This morning I was listening to a podcast on how to lead a more resilient, healthy and joyful life. The key suggestions from the doctors and scientists go back to many of the practices that I believe in, practice and teach. These practices serve to retrain our brain, a re-wiring of our brain from a negativity bias to a more positive, hopeful and ultimately happier state of being.
Research shows that only 10% of our long-term happiness is based on external factors, the remaining 90% of our long-term happiness is based on how our brain processes things. Neurons that fire together wire together. What we think about actually changes the neuro structure. We can be in charge of changing our own brain.
Dr. Rick Hanson, a neuropsychologist, is well known for his work on happiness. He says that we are programmed for negativity bias. He calls this the "caveman brain". It's part of what helped our ancestors survive in more primitive times. He states that positive thoughts need to remain in our short-term memory for several seconds, several times, in order to move into our long-term memory, whereas negative thoughts go straight to long-term memory. He gives this analogy, "The brain is like velcro for negative experiences and like teflon for positive ones". He suggests that we savor the good facts and experiences for 10 seconds or more and to make it as intense as possible. Let a good fact become a good experience. This exercise will cause our brains to take that positive thought and store it in our long-term memory.
Today can serve as a reminder for us of how important these practices are to living a life of resiliency and well-being. Without these daily practices, it's easy for us to direct our focus to all of the things that are going wrong and all of the areas where we feel lack. It takes intentionality to offset this by practices that help our brain focus on the good.
So what are some key habits that we can build into our daily life to bring about more positive thoughts in our brain?
Each day find three new things your are grateful for and describe in detail why. I like to start and end my day with gratitude. A gratitude journal is a useful tool to accomplish this, but it can be done without a journal. Gratitude changes the lens through which we see the world. It's a game-changer and a miracle creator. When feeling grateful you feel more open, generous, connected, aware and alive.
Identify one meaningful experience you’ve had in the past 24 hours and write it down in as great of detail as you can. Savoring the positive experience will help to shift it into long-term memory and condition the brain to look for the positive. Let the sun shine bright for the good stuff as long as you possibly can.
Mindfulness is happiness. Spend a few minutes at the beginning of your day being still. Set your intention for the day toward loving kindness, toward being happy, toward positivity. Then throughout the day set reminders for yourself to be present, to be aware and to pay attention. When we aren't attentive to what we are currently doing, we are often times drudging up negative things from the past.
A sense of community and true, deep social connections are triggers for happiness. Joy comes from connection to others. Find opportunities to authentically connect with others, to be of service to others, to spread loving kindness.
The experts on happiness all speak to similar common core elements to achieving happiness. These elements are not external to our environment, they are internal and something that we very much have the ability to influence.
Studies show that happy people experience a 23% reduction in stress, a 39% increase in health, a 31% increase in productivity and have 34% more positive social interaction. It pays huge dividends to be happy!
Being happy and practicing happiness hygiene will cause a ripple effect to those around you. People desire to be around others who exude happiness. The vibration, the energy of a happy person is contagious, and it raises up the vibration and energy of everyone around. Let's all practice happiness hygiene and savor the positive experiences in our lives. Our world needs more happiness, more light to shine around. Take charge of your own happiness and see and feel the changes in your life. With happiness the more you have the more everyone has.