By Kimberly Montgomery
Here’s the brutal truth about happiness:
You are born with a ‘set point’ that pretty much moderates how happy you are right now. You’re also programmed to over focus on the negative. This focus kept your ancestors from being eaten by predators so they could live to the ripe old age of 25. But wait, there’s good news…
Happiness is a Choice
Your brain is a very smart, high functioning system and learns very quickly. You can easily train your brain to up your happiness set point and to stop looking out for lions.
Trust me, it’s science. Keep reading to learn several tools and techniques that almost guarantee you’ll be skipping through the daisies and grinning from ear to ear before you can sell your lion hunting spear on Craig’s list.
Ready? Let’s go!
You Need to Choose Happiness
Your brain is always scanning for danger, or ‘bad news’. Is your brain working against your happiness? Just the opposite. As scientists often say, it wants you to ‘have lunch, not be lunch’.
Millions of years ago, when one bad decision could end your day, and your life, it was imperative that you were always on alert. The smell of tiger urine, the sound of a twig cracking in the bushes, a glimpse of movement in your peripheral vision — all would spike your adrenaline, send your heart rate through the roof and prepare you for action.
Today our brains and bodies still function the same, except our opponent now is the door jam we just caught our little toe on. (Ouch! I hate that!).
Not quite the same level of danger.
It doesn’t know the difference between the threat of a lion or a cranky co-worker, it will alert you just the same. It has a built in ‘negativity bias’ to keep you alive.
Have you ever wondered why a dozen wonderful things can happen, yet it that’s ONE snarky email that’s sticks in your brain? (yes, I have that super power, too) We easily dismiss twelve compliments and ruminate on that one stinkin’ email for days.
This short video will give you an explanation:
How to Create More Happiness
Scientists used to believe that once you reached adulthood your brain was ‘set in stone’, it was what it was always going to be. Recent research tells a completely different story.
We now know the brain to be dynamic, and that it responds to what flows through it. That’s right, you read that correctly. Your thoughts actually change your brain. Amazing, right?
Rick Hanson, in the same interview goes on to say, ”I am talking about positive neuroplasticity. I am talking about learning. … The brain is changing based on what flows through it.”
What does this mean for you?
You can easily start building a happier brain. How? By hanging onto happy experiences when they happen.
Tip: Hold in the ‘feel good feelings’ from a good experience for at least 10 seconds to allow your brain to imprint on those emotions and form a pathway.
This super short video explains exactly how:
To recap, your brain learns from what you send through it. The longer you hold onto the feelings of a thought the more your brain imprints upon it.
Tip: Let go of negative experiences quickly. Take note of the lesson and release the emotions quickly and without fanfare. Don’t give your brain enough time to imprint upon them up!
Think of it as growing a pathway for that thought. It starts as a single person footpath, but if you continue to have it (good or bad) it will eventually turn into a 4-lane freeway complete with exits for similar thoughts. Be aware of what kind of freeway system you’re building!
But that’s just part of the story...
Surround Yourself with Happy People
You know that friend that’s ALWAYS cranky?
The one that orders the double de-caff, soy latte, extra hot with one and half squirts of chocolate and then complains because it’s never, ever right.
Who always asks for special changes to their meal at the restaurant, is never happy with the results and then complains about their boss all through dinner.
You know the type, right? We’ve all had one of those at least once in our universe.
I used to think they were harmless and actually thought that I was good for them. That my positivity would rub off and they would ‘see the light and become happier humans’.
Silly me. (have you ever done that?)
As it turns out, hanging out with cranky people is not only bad for your happiness, it’s bad for your health.
As human, we’re programmed to care for one another. To have empathy. When we listen to their complaining our brains try on their emotions to see how they feel in an effort to empathize. The problem is, sometimes remnants of those feelings get left behind.
Have you ever felt like you’ve had an emotional hangover from a person or event? This is your brain trying to work through the stored negative emotions.
Unfortunately negative emotions rarely travel alone. One of their favorite companions is the stress hormone cortisol, public health enemy number one. Elevated cortisol levels have been linked to lower immune function and bone density, depression, weight gain, memory loss, learning impairment and the list goes on.
Ewww, I don’t know about you, but none of those are on my Christmas list.
Stick with the happy campers and let the crabby people make each other sick!
One of the Best Ways to Increase Your Happiness: Gratitude
Yep. Good ol’ gratitude.
It’s free, easy and available anytime, anywhere.
Scientists worldwide, and every grandmother on the planet, will tell you that the number one trait of the happiest people on the planet is gratitude. They feel it, they express it, and live it on a daily basis. Lots of research has been conducted into different areas of how gratitude impacts the human mind and body and the results have surprised even the most stoic researchers.
The daily practice of gratitude has been found to:
- reduce stress and lower stress hormones like cortisol
- improve the quality and duration of sleep
- increase desire to exercise
- lower blood pressure
- lower risk of major depression
- improves self esteem
And this is just the beginning.
One of the best parts is this little wonder attitude doesn’t come with the long list of side affects that accompany most pharmaceuticals out there: “this drug has been linked to sudden loss of limbs, a desire to stab the person next to you, permanent blindness, a desire to eat your neighbor’s lawn.”
So exactly how do you add more gratitude into your life? As it turns out, you can easily do it by making just a few small changes to your daily life...
- Keep a Gratitude Journal
When you first wake up in the morning, note 3 things you’re grateful for. Take a few minutes to breathe in a feel the pleasure and joy you experience from them. (No, this is not woo-woo hippy stuff, this is science. Honest.)
In the evening, note one more thing you’re grateful for. Again, take a few minutes to revel in the pleasure it brings you. Give your brain the time to fire up those synapses and create some wiring for pleasure!
- Express your gratitude to the Universe
Notice and acknowledge things throughout your day that you’re grateful for. The wonderful breakfast you’re enjoying. The comfortable car that gets you to work. The sunshine. The many friends you have. All those little gifts that we too often take for granted.
Remember how the brain is teflon for the good stuff, but velcro for the bad? This is how you build your ‘brain muscles’ to focus on the positive, but really appreciating all the great things you do have in your life. You’re using your mind to train your brain to focus on the positive.
- Express your gratitude to others
Showing your gratitude towards others will change your life in remarkable ways! Give this a try and within a week you’ll be surprised at how your world will change.
An honest, authentic display of gratitude is one of the most valuable gifts you can give.
Humans love to be appreciated and acknowledged. Give them your gratitude and their attitude towards you will change dramatically. They will become more friendly, more willing to be helpful and will like you more.
People like people who like them.
As your grandmother always told you, “You get more files with honey, than with vinegar.”
Think of every expression of gratitude as a flower, and your goal for every day is to create a fabulous bouquet.
This little attitude of gratitude is FAT FREE, WILL MAKE YOU SEXIER, FEEL YOUNGER & RICHER! Really, it’s the best deal going.
You now have the best Happiness Hacks around. Use them, share them and don’t worry, be happy!
Related: What’s the Big Deal with Gratitude