Saturday, December 27, 2008

Mirror Neurons: Happiness is a terrific gift to share with others

Did you know that you have “mirror neurons” in your brain? I did not know that until I read it in this morning’s newspaper! : D

Mirror neurons are what make you smile when someone smiles at you, or make you laugh when others laugh. Actually, you may not even crack a smile for your mirror neurons to still be doing their magic, making you happier.

“A happy face is one of the first lessons a mother teaches her own creation,” says the writer, Dr. Cramer. “Happiness is not a finite commodity; it is constantly created, it is continuously shared. We are members of the emotional-industrial complex of manufacturing happiness. Yes, it is a personal responsibility or, better, an individual opportunity. However, those who favor the philosophy of sole personal responsibility for all individual feelings forget that perhaps their actions in the social network are contributing in some way to the sadness of the others in their environs. And for those who think happiness is something owed to them by society or that it is there or not there due to some genetic mutation or income, they are also wrong. Happiness is both. It is self-generated and collectively distributed. All of us have both the obligation to others and the opportunity to ourselves to produce happiness.”

While reading this article, I made a New Year’s Resolution to spread more cheer in the coming year. I plan to:

Ac-cent-u-ate the positive
E-lim-i-nate the negative
Latch onto the affirmative, and
Don’t mess with Mr. In-Between

I know, I know, I sound like a silly song-and-dance routine reminiscent of old Broadway, Bing Crosby, and Frank Sinatra.

But Dr. Cramer made some good points. He suggested a metaphor: “to become emotion-efficient we may need to swap out some old wasteful incandescent light sources and seek other kinds of illumination. Maybe instead of the glow from the TV screen or the silver screen we should receive our light from the beauty around us, or that brightness that is reflected from millennia of accumulated wisdom or scripture.”

I know that after spending several hours on the computer, if I go outside and look at the snow-capped mountains and the blue sky, I feel wonderfully cheery and suddenly have a better focus on reality. Additionally, I recognize that I am really cheating myself of wonderful inner joy if I forget to read a little scripture everyday. And I get great uplift from reading other things that are true and edifying.

Dr. Cramer pointed out some emotional hangups that are real joy-killers: “There are worn-out energy-sucking appliances in our lives, like old exhausted memories. Repeatedly opening up the door to these freezers of past pain just burns up power better suited for personal progress, and it wastes chances of giving back to others.”

I think his last observation boils down to forgiveness and compassion. It is a gift to ourselves as well as to others. Who enjoys being around others who are endlessly nursing old wounds? Or are cranky at every slight and offense that occurs around them? (Like fuming about other drivers on the road, for example.) Being angry, or even a little cranky, is terrible thing to do to ourselves and to others. Obviously, our mirror neurons not only spread happiness, they can also spread unhappiness, too.

So, my most important New Year’s Resolution will be to try to remember that any unpleasantness in my life is not an excuse or a license for being a grouch. “All things shall work together for my good if I walk uprightly.” Challenges to my cheeriness are opportunities for me to be a better person.


Katscratchme said...

Wonderful! It's nice to know that some people out there are studying things that actually help people! :)

Anonymous said...

I think I am on the same wavelength as you, Mom. Jeremy and I started reading that book you gave me, "The Soft-Spoken Parent." He talks about things in regards to children, but they apply to our lives in every way. He says that being angry actually physically damages your heart. Neat, huh?

Zaphod said...

Well, if I am to part of the solution rather than part of the problem, I am going to do a lot less driving.

Bliss said...

"Peace begins with a smile,.."
— Mother Teresa

Davola said...

Speak softly and carry a big stick.