Compassion, Cognition and Conflict

How you can harness them and take back control of your brain and lead a happier and more purposeful life.

Day 2 of the Happiness and its Causes Conference.


The mind was buzzing again - but after dinner and mojitos with my sister - the body was just not willing!

So to recap another great day…..

We kicked off with Gretchen Rubin - author of “The Happiness Project” which I am reading at the moment.

Some people are tiggers….some people are ey-ores… Gretchin Rubin

Which one are you? Naturally happy or naturally darker? She posed a question that it’s not necessarily about finding happiness - but being happier.

Creating opportunities and connections that allow happiness to occur. I liked that very much as I do see that when coming out of depression, that there is no magic bullet, you just need to create opportunities for happiness - Tim Manning ( no not on the speaker list - but worthy to quote never the less :))

She also spoke about the importance of sleep, a recurring theme for the day and the focus of a fantastic speaker later on. I was going to call this blog post Sleep, Songs and …but I couldn’t find an appropriate S word..

Other key items that resonate with me from Gretchin’s talk was how clearing clutter from our physical space - helps our mental space, creating good habits - ie the simple process of making your bed each day has real power when you are in the dark place. 

Social Media reared its head in this session ( that could have been another S word!) 

Technology is a great servant, but a bad master - Gretchin Rubin

As someone in the industry, I see both sides of this but definitely see social media and tech changes as a force for good. I do see however, how they can be abused and not used altruistically ( like all things ) Falsebook was the term used by Ruby Wax on Wednesday. 

We then had a different take from most speakers - with Dr Robert Biswas-Diener, who spoke on the Upside of your dark side. I am sure many people would not think that there is an upside to the down or dark side.

As we succeed in the search for comfort, we get out of the practice of handling discomfort - Dr Robert Biswas-Diener

However, what he was presenting to us was to think differently about how we treat conflict and negative emotions. That good can come from this, that we build resilience from the process. In the age of cotton wool kids, he had some timely thoughts on how well we are equipping our children to handle life and all it throws at you. 

This talk was a great lead in to the next speaker - Ven Robina Court - Buddhist Nun and powerhouse speaker. She was a real take no prisoners kind of lady - not what I would have called a typical Buddhist!

She asked some thought provoking questions about what do we do when we don’t get what we want. How do we handle that tension, disappointment - the negative. She also provided some insights into Buddhist psychology and understand the mind - vs - the brain and the subtle difference when you speak of those 2 entities from a Buddhist perspective

I am really looking for to diving into my new book - How I Rescued my Brain - by the next speaker David Roland. A man with a great story about coming back from a major stroke, suffering depression - but moving forward.

Yes the brain is plastic and he most definitely encouraged me to perservere with my plans to rewire my brain by taking up a later in life career change and study plans. It can be done!

I also loved this

Dancing is good for your brain - better than crossword puzzles - Dr David Roland.It’s more fun too!

He also spoke about mindfulness and how practicing mindfulness and working that muscle builds strength in our limbic system, which helps us ward off the more extreme suggestions that might be coming from our amygdala. We need to continue to work all areas of our brain in these exercises, with dancing, making music and learning a new language all great ways to really give the brain muscle a good workout.

Part of his therapy was music and the love for that was coming through in his session as well as love of family. It is amazing how the love of your children keeps us here and prevents us from taking a final step that will ultimately cause them more pain. Our connections help us to hold on.

I know of many people where that has been the factor that has tethered them here. 

The stupid are cocksure, the intelligent unsure - Bob Brown

A life outside politics is agreeing with Bob Brown, as he had plenty of fire in the belly and looked relaxed and happy.

He urged us to stay optimistic. I really got this presentation - as one of my key themes for this blog is about finding good and sharing it around. We need to stay optimistic about our world and share good things with others. As part of this I will be introducing key posts titled Good on the Ground - where I will be interviewing people who are doing good things right in our backyard that we have no idea about. Stay tuned

A fiery panel discussion grappled with Can anger be a force for good. I will leave my thoughts on this for others. Suffice to say that anger/strength/the negative can be channelled into something better. We were urged to stay curious to enable us to fuel our brain with good choices. 

This was followed by The power of bones - Keelen Mailman - a powerful authentic and compassionate indigenous voice. Clear headed and obviously warm-hearted. She was a delight

What followed was a mesmorising performance by Lior.

Just mesmorising. 


Truly spine tingling performance, followed by a warm discussion with Geraldine Doogue and Nigel Westlake on the wisdom of compassion and their recent musical collaboration.

The world will not want for wonders - just wonder

Lunchtime and like right now - I am feeling flat in this post. Hang in there though as the next 4 speakers where fantastic.

At lunch time I was feeling a little flat - even with the marvelleous Lior’s singing - but after lunch, 4 surprise packets hit the stage and just made the entire day for me.

First up - John Marsden  speaking about his passion for education and the value of experiences.

How can you live so long and learn so little - John Marsden

He pulled no punches in describing with dismay some of the more crazy cotton wool kid ideas out there and reallyfocussed on our journey from ignorance - to knowledge and or wisdom. With a wry nod to those who never seem to get out of the station at all. 

I just love listening to passionate educators…..real if only moments……

Don’t be reckless, be adventurous - John Marsden

Then, this was follow by Dr Carmel Harrington - sleep advocate and expert.

One of my most favourite topics and after 5 years of dreadful sleep, I truly appreciate how wonderful a full 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep is and how necessary for good brain health as well good physical health it is.

Great graphs and stats to pique my interest. She was clear, concise and engaging. Excellent speaker. She also outlined how poor sleep made a person more than 5 times more likely to suffer from depression.

Recent studies have also shown that people who slept less than the optimum 8 hours (ie 5 sleep cycles) had a greater capacity to remember negative things, than positive things. Good sleepers had the opposite - they tended to better remember positive moments. 

So go to bed early!

It is the one easy thing you can do for you mind, brain and body - they ALL benefit. 

Dan Heasler bounced out onto the stage next-  a great speaker ( & not selling a book!) and another passionate advocate for education, speaking in my turf, social media. 

He focussed on how social media can be a force for good and build connections. He highlighted a recent example of a year 2 class connecting with students in Nepal, both pre and post the earthquake. Building connections that create understanding, empathy and compassion. I would have loved to have attended his Projects with Purpose workshop today.

and then finally after that arrived Sian Prior - Speaking about her book Shy - a Memoir.

So heartfelt and very clearly enunciating how it is possible to seem all in control on the surface, but be wracked by insecurities underneath.

See me - but don’t really see me. This really resonated with me - and then she sang too. A great turnaround for a shy person - beautifully sung (and in german too I might add!). It was most definitely a day of song. 

It seems poor form to cut this short - when we have a great line up Michelle Bridges ( the motivation myth - there is only excuses!) and then

Dr Damon Young quoting Nietschke - only ideas won by walking have any value

I loved his comment about hours on your bum, staring at glass or paper - this is me on the w/e at times!

He posed the question what it is to be a body - ie not a glamazon - but to appreciate our body as a marvelous instrument to be reveled in. Not in a narcissistic way - but for the sheer joy of being alive. 

We then quickly swung through good food, dealing with loss, fighting our ego and asking the big questions in a snappy end to another enlightening and mentally exhausting day!

Mr Percival Rocks then ended the day in great style and had all 2000 people on their feet. It was fab.

It felt good to be alive 

Lots of good fuel for my brain.

Now to sit back and digest it all. I would love to be back next year - totally recommend the entire exercise. I might even make it the Mind and its Potential in October :)