Neuroscience, can help happiness happen, so if you want to be happy read on.
Luckily there are no rights and wrongs about being happy, we each get to decide what works for us (how our choices in this are tied to collective well-being is another topic for another day however).
There are many definitions of happiness for sure.
I like this quote by Mahatma Gandhi because it clearly states what we gain through happiness.
Happiness is an inner state of well being. A state of well being enables you to profit from your highest: thoughts, wisdom, intelligence, common sense, emotions, health, and spiritual values in your life.
Neuroscience provides us with an incredible body of research on how the mind works. The 90s was considered the ‘decade of the brain’ because MRI technology developed to such refinement that it became possible to see exactly what was happening (or not happening) inside brains in response to all sorts of circumstances. Mind boggling science!
So there is lots of evidence about what is happening in our neural networks when we are happy, and in all sorts of other states for that matter. There is information that verifies what is effective in achieving and maintaining an inner state of wellbeing. Neuroscience confirms that habits form because of brain changes and brains change because of habits. It also proves that we can take charge of this right throughout our lifetime.
The idea of “daily strokes of effort” was promoted by William James (1842 – 1910) who was an American philosopher and psychologist, considered by some as the father of psychology. He had it right, neuroscience shows that it takes 21 days to make a new habit. It’s pretty fast track really. However neuroscience, with its spying on what is firing in the brain, has also disproved something that the esteemed father of psychology thought – that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. We now know that at any age we can purposefully rewire our brains with habits that help happiness happen.
I’ve been enjoying a book called The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor. He has an entertaining TED talk as well. View it HERE. In his book he mentions making “our nervous system our ally”. This means purposefully creating daily habits that that literally rewire us to feel happier.
As I mentioned above, there are no right or wrong ways of being happy so we each get to decide what daily habits will do it for us. My mission right now is not to tell you what you should do but to pass on that neuroscience imaging confirms that our daily choices form the neural pathways that set the patterns for our well-being.
I would also like to pass on 3 ways that can help get new habits established.
- Decision precedes action. Once we truly decide to make a change the obstacles that we saw in the way seem to disappear or become less daunting. So . . . DECIDE & COMMIT.
- Monitoring progress. Take interest in how it is going at regular scheduled times during the day. Becoming fascinated by making personal changes is as important as anything else we schedule.
- Kind self-talk. A desired new behaviour or activity not happening can usefully be framed as research. Kindly ask “how come”, “what got in the way”, “what would make it more likely to happen”? The brain functions the best when we feel good so critical self talk gets in the way of making new happiness habits. Lots of celebrating success and feeling good about even small changes is key. Feeling good about ourselves reinforces the habits that lead to happiness.