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Joie de Vivre: Enjoying Life

Giving The Brain Something The Brain Likes: Novelty

When I was writing the book Tough Transitions, I had the opportunity to talk with Dr. Gregory Berns, who holds the Distinguished Chair of Neuroeconomics and Director of the Center for Neuropolicy at Emory University Medical School in Atlanta.

What Lights Up the Brain?

What Lights Up the Brain?

In our conversation, Dr. Berns talked about his research on the brain. He said he was working to discover what kinds of activities light up the brain in a positive way so that a person experiences a sense of happiness or contentment or satisfaction.

Dr. Berns told me that one thing had already become clear to him in his research: the brain really likes novelty. In experiments, Dr. Berns discovered that when an individual thinks or does something new, the brain lights up in a way that results in a positive experience for that individual. (more…)

Blessings: Honey in the Heart and Thirteen Thank-Yous


That is an old-fashioned sounding word, isn’t it?

We heard—and spoke—and sang—this word a lot when I was a little girl growing up in the South.

There was the promise of the words of that old Civil-War-era hymn:

There shall be showers of blessing,
Precious reviving again;
Over the hills and the valleys,
Sound of abundance of rain.

And the plaintive request of the hymn’s refrain:

Showers of blessing,
Showers of blessing we need;
Mercy drops round us are falling,
But for the showers we plead.

And there was Granny Leach with her answer to every knee scrape or bump on the head or fright from a rooster chase in the chicken yard : (more…)


Living in London for two plus years was a wonderful experience for my husband, Jerele, and me. Among the many pleasures for me in particular-whose very work is words-was adding some British English to my vocabulary. There were many new uses of English that I heard in the U.K.; but two new words, in particular, became a permanent part of my personal lexicon.

gobsmackedOne of those words was whinging. To say that someone is a whinger is to take our American English word whining to a whole new level. If a person is whining, that’s one thing. But if a person is whinging…now that moves complaining to a ludicrous level!

A second word that I added to my vocabulary while living in England was gobsmacked. The word is a combination of gob, which means mouth, and smacked and means “utterly astonished, astounded.” Gobsmacked is much stronger than just being surprised. The word is used for something that leaves you speechless or, otherwise, stops you dead in your tracks. It suggests that something is as surprising as if you had been suddenly hit in the face. When you are gobsmacked, you are completely dumbfounded, shocked.

Well, this week I was completely gobsmacked. Gobsmacked by a website. A new website called WolframAlpha. (more…)

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