to share it with others, we must simplify. But that should not mean watering-down the science, or contradicting it.

The best teachers ensure their ideas truly reflect scientific knowledge and never distort it. The information and guidance given here may be simple to understand, but they are based on the complex findings of scientific study.

So let’s explore some fundamental neuroscience knowledge, on some key circuitries of the human brain, and focus on how this can help us achieve healthier, fuller, and more satisfying lives.

My Guiding Principles

I use the term brain circuitries to refer to collections of brain areas that work together to perform certain functions. For example, one circuitry plays a central role in detecting and defending against danger; another underlies feelings of satisfaction and contentment, like when we we’ve just accomplished something good and feel satisfied and relaxed.

I focus on a few key brain circuitries, and brain-based processes involving those circuitries, so that people can

  • Easily connect them to their own experience
  • Choose to reflect upon and change the functioning of those circuitries and processes that aren’t working to reduce suffering and increase happiness

I don’t focus on how very stressful or traumatic experiences, or negative behaviors such as addictions, can “damage” the brain. The human brain’s resilience, and its capacities for changing and healing, are both remarkable and influenced by many different factors. It’s just not helpful to believe, especially based on someone else’s sweeping claims, that healing and finding happiness can be prevented by past adversity or ways you’ve tried to cope.

So let’s begin by finding clarity in the brain’s complexity, and explore the key circuitries and processes involved in healing and finding happiness.