Positive Neuroplasticity

Rick Hanson PhD, and Richard Davidson, PhD

Well-being is a skill

Well-being is pliable- a set of skills that we can cultivate, much like learning to play a musical instrument or ride a bike.

How does well-being manifest in the mind and body? Similar to the brain's neuronal architecture, well-being is pliable. It’s not a static "thing" – but a set of skills that we can cultivate, much like learning to play a musical instrument or ride a bike.

Ingredients for emotional well-being

The World Health Organization published a “Happiness Report” in 2015 which shared research on the necessary ingredients for feeling content. The data covered a range of important categories, including a chapter on “emotional well-being”, written by neuroscientist and neuroplasticity researcher, Richard Davidson, PhD. He offered four universal human tenets of emotional well-being, including:

  1. The capacity to sustain positive emotion-- to learn to prolong positive emotion and savor when we feel good. 

  2. Resiliency- the capacity to recover quickly from stress and negative emotions and events. Moreover, those of us who feel as if we are living a purposeful life experience greater resilience and well-being.

  3. The ability to cultivate prosocial skills such as empathy, gratitude and compassion. Engaging in kind and generous acts increases well-being. 

  4. The capacity for mindfulness- (the intentional state of existing in present moment awareness)- enhances well-being. Research suggests when we focus our often wandering minds, we actually feel better and are more likely to embrace a perspective of abundance rather than scarcity. 

Therapy informed with Positive Neuroplasticity capitalizes on moments of vitality which naturally arise in session in order to marinate within and inevitably strengthen positive neural pathways.

This is called “experience-dependent neuroplasticity"; the most effective tool for developing inner strengths is to have experiences of them. Positive neural traits are built from positive mental states.

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Illumination Counseling and Gayle Waitches offer Positive Neuroplasticity-informed therapy to individuals and couples in Southeast Portland


Illumination Counseling


4531 SE Belmont Street #104

Portland, OR 97215

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