How to “grow” happy | Mithu Storoni | TEDxHongKongSalon – YouTube



48 responses »

  1. Storoni explains something very relevant and familiar to me that has come up in my life recently . The idea of the two sides of the brain that controls your happiness and your reactions to things can be adapted to many different things. Neuroplasticity is truly an amazing thing and it can change how you live and think, all you have to do is strengthen your brain synapses. Synapse formation can be weakened and paused when stress arises, which can effect how you live, how you treat your body and your mind. Nutrition, rest and exercise can help your brain become stronger. I like how Storoni tells us to treat our brains like they are living intelligent creatures. You must train your brain so it becomes stronger and smarter. Brains like pattern, and if you change your patterns, the brain will adapt. Disengaging the emotional brain will strengthen us and help us to think clearly and positively without any harmful or useless brain chatter getting us in the way of our happiness.

    – Lilah

  2. This video was very insightful. In the very beginning of this video Mithu explains a very fundamental frame of thought that has very destructive results. This frame of thought is the linear, cause-and-effect method of thought. This method was first documented in some of the first anthropological work from the 1600-1700’s. In these texts lied the the barest of bones of the study of anthropology which now is the conceptualized at the study of human experience, life and subjectivity, whereas then, were of why humans behaved certain ways. The issue with this phenomenon was not only were the perspectives of these texts coming from affluent, white men during colonial and imperial times, but they were inherently flooded with Ethnocentric bias, racism and sexism, etc…What came from these texts were an evolutionary way of thinking about different cultures, allowing white men to quantify culture, referring its own culture as the peak of evolutionary civilization and everyone else as lower on the timeline of evolution, and therefor less than. Anthropologist L. L. Langess writes in his description of these conceptually ancient anthropology texts in “Degeneration and Progress”. This timeline of “civility” and “culture” (since they were synonymous at this time) worked in the same manner that we think and are taught history today. Langess argues, “The relationship of anthropology to the notion of evolution is a fact of great importance in the study of culture, no only because all of the early anthropologists were influenced by the belief in evolution but also because it continues to affect the ways we thank about ourselves to the present day” (14). This idea that existed them and still very exists now that comes from this method of thought is the pressure of “progress”.
    From the day we are born we are fed ideals of perfection, growth, success, and progress. Being happy is of these factors that is considered to be part of your progress as an individual in society. Because we think of happiness in these artificial terms, of this cause and effect and with this insecure air, we are doing the polar opposite. Mithu debunks this way of thinking about happiness in this video and rather explains that happiness derives from an experience of an event rather than as a consequence of it.
    Mithu also explicitly describes the science behind the experience of happiness and negativity. Startlingly brains shrink when falling into realms of negativity and depression. This makes a lot of sense and accommodates my experiences with extensive feelings of negativity. Pretty much my entire life I’ve been an optimistic and ultimately, happy person, finding joy and happiness in the slightest things. Starting school stress from work and upsetting experiences I have had have weighed on this ultimate happiness, and I have found that I am less engaged and thinking rationally when I am swooned by negative emotions. Mithu also emphasizes resIlience as a primary trait in order to sustain and achieve internal happiness and optimism, which the brain does naturally. Resilience from the emotional pull from your brain, resilience to see the positive in things no matter what, resilience to be ourselves in a society that demands you to disguise your real self, resilience to things that stop you from growing.

  3. This TED Talk focused on how one can grow to be a happy person if they acquire the proper mental skills to do so. My favorite aspect of this video was the speaker speaking about our inner child. I have always been taught by my parents to “protect” my inner child to maintain some level of purity that only I as a child maintained. The speaker explained how as humans we must fit in. We must be a part of a tribe and in order to do so, as we get older we mask and in a way suppress our actual feelings that we had as children, which can make us unhappy. However, going back to the beginning of her lecture, she discusses how we can nurture our brains to be happy and deal with stressful and upsetting or unwanted situations better. She uses the analogy of when a tree falls on a small plant. Although one might think the plant is crushed, they later discover the plant is resilient and was capable of growing beyond the falling of the tree. The speaker explains that we must do thinks to exercise our brain and build up our mental toolbox to better deal with stress and we will be able to achieve happiness either and not be hindered by unpleasant events or feelings. We can do this by giving our brains nutrition, rest and productive tasks. Setting a goal for oneself can be a learning experience, creating stress and challenges that we have brought upon ourselves and learning how to work through them. Not coping with stress can cause destruction (and violence to ourselves), and make it impossible to maintain happiness.

  4. Leah Ashton-Facin
    This video seemed very similar to the stress video that discussed causes of stress and how to deal with it. This video pertaining to happiness in my opinion goes beyond the perception of stresses and anxieties to place the solution within agency as well. Storoni explains that one has the ability to use stressful or negative events and to overcome such events. The more that one does this the more the brain is able to handle and therefore understand. When the brain has a pause in synapse and can no longer form new brain cells this is where the shrinking can happen. Although in certain circumstances it may seem very difficult to overcome these issues the video gave me a better understanding of the relationship between stress and happiness in my own life. The rational mind is always competing with the irrational and emotional mind. Therefore it is important not only to be aware of that and to view negative thoughts with less gravity but also to understand that conquering these stresses is productive in helping these issues of stress. Growth is an important in order to work beyond the idea of cause and effect idea that we put on happiness, that there needs to be a cause for happiness. Perhaps that cause could potentially be this growth in terms of working through these issues in order to not only change our perspectives on stress but to change our actions.

  5. This makes me think that people (perhaps myself included) need to take more initiative in their happiness. A lot of people either think they are destined to be unhappy or that happiness is to far out of reach. But no, it’s something you can work at. The brain is a muscle, it needs activity to stay healthy like any other part of the body. If you just stare at a screen all day and never work it out, you’ll never improve. I think another way this manifests itself in our culture is through medication and how it is often over and unnecessarily prescribed. People (mostly Americans) often seem to feel that just because a doctor gave them some pill that all their problems will be handled and that a) they don’t need to talk to anyone about it and b) they don’t need to take agency in their happiness. I find that very disheartening. It can take so little to make you happy and work on the good parts of the brain. For example I find the Isha Kriya makes me feel a lot more present and happy throughout my day. But it doesn’t have to be a regular activity, it can be a small rare occurrence. I was walking through a parking lot the other day and one of the cars had a bumper sticker that read, “Smile, Jesus loves you.” And you know what? I did. Even thought my personal faith doesn’t align with the teachings of Jesus, something about that made me happy. Made it was that the bumper sticker itself was kind of silly, maybe it was the fact that a stranger put some effort in to make me smile, maybe it was the friend I was with. Whatever it was, that small moment and many others like it, will carry me through my days bringing happiness to the little piece of muscle between my temples.

    • This is by far your best Yoga Journal essay…you have reviewed the subject matter, added your own experiences and thoughts…do keep along this method of writing for your own sake and to earn a better grade to boot! OM

  6. I think it is very interesting to think about how our environments and surroundings affect the way we perceive the world. This might be something you always inherently know, but to actually consider the affects that your environment can have on your brain, to me, is considering it’s importance in a new light. Its fascinating to think of our brains as plants that need nutrition, and, as it is with our bodies, it is easy to fall into bad habits that don’t benefit us at all. Sometimes I find myself feeling positive for some periods of time and sometimes I fall into negative thought and behavior patterns. When each of these happen in the future, i will try to consider the way I have been treating my body and mind in order to figure what I can change to change my perception. Our perception of life is key to our understanding and enjoyment of it, and our perception is inherently linked to every other part of our being, so it pays off to treat ourselves well if we can.

  7. This Ted Talk is definitely worth listening to not only once, but a few times. I really enjoyed the part when she talks about challenging the human brain or, “dangling the carrot.” I tend to be very lazy. I more often do things last minute than I do them in time, but I also tend to work very very well under preassure. That pressure is what Mithu Storoni defines as the challenge for the lazy person. Storoni says that when our brain encounters a challenge is has to rise to that challenge and overcome it. Regardless of how difficult the challenge may be, there is always going to be ways to overcome it. I think that’s where the rational part of our brain comes into play. We need to find rational ways of solving those issues, rather than getting too emotionally invested, without actually solving anything. I believe meditation is a good way to overcome issues. Meditating relaxes my body, allowing me to make better decisions. Everything in life connects. If we listen to our bodies, we’ll know what we need in order to be happy.

  8. Growing up I remember hearing that it takes more muscles to frown that it does to smile, and whether that is true or not, I’ve found that simply smiling for no reason provides a feeling of happiness. This video on how to live a happy life really tripped me up because I wasn’t aware that emotion and the feeling of happiness or sadness were this intricate and somewhat diabolical. I guess that on the daily basis of life, we are more subjected to cage-like experiences as opposed to happier situations. In regard to all the scientific components of the video, I notice that while I am not necessarily happier since starting my yoga practice, but I can, however, shift my focus from the mentioned negative emotional jargon. Looking forward to changing my brain’s autobiography in the coming weeks.

    This past week, I have done the Isha Kriya twice since our last meeting. I continue to practice before going to bed and I do continue to sleep better. AntiaiAnticipating a snow day this Tuesday, I expect to get my the practice time in before our next meeting time.

    (I could not find the reading, Science of Gayathri Mantra, for September 11, 2015 listed.)

  9. In this video, Mithu Storoni gives a Ted Talk, where she explains our linear, cause-and-effect view of happiness, and how damaging that can be when trying to live a happy life. In our capitalistic society, “happiness” has become a commodity, and through countless advertisements, movies, and other forms of media crammed down our throats at our earliest stages in life, we are constantly told that we aren’t good enough. We are then told what happiness is from these mediums, and told what items we need to buy in order to achieve this happiness, leading us to believe that happiness is something we can “get”. That happiness is a result of a certain action we must do, and once we have completed that action, we shall be happy. This is not how it works, and happiness is not a linear “step” that one reaches through an action. Happiness is fluid, it is an all-encompassing pool that surrounds every activity, mood, and emotion we have. This is best emphasized in Mithu’s talk of “resilience” and how this is a trait necessary to live a happy and optimistic life. This resilience brings us back to a state of happiness from the pulls of negativity and pessimism. It pulls us back from the harmful ideals of happiness and perfection that society puts in place. From my personal experience, this resilience is similar to a muscle, in which it must be exercised regularly in order to function properly and with more ease. In order to exercise this “muscle” we must constantly remind ourselves what is truly important in this life, we must find happiness and acceptance within ourselves, as opposed to seeking it from others or from society. We must realize that we are, all of us, beautiful as we are, and that no negative experience or feeling has the power to control or hurt us unless we give it the power to. Happiness is not something to be “gotten” or a step to reach on a linear path, but rather a state of mind achieved by self love and acceptance of all things in our lives.

  10. I enjoyed watching this video because I was able to understand a different way of thinking how happiness forms and how certain people can constantly feel this way. The woman lecturing gave many great examples to how we can look at happiness that I completely agreed with. One of her statements that really stood out to me was her explaining that if life is good keep paddling and if life is bad to keep paddling harder because you have to the think of the baby plant that got smushed by a trunk and days later a new bud was formed. This was very inspirational to hear. I feel that in life we all get caught up with everything that’s going on around us and unfortunately the negative events that take place in our life latch on to us the most. This is where it takes a strong and positive person to tell themselves that they will not let the negativity take over their life and they will keep pushing harder and keep moving forward. I think these kind of people are what defines happiness. Another great example she gave is how she explained the DMN and how we pretty much create our own stories. If we are happy and positive then we are going to create great success stories but if we are feeling down and negative it is continuously going to stay that way. I feel that in order to find that constant happiness in your life you need to reverse the process. For example, if one sees that they’re constantly feeling down due to lack of sleep or nutrition or even a toxic relationship, make a change in these kind of situations. Try a new routine. Sometimes I feel that people get drained constantly doing the same routine and need a different outlook on life to find that excitement and happiness.
    I’d like to say I’m genuinely a happy person and I can thank my love of health and fitness for that. Being a woman who is constantly active, endorphins in my body are constantly being released therefore making me a positive person overall. I recommend everyone trying to stay active and care about their because it can do tremendous benefits to the body and mind.

  11. The idea of brain plasticity is so intriguing to me. I find it funny that yoga has moved me more towards the scientific outlook on my body. I think it adds more value to yoga as a practice to consider it as a scientific process. All of the things she mentioned about growing, from challenging ourselves to being aware and mindful are present in yoga. The small challenges of poses or prolonged stress on the body – and the awareness that comes with it not only calms the mind but helps to enrich it!

    The effect of this is visible and invisible. You’ll see it of course in the body. I’ve noticed my breathing is more consistent and deep after yoga and some of the pian in my back is reduced. But also I am calmer and more considerate. I thnink it ia not so much an effect of the yoga itself but of the process of making the time to practice, making the space to do it effectively and carrying this space with me and extending it at every opportunity. Yoga is less a exercise in this way, it is a mindset, a toolbox for keeping calm, cool and collected. That all of it is backed by science and history is all the more satisfying!

  12. Michu Storoni made many great points on the productivity of the happy person . She pointed out that the brain, like any living thing needs sustenance for survival. She named challenge, novelty and attention as three things that are essential to the brain’s well being. She describes the synapse, the space between two cells in which neurons are transmitted for communication, as the primary site for the development of the brain. The more the synapses, the stronger the brain. Synapses can be created if the brain is learning and challenged, it will need to in order to process information and remember. Attention is also very important, in many forms not just exercise but attention to its necessity to also relax. Another point that resinated with me was developing an alignment between your mind and body, the person on the outside and the person on the inside, as Storoni phrased it. This to me is the most important part of life, to develop this relationship and nurture it. Yoga and more specifically Isha Kriya has helped me do this, in that I’ve been able to take time to check in with myself more frequently throughout the day. During stressful times or conversations I will have a short period of time to breathe and meditate in order to realign myself. I have continued practicing the Kriya three times a week, formally, but practice variations throughout the day in order to clear my brain and nurture it.


  13. I find that what keeps me feeling centered and happy is always having a sense of being grateful. The less entitled we feel, the happier. For example, our health is something that we take for granted until we are sick. That is something to be grateful for, because we are not owed our health. Whenever I find myself in a rut, I realize how much I am focusing on the negative. Of course, circumstantial situations are more difficult to control, but what we can control is our outlook on things. A relationship didn’t work out? School is tough? You lost your job? The list goes on. But when we refocus on the things we do have, we return to our selves. Stress only comes when we obsess over the list of what isn’t “working” in our favor. Instead of obsessing over what we lack, we need to always be appreciative for what we have in our lives.

  14. The test with the mouse is pretty interesting. I understand generally how stress and a lack of happiness effects us, but I never imagined the brain shrinking due to a lack of happiness. It’s hard enough to imagine this happening in an animal, let alone a human. The idea of our brain growing synapses during happiness gives me some hope though. This ted-talker is really pleasant to listen to, she sound hopeful and happy and it helps her transmit her message. I think having healthy emotions is one of the most important things that humans need to do. I see myself as a typically positive and happy person, but I’ve definitely had my share of depression and hardships. Unhappiness doesn’t just affect the way we feel, it affects our physical and mental health in ways we can’t live with. Positivity and happiness are wholeheartedly necessary to living a healthy life. Living life in good physical shape isn’t enough for us to be in good health. Mental health is equally as important, if not more important than our physical health. Nobody can live without happiness.

  15. This assignment in particular really resonated with me. Due to some personal issues in my life I’ve often found myself struggling to achieve what I consider to be ‘real happiness’. There is a fair amount of negativity in my life, some comes from me, some comes from the people around me. I like to think I’m a pretty self aware person, one could even say I’m terrified of being delusional, so I often end up putting myself down in really unnecessary ways. I have found that this detracts from my capacity to really enjoy life quite a bit. Happiness seems like such a simple concept yet somehow so difficult to attain.

    I also found the concept of separating the ‘rational brain’ and the ’emotional brain’ to be very intriguing. This is something I often struggle with and I see how it (or rather my inability to do it)could easily be a large source of issues and unhappiness. When I do the isha kriya I can honestly say this concept comes easily to me, but when it comes to dealing with issues and tasks elsewhere in my life, I can’t say I have the knowledge/discipline to parse these two ‘brains’ very well.

    • Come to class and stay with your practice…you are still young with your practice…it gets better in time, everything you need for progress comes with patience and diligence…OM

  16. Ted Talks are always incredibly fascinating and this one is no exception. Storoni brings up a few points that really resonated with me throughout the talk. The first being this tug of war between rational and emotional. The rational mind is something I think about on a daily basis. I always check myself to make sure I’m on that side of my brain and that I’m not approaching something with too much emotion. Not to say that emotion isn’t an important part of our lives but it should not be what overrules our decisions. Thinking rationally is how you make the correct choices because you don’t let anger or the illusion of love take over. Rational thought is also a great way to put yourself in the shoes of another. Looking at a problem or situation from not only your own point of view but also another. Understanding why someone way do that and I would go about it another way is how you solve problems between people.
    Another point that I liked was that of when that typhoon does hit, all you need is one little bud to keep you going. That’s essentially the expression, when the going gets tough we get going. I try my best to live by. Looking at challenges or typhoons as opportunities to prove myself, to the people around me but mostly to myself. Prove to myself that I can get through this and be stronger because of it. Or as they say, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
    For this talk, I would have liked more on mediation and how exactly it helps with the growth in your brain but I think through earlier readings and from my own experience I understand what she is getting at. And letting that kid grow is just a matter of letting him and not continuing on with your disguise.

    -Phillip Laskaris

  17. How to grow happy by Mithu Storoni is an amazing talk that guiding us to live a better life with scientific ways. I have never thought that human brain could shrink negatively in a poor environment with stress. “Challenge” and “Novelty” are two important elements for an enrich environment. Once you have been in a enrich environment, then you could easily deal with your stress without making the brain shrink. The three main parts for us to grow happy are essential to keep in our mind. We need to be like a plant,which need to grow strong. Secondly, we all need to have a autobiography inside of us recording our own story. Think of our life as an autobiography to make our own story. Moreover, no matter who we are, never forget the little child inside our heart. The real identity inside our heart knows what make us happy and sad.
    I once read a book name “Secret” by Rhonda Byrne that inspire me a lot. It stated how our belief and energy could influence our surrounding. It is based on the law of attraction. When you are happy, your positive energy would attract not only the good things, but also the people with the similar energy level as you. The positive energy could create life changing result. Although bringing up this book seems not relative to this video, I feel it is something people could read about to gain additional benefit of being happy.

    • This is your best journal work this semester, you have here reviewed the subject matter, added other reference and offered your own opinions….keep up this kind of work to earn a grade you will be proud of….Namaste

  18. This video was really nice to listen to because it was a reminder of the larger picture. It talks about writing your own autobiography, essentially being the author of your own life and dictating what you want in it and if it’s a happy tale or a sad one. These are important things that we must consider as we grow older. Each person has hardships that they face, challenges that test their courage and inner strength. That test of courage is faced by pretty much everyone and of course some stories seem worse than others but one’s life experiences are incredibly subjective and must not be compared to other’s experiences. We are all unique individuals who face fear, frustration or feelings of anger, perhaps even hatred of a person or event. But to harbor this anger is where the road splits in two.

    If a person chooses to hold on to their anger within them rather than release it and replace it with forgiveness, understanding and strength, then we are choosing to write a sadder story of our lives. We are in control, not of what happens to us but of how we react to it. Sometimes people have medical conditions where the brain is chemically imbalanced, we can understand this changes the way we handle those situations with the addition of a medication or a therapy treatment. However, what is most important for all people is that they can choose to react or experience their experiences differently if they decide they wish to lead a happy life and not let the negative things weigh on them. I think this is how I live my life and I am very proud of myself for that.

    Raechel Teitelbaum

  19. What this talk is essentially getting at is that we have the power to be happy. Happiness is a way of living not a goal, and the way our mind reacts to the influences around us is a huge factor in our happiness. The part where she compared the human brain to a plant was very clear to me. We must nurture it, feed it with healthy thoughts, surround it in an appropriate environment, and give it the attention it needs in order for it to grow. Often when one puts time and effort in improving their mental health, it is considered taboo (e.g. going to a therapist puts assumptions into others’ minds). However, it is important to put time into caring for our mind and growing the tools we need to manage the stressors of life. Many humans come to this realization too late, after the bulk of their life has passed. I have personally put a lot of focus on self-care this semester so that I am prepared for the challenges that post-college life will bring. It’s not necessarily about avoiding these challenges but knowing how to push through them with a positive perspective on each situation. We have the power of choice and if we treat our minds properly than achieving happiness in our lives can happen.

  20. Happiness is something that at times seems so impossible to achieve, but is rather quiet simple to attain. Storoni’s research showed that challenging yourself and accomplishing things makes synapses grow and become more resilient and that part of your brain actually help you grow to be a happier person. In my daily life I find that I am most content and happy when I have accomplished a lot of tasks and am currently learning and growing from another challenge.

    I have a teacher who I admire because despite her illness she persists on being happy and challenging herself daily. I have never met a person in my life who works harder and loves whole heartedly what she does. Her illness does not define her and I am sure that it is because of the vast amount of synapses in her brain. It is proof that what Storoni says is true. If you’re constantly challenging yourself to grow and let yourself accomplish great things you will be a happier more content person. My teacher is an inspiration because of her resilience and constant curiosity to better herself. This is a reminder for me to constantly challenge myself and to keep on growing even during times when happiness seems to be a unattainable thing.

  21. The brain being represented as a plant is a very pleasant metaphor. What is important is not the situation you find yourself in but how you react to that situation. With every unpleasant experience that a brain may go through it will only get stronger through survival; such as the plant growing a branch after being smashed by the trunk.
    I also have found situations where I reward myself here and there as I slowly write a paper in the middle of the night. I have not once thought of this as challenge and novelty until watching this ted talk. We have long term goals however due to our very scheduled lives our brain sets up short term goals for us to follow on a more constant basis. Understand ing the value of experience is a very important concept as well. As a society we group ourselves into different groups such as race and class yet everyone has their own individual experience. We will not truly to be able to move around freely until we can look to world through a naked eye.

  22. I believe that perspective makes the world of a difference. Unwavering optimism in people is called happiness happiness comes from our experience from the event rather than the event itself. That means that we have the ability to turn on the light in our mind, to create a beautiful situation and to find pleasure in any everyday occurence. The hippocampus- home of rational thought and intelligence and pre frontal cortex – logical thought, analysis these areas of the brain keep us rational. This is all good to know, the brain is an amazing and curious organ that we still don’t completely understand. Stress effects synapses in the brain, in a negative way. The brain is like a plant!! I loved what she said about this, it is so true!! Brains communicate with a language like out brain does! Its all energy and connections, touching the air, the ground, dirt, water, all of these factors come into play and are all connected. Technically I believe that every little thing in the universe is connection, energy is never created nor destroyed so I know that everything has always been and will always be connected.
    A rich enviroment increases synapses, which helps people grow and develop, learn and change.

  23. This talk was very enlightening. It would dispel the thought of “set your mind to it and it will happen” or the “positive thinking” folks. If someone is in a constant depressive state or environment, it can be extremely difficult to get out of that kind of funk. I found this out the hard way. I had to learn to let people in when dealing with my problems. When I did, I noticed that I was able to get out of that funk much faster than otherwise. The people who knew about my problem were creating a better environment to heal and overcome.

  24. This was an extremely pleasant watch. Dr. Storoni’s analysis of the neuroscience behind our emotion was extremely eye opening and gave me a bit more of an understanding on how I might be able to tackle my own emotions. Having all the information in our brain held in just a minute synapse within the brain is kind of insane but also a beautiful idea. Everything we come to have known is concentrated a very small space and thinking about this is probably a good method of trying to center myself during my reflection period. Positivity and happiness are wholeheartedly necessary to living a healthy life. Putting effort into concentrating on this can only really be beneficial. Even out our physical health with our mental health.

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