According to Rick Hanson, a neuropsychologist, we're wired to focus more on negative experiences than we are to positive ones. Why? Because our brain's have a negativity bias, originally created to help us survive in caveman/woman times but now gives us the tendency to be a Negative Nancy or Ned more often then we need to be! So, what do we do?
In his book, he says we can fight this negativity bias, by "appreciating and lingering on tiny, positive moments." Essentially, we can hardwire our own happiness, by focusing more on the "good" in our life, no matter how small it may be! Hanson says that "what we think about, actually changes the neurostructure in our brain!"
This ties into what I talked about in my exercise of the mind post, how happiness is something we can work on, and something that we can choose to be!
So how exactly do we hardwire our brains for happiness?
I didn't read the whole book, but I did pull a few key points from the pages as well as his website.
Take in the Good of Life
- "Good" can be a fact or an experience. Let positive facts become positive experiences
- "Birds are chirping" --> The experience of the beauty of nature
- It only takes seconds, literally, 10-20 seconds is all you need to "take in the good"
- The happy experience, doesn't have to be big or grandiose
- It could be the fact that your coffee is the perfect temperature, or you made it to work
with a few extra minutes to spare
- How you choose to perceive an event, determines if it's a positive experience or not. You can even turn a negative experience into a positive one through this type of thinking.
fresh air outside" I took my negative experience, my injury, and turning it into a
positive experience by focusing on what I can do, rather than what I cannot.
Grounded in neuroscience, Hanson introduces us to the HEAL process in this video
Naturally, this all happens quickly together,so it's hard to pinpoint each step, but
he breaks it down into four parts:
Have a positive experience
Big or small, these experiences will be different for everyone!
Don't let the moment pass you by! Too often, we're in such a hurry, we let these moments slip through our fingers. Instead, realize "hey this is positive, or this is making me happier" and focus on that positive/happy feeling, it only takes seconds.(Remeber, 10-20 seconds is all you need!)
Take on this good feeling, and allow it to sink in, feel yourself getting happier.
Link the positive experience to negative material in order to alleviate/replace negativity (optional)
If you're experiencing something negative, use HEAL to become happier, take a positive fact/experience in your life and enrich it. Prior posts, I mentioned that I am currently injured. I cannot workout like I want to, but instead, I focus on the fact that I can still walk, or that I even have two legs in general! I link positive facts to replace the negative ones !
In a Huffington Post article, Hanson mentions how too often we let "tiny moments of joy" slip by. Since the Fall, I've put more of a focus on hardwiring my happiness and taking in the good by learning to savor the small moments so I thought I'd share my experiences. For most, I need to close my eyes and focus to enrich the experience. Does this look a little weird to others? Maybe. But do I care? Not at all! I am beyond the point of caring what others think about me, because if it makes me happy, then who cares if others think I'm strange!
My Own Experiences of Hardwiring Happiness
- Sunshine - whether I'm walking to my car, coming out of the grocery store, or even through my apartment window, I stop and pause for a moment, take a deep breath, close my eyes and take in the warmth on my face. I don't care what I look like to others, to me, those moments of uninterrupted rays on my face, literally can make my whole day.
- Daily Nibbles - Every day, sometimes even more than once a day, I have a nibble of a sweet. It may be a square of dark chocolate, a snackaroon, a bite sized brownie, or some freezer fudge. Whatever it may be, I take a moment to savor the flavor. Again, I close my eyes and focus on the sweet, savoring every morsel. Sometimes, a second nibble, or even an entire serving is necessary to enrich the moment :P
- A Loved One's Hug - I hold that hug, just for a little bit longer, focusing on that feeling of love I have for the person and how happy they make me. Hugging is known to reduce levels of cortisol, the stress hormone anyway, so why not hug for a moment longer?
- My Morning Routine - Every morning I wake up, take my medication and drink a glass of water mixed with Raw Apple Cider Vinegar. I stand by the window, either watching the sunrise, feeling the sunshine on my face, or find something outside to appreciate. And if it's dark and ugly outside, well then I'll focus on my family and how thankful I am for them, their love, and support. I am typically not a quiet person, but this is my quiet time. I love the stillness of an early morning, while I get together my Overnight Oats and Coffee. My breakfast has been the same thing for over two years now, but each spoonful is still savored and is turned into a positive experience. I enrich it by breathing deeply, swirling together my mix of frozen fruit and oat concoction. I can't help but smile at its deliciousness, the contrast between a cold bite and a warm sip of coffee. When the bowl is empty, I am relaxed, and feeling grateful, ready to start my day on a positive note!
- A Job Well Done - Instead of just getting my grade on an assignment and simply filing it away or clicking out of the Dropbox screen, I focus on congratulating myself for a job well done and how my hard work paid off.
- My Health - For those of you who have been following my blog, you know I've got quite a few digestive health issues, but I also have a lot of muscular/skeletal health problems and injuries as well. While I do sometimes get frustrated and upset with the state and limitations of my body, I try and step back and focus on all that I can do and be grateful for the health that I do have. I remind myself that is is a miracle in and of itself that I even have ten fingers and toes, can walk, and formulate sentences.
- Kindness of Strangers - Rather then simply letting these small moments slip by me, I try and focus on the good in others. A car letting me cut ahead when I'm frantically realizing I'm in the wrong lane (which, happens a lot because I stink at geography and directions), the small talk and smiles exchanged with the cashier at Wegmans, these moments remind me that the world is a positive and good place, you just have to open your eyes a bit more and appreciate these small acts of kindness!
The key to your happiness is in your hand, remember that! All you have to do is unlock it!
Here are some more resources, if you feel the lock is a bit stuck and needs some assistance:
- THIS IS GOLD: http://www.rickhanson.net/key-offerings
(seriously, so much to read/watch/listen to/learn, bookmark THIS one, you won't be sorry!)
- His Website: http://www.rickhanson.net/
- The HEAL video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jA3EGx46r4Q#t=16
- Huffington Post Article featuring Hanson:
(If you're not sure what Happify is, check out my post here ! )
I hope that this information has somehow, inspired you to take charge of your happiness, and to begin hardwiring it!
- What do you think of Hanson's take on happiness?
- Will you try the HEAL process?
- What's a small moment/fact that always makes you happy?
Stay Happy & Healthy,
3. Hanson, R. Hardwiring Happiness