Tuesday, September 4, 2012

What Makes Your Brain Happy and Why You Should Do the Opposite

What Makes Your Brain Happy and Why You Should Do the Opposite, by David DiSalvo

Who could resist this title?  Not me.  David DiSalvo explains what makes for a 'happy' brain (that is, a brain that avoids risk or loss or harm and therefore doesn't get killed or have to work too hard) and why these energy-saving, protective tendencies are both helpful and harmful. 

When I first saw the title, I thought "Oh, it's a book about overcoming the natural man!"  (As in, Paul's 'natural man' image in the New Testament.)  Which it kind of is in some ways.

Brains like habits, default patterns, and the easier road every time (also addictions).  But if you always do what your brain wants you to do, you'll wind up kind of unhappy, not to mention a lazy slob.  So DiSalvo spends this book coming up with a list of about 50 (!) strategies and tips for motivating yourself, thinking productively, and generally taking advantage of how your brain works.

A striking example was about food.  If you imagine a yummy treat--say, M&Ms--you'll probably start to want some M&Ms, right?  If you then imagine yourself eating the M&Ms, that will actually satisfy your brain's craving somewhat.  So before you actually start snarfing candy, you should imagine eating some; the result will be fewer actual M&Ms consumed.

My favorite sentence was from the very beginning of the book: "...the business of science is not to provide us with settled answers that we can comfortably rest our heads upon at night."

I wasn't entirely satisfied with the book; it felt a little shorter and shallower than I was expecting.  But it was an enjoyable read and was understandable to the layperson, so maybe I'm just complaining.

1 comment:

Ally Atherton said...

Sounds interesting, I like the food idea, could save me a fortune on food shopping!

Great review!