Lasting happiness in a changing world

(Taken from The Book of Joy written with the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu)

The subject is neuroimaging research into a unified theory of the happy brain by Doctor Richard Davidson.

According to Dr. Davidson, there are four independent brain circuits that influence our lasting well being.

1) The first curcuit encompasses our ability to maintain positive states and positive emotions. The ability to maintain these positive traits directly impact one’s ability to experience happiness. The Dalai Lama and the Archbishop conject that the fastest way to this state is to start with love and compassion.

2) The second circuit is responsible for our ability to recover from negative states. One can be adept at maintaining positive states but may easily fall into an abyss of a negative state from which one has a hard time recovering. Being human in this world is difficult. The ability to overcome hardship is a definite challenge but humans have overcome unthinkable events in history and have managed to survive thus far.

3) The third circuit, independent but essential to the others, is our ability to focus and avoid mind-wandering. This has been influential for the invention and embracement of meditation. Neurological scans show intense brain chemistry changes when a subject is in a deep state of meditation.

4) The forth (and my personal favorite) circuit is connected to our ability to be generous. Yes, we have an entire brain circuit devoted just to generosity. It has been shown that when we help others or are helped by others, or even witness others being helped, the neurological circuit is triggered in a way that cannot be reproduced with any other stimuli.

According to Dr. Davidson, there is strong and compelling research that human beings come factory equipped for cooperation, compassion, and generosity.

The Archbishop and the Dalai Lama espouse that the ability and desire to cooperate – and be generous to others – should be harnessed personally, socially, and globally.

These enlightened men constantly strive to remind us that we are – in fact – one group.


This is why I am a Rotarian.