If you think that some people are simply born or made happier than others, then think again. Recent research has shown that your brain can rewire itself – through various ways of repeated thinking, feeling, and acting. The brain, after all, can change, be changed, and isn’t set in stone even in your adult years.
So have you ever thought that maybe you can train your brain for happiness?
Of course, being happy doesn’t occur all the time. There are times when it’s perfectly normal to feel sad, anxious, or just out of it. Life can happen: someone can go through a breakup, lose a job or friend, or go through a negative phase. However, it’s possible to cultivate happiness as a habit, where you pay more attention to your positive thoughts than negative ones.
Here are five strategies you can use for this specific brain training:
- Are you thinking positively? Ask yourself this question and assess yourself closely. It might surprise you but the simple act of asking this question can help you start becoming more of a positive thinker. This is because of metacognition, a term that refers to thinking about thinking and can work as a natural memory aid. As a first step, ask yourself regularly whether you are thinking positively – then you can take it from there.
- Use happy words and happy associations. Try to memorize a list of “happy” words, or those that you associate with being in a happy state. This works because when the brain is forced to use these positive words, the words become more accessible and activated easily in the brain. If you feel your vocabulary isn’t serving this purpose completely, you may refer to a list measured on the so-called valence scale by psychologists, including words such as “love” and “joy.”
At the same time, you may use associations more frequently. For example, you may associate happiness with things you commonly see every day, such as the animals you find in your neighborhood or things you like.
- Write about what makes you happy. Put into writing something that made you happy for the day: a compliment, something that happened in school or at work, or something unexpected. Similarly, you may practice savoring regularly; this means you stop and dwell on how it makes you feel when you get a compliment or a gift in any form.
- Be easier on yourself. This means celebrating small wins and successes, such as being able to practice gratitude often and take a few minutes every day writing about your positive experiences. This fights the tendency to diminish your own accomplishments, which is another common barrier to happiness. So get in the habit of congratulating yourself for meeting your goals, no matter how big or small they are.
- Give yourself time and patience. Let the “brain training” take place as long as it should. Adjust your behavior in certain areas at a time. Raising your happiness set points, as psychological counselor Linda Arnold suggests, entails creating new grooves via repeating various behaviors.
Final Note on Happiness Training
These are easy, highly doable steps in finding happiness and holding on to it. According to what scientists know about brain plasticity, you can actually think of happiness as a skill that isn’t any different from learning how to play a sport or a new hobby. You can train your brain to be happy.
In life and in brain enhancement, it pays to be patient and recognize every little progress you’re making. Combine this with smart lifestyle habits like a clean and wholesome diet, adequate sleep, and regular physical activity, and you have a great chance of developing happiness from within.