How to Get Happy
Are you happy? Chances are, you aren’t.
It’s not your fault. In fact, we are wired for negativity. It’s part of our survival mechanics. Many of us just find it easier or more seductive to focus on the negatives and ruminate over them. Just look at Washington D.C. and the political ideologues for living proof.
It doesn’t have to be that way though. Here’s why…
According to neuropsychologist Rick Hanson, we have a negativity bias.
In an article on the Huffington Post titled, “How To Wire Your Brain For Happiness”, author Carolyn Gregoire cites some pretty interesting observations by Hanson.
Hanson argues that the problem is we’re wired to scout for the bad stuff — as he puts it, the brain is like velcro for negative experience and teflon for positive ones. This “negativity bias” causes the brain to react very intensely to bad news, compared to how it responds to good news — research has even shown that strong, long-lasting relationships require a five to one ratio of positive to negative interactions in order to thrive, by virtue of the fact that the negative interactions affect us so much more strongly. The brain has evolved to be constantly scanning for threats, and when it finds one, to isolate it and lose sight of the big picture, according to Hanson.
I find it very interesting that for good relationships to thrive, we need a five to one ratio of positive to negative interactions. That speaks volumes for divorce rates. Really, how easy is it to make that happen with all the stress of modern living, and an economy that all but states we need to work like dogs just to keep our heads above the poverty line? Not very.
Watch him speak about it here.
However, there’s something to be said for positive thinking.
Here are the ways in which Hanson suggests we begin to change our own wiring, according to Gregoire:
Take in the good.
Focus on the positive experiences with the greatest personal impact.
Be on your own side.
Maintain a sense of wonder.
Open your eyes and look around.
One solid way to achieve this goal is to learn how to practice mindfulness. When we do, we come to understand both negative and positive thought, and how they affect us. We can then choose to associate more with the positive. This can potentially have a lasting “rewire” of our brains for happiness.
Don’t Get Attached
The real trick though is to not get attached to the feeling of happiness so much that you begin to fear losing it one day. That negates any benefit derived from practice and leads right back to suffering. We learn to enjoy happiness when we have it with no fear of losing it. When we do that, we can be fully present and aware, and live in happiness in the moment.
Ten Minutes a Day
You can start by spending as little as ten minutes a day meditating. Here’s a good way to start learning how to get happy.
Sit up straight and relax a bit
Close your eyes
Concentrate on your breathing
Thoughts will come up, just let them come and go
Return to your breathing
Inhale, Exhale, Inhale, Exhale
10 minutes. Try it.