In Dr. Rick Hanson’s book, Hardwiring Happiness, the author explains how our brains have been wired to scan for threats, ultimately fixating on negative experiences. The good news is that we can reprogram our brains to hardwire happiness. Here is how.
- Pause to focus on positive experiences.
Hanson explores the negativity bias in which the brain acts like ‘Velcro for negativity’ and ‘Teflon for positivity.’ For example, if you’re experiencing anxiety over a career change, seeking new career paths, considering going back to school or launching your own business will pump up positivity. The author told the Huffington Post, “The longer the neurons fire, the more of them that fire…that happiness, gratitude, feeling confident, feeling successful, feeling loved and lovable.”
Dr. Hanson’s prescription for hardwiring happiness concurs with many of Dale Carnegie’s Human Relations principles including, ‘Fill your mind with thoughts of peace, courage, health and hope’ and ‘Count your blessings—not your troubles.’ Pausing to focus on positive experiences and boosting your feelings in the area in which you are experiencing negativity will enable your brain to begin to wire and fire more positive feelings over time.
- Take in the good.
The seemingly insignificant positive moments we encounter throughout our habitual days are worth taking in. “People don’t recognize the hidden power of everyday experiences,” says Hanson. The process of, “taking in the good,” is instrumental in changing our perspective and shifting to a positive outlook. This process enables us heal from traumatic events and develop inner strengths such as resilience, positive emotions, and confidence thereby fundamentally hardwiring happiness into the brain.
Instead of completing an activity and jumping onto the next task at hand, take a moment to appreciate the sheer joy of a job well done. The next time someone pays you a compliment, acknowledge it by letting the moment of joy linger. By appreciating positive experiences, Hanson says that we, “…increase their intensity and duration by lingering on them for longer, effectively “wiring” them into our brains.”
- Get on your own side.
Dale Carnegie’s Human Relations principle, ‘Don’t worry about the past,’ underscores the importance of moving beyond a negative state of mind. While you may be quick to help another person during stressful times, perhaps you beat yourself up over things that happened in the past or allow anxiety over unknown truths to consume your present state. Hanson says, “We don’t get on our own side; we don’t take a stand in which we are for ourselves, and that’s foundational.”
Instead of stewing over past mistakes or hurts, get on your own side and start taking in the good. Dale Carnegie said, “Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”
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