Happy Brain: How to Overcome Our Neural Predispositions to Suffering | Amit Sood, MD | TEDxUNI

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Published 2015-05-11
Twenty years ago, Dr. Amit Sood, a Professor of Medicine at Mayo Clinic, came to the U.S. thinking he was coming to the Disneyland of the world. He expected everyone here to be very happy. What he saw surprised and shocked him. In this funny, fast-moving, and deeply insightful talk, Dr. Sood shares his journey over two decades and across two continents, finding a way to help us outsmart our neural predispositions to suffering. In the process, he takes us on a back-stage tour of the human brain and outlines the gist of a structured program he is taking globally to decrease stress and improve focus, resilience, and happiness.

Amit Sood, MD, is Professor of Medicine at Mayo Clinic and Director of Mayo's Complementary and Integrative Medicine program. He is the author of The Mayo Clinic Guide to Stress-Free Living and The Mayo Clinic Guide to Happiness. He is one of the most sought-after speakers at Mayo. He has received several NIH and foundation awards to test and implement integrative and mind-body approaches within medicine. Dr. Sood received the 2010 Distinguished Service Award, the 2010 Innovator of the Year Award, and the 2013 Outstanding Physician Award from Mayo Clinic.


This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at ted.com/tedx

All Comments (21)
  • @candykandy
    1. Focus on gratitude. Think of 3 people you care about.
    2. Find novelty where love is. Think of your loved ones like you haven’t seen them in a long time. Don’t try to improve anybody within the first 3 minutes. Creatively praise them.
    3. 2 second: Before your mind judges a person for the first 2 seconds, align your heart and send them well wishes.

    I summarise because it helps me remember the practices. Hope it helps someone!
  • Summary: humans have neural predisposition to be unhappy. We have 2 modes of the brain: a. focused mode (processing info, engaged) b. default mode (mind wondering, 50-80% of our time). Also, humans have this evolutionary predisposition to focus on threats, negative bias. These neural predispositions keep us from enjoying life.

    Few practices to train the brain to be happy:
    a. morning gratitude meditation - think of 5 ppl you're grateful for
    b. afternoon validation session - think of 3 ppl who care for you
    c. evening intentionality practice - meet your fnf as if you're seeing them after a long time, look for novelty and find creative ways to praise
    d. send silent wishes to random ppl instead of silent judgement

    5 keys: gratitude, compassion acceptance meaning forgiveness.
  • “Science is nothing but the systematic study of spirituality” WOW! Never thought of science like that! That opens a new whole world to me!
  • @Yosetime
    What a great message. I adopted a little practice last year to help me not drive so absentmindedly or aggressively. Because I realized that this was making me anxious. So, every time I stopped at a red light I would say, out loud, "Thank you, Lord", or "Thank you, Universe". I felt that if I was stopped at a red light I was safe, I was in control, and was grateful for it. Somehow, that little practice morphed into saying silent words of gratitude at other times. In particular, when I realized that I had just dodged some kind of small bullet, or heard my child say something that made me realize she wasn't that raging teenager on the inside. Little things. And every time I do that, there is a shift in my thinking. Every time. Well worth it!
  • "Science is the study of spirituality." oof. I loved this line. Thank you for this uplifting and insightful talk, Dr. Sood.
  • “Science is nothing but systematic study of spirituality. Science doesn’t know it but will know it at some point.” 👏👏💕
  • I had a stroke on 4/29/22. Medicine that was prescribed for anxiety did not help. I love Ted talks and finally I can be the person I am meant to be since my stroke. I don't need a new purpose... I just need to love better. Maybe I can teach the world too. (At least my city and community) thank you so much.
  • @DrMattHersh
    Hands down, one of the best TED talks and talks in general I have seen. I could feel the compassion and wisdom emanating from Dr. Sood. Thank you so much! I will now be following Dr. Sood and his work.
  • @sophiakh9590
    Negative Adaptations:

    1. Mind Wandering - uncontrolled thoughts
    2. Negativity Bias - we remember negative over positives
    3. Hedonic Adaptations - we get used to the good.

    The Solution: Science and Spirituality

    1. Gratitude in morning: think about 5 people you are grateful for
    Focus on maximum net worth...

    2. Find novelty where love is: Meet family each day as if you're meeting them after 30 days

    3. Creatively Praise! Do not judge

    4. Silently wish people good when first meeting. Look at the world the way you want people to look at your children.

    5. Reframe your challenges
    Gratitude
    Compassion
    Acceptance
    Meaning
    Forgiveness
  • "for the first three minutes when you're with your family, don't try to improve anybody.
    Two supporting ideas here.
    One is to be genuinely interested in what is of interest to them, and second is to creatively praise."

    "for the first two seconds, instead of seeing negatively or neutrally, align your heart and send them a silent 'I wish you well.' ".

    "so the idea is to meet your family at the end of each day, intentionally, as if you are meeting them after 30 days".

    "what happens is we get used to the goodness and start focusing on imperfections"

    these quotes really stood out to me, thank you Amit!
  • @Star-vg7ix
    I did cry when you talked about meeting/greeting people in my life and saying thank you. Very well done. thank you.
  • @jenmdawg
    Frickin brilliant. I KNOW all of this but having a concise way to practice it is revolutionary. Thank you, Dr. Sood.
  • @riipi6105
    When I closed my eyes, I cried. And I imagine that was the reason that bought me here in the 1st place. These 18 minutes will change my life forever.

    Thank you!
  • "Science is nothing but systematic study of spirituality" - what a great way to put it. Loved the talk!!
  • @chutitiu1152
    Thank you, Dr. Sood - "I wish you well!" Your advice completely changed my day. Bless you. Also, "Science is the systematic study of spirituality." Amen.
  • @JacobMichael
    I love this. I have been inadvertently doing something like this for a while and it works. Focusing on the people you love (even if it's just by thinking of their face and feeling gratitude) makes you feel connected, even when you're physically alone. It's pretty amazing.


    I am all for using science and am 100% pro research/evidence -- But I think spirituality is so fundamental to our health as humans. We are smart and we can be rational, but our brains are wired to thrive on people and community. Saying a prayer, at its core, is not intended to be a literal conversation with people who aren't present. It's a way of setting intention towards the things that bring comfort and happiness (which is almost always a sense of connection with others).
  • @gstlb
    He’s essentially teaching Buddhist meditation practices hundreds of years old, and explaining it well for modern western audiences. Nicely done. Now how many of those who wrote nice comments will actually do this daily? We could change the world.
  • @kimberlyski3004
    WOW. Just WOW. The exercise brought tears to my eyes as I was overwhelmed with gratitude. It was so calming too. I wish everyone could hear this Ted talk. Life-changing!
  • @pkstiever
    I love this so much! Thank you for appearing in my life in 2022, many years after it was originally posted (2015). Dr. Sood, you are incredible.