As you know, I (Carl) love to read and learn. One of the books I have recently read is called Hardwiring Happiness by Rick Hanson Ph.D. Great read and a great take on a powerful strategy I want to share with you. But first some background.
Velcro and Teflon
Rick Hanson makes a great statement when he says we are like Velcro for the bad and Teflon for the good. In other words we readily notice and are attracted to the ‘bad’ and tend to not let in or quickly move past the ‘good’. Now it is no one’s fault really. It is just part of our crazy evolution and in-built survival mechanisms. Back in the day (a few 100,000 years ago), we would only survive if we were hyper-sensitive to threats. So we got REALLY good at noticing all the things that could potentially go wrong. And that fixation on the ‘bad’ for all those years means we are generally subconsciously programmed to notice the bad and brush over the good.
All is not lost though and Hanson reminds us of what we can do about it. Something he calls ‘hardwiring happiness’.
Does this sound familiar?
How many times have you noticed something wrong and became fixated on it, and played it around in your mind about a bazillion timers? I don’t know about you, but I have my hand up in the air about now. How about the times you saw something nice, said “That’s nice.” and then kept on walking or continued about your business? Seems a bit one-sided to me. And from a brain perspective, what we focus on repeatedly is what we neurologically become and emotionally experience.
Time to make a change. Actually there is a definition of happiness, which says that happiness is where positive thoughts exceed negative thoughts. Something like 5 to 1. Time to change the odds in our favour!
Obviously we need to hardwire more of the good, so it becomes our default. It also becomes something we can connect to, in order to take us out of a bad mood.
To change, we don’t need to pull out the ‘bad’ we need to turn up the good. We are also going to use a little psychology strategy called an ‘IF-THEN’ strategy. It is like presetting a response in the brain. If X happens then do Y. It requires no additional thinking power at the time, as you have predetermined your response. You will see the strategy below.
IF you are going about your day and you see, hear, feel, taste or touch something that makes you think “That’s nice” (or beautiful, interesting, amazing, etc.) THEN do the following:
- Bring your attention to it
- Deepen your attention of it
- Feel the goodness seeping into your body (as you experience the goodness)
- Deepen your positive feelings
This whole process will only take 15-30 seconds – so no excuses! However, it actually causes you, by directing your attention, and engaging your feelings, to write a memory in your brain. The deeper the positive emotions, the greater the memory will be. This is also similar to gratitude exercises but more focused.
If you do this daily and several times a day you will actually change your brain. It will lean towards the positive. You will also be able to pull up these positively, emotionally charged memories, to reduce the emotional intensity of any bad experiences.
Examples of times you could do it
We were practicing this every morning last week on the Life Coach Training Course, so here are some of the things we did this with (the course was in Bali overlooking the water so it made it easier):
- Seeing and hearing the ocean
- Looking up at a blue sky
- Looking at pebbles on the beach
- Looking at a palm tree
- Seeing and feeling sunshine
- Seeing birds flying past
- Looking at a small flying insect (which was not a mosquito ;-))
There are 100’s of things each day that are amazing and that often go unnoticed. Life is not about getting excited about the big things. A beautiful life is about appreciating the small, and regularly occurring, little things in life.
This process is similar to an NLP technique called ‘anchoring’. You anchor positive emotions with a particular sensory input. Each time you connect to the actual thing or the memory, you are firing up your mind, recreating the positive emotions and the positive chemical cocktail through your body. You are ‘creating’ and reinforcing positive emotions. And like Hanson says; you are ‘hardwiring happiness’.
Here is your 7-Day Challenge for you: SLOW DOWN. Notice the little things. Enhance the experience. Absorb the experience. And then do it again!
Your feedback is always welcome. I would love to hear from you WHEN you apply this strategy for a week. How did it go for you? How were you feeling at the end of the week? I have a good feeling that it can, and will, make a big difference in your week. Remember, the little stuff IS life. Leave your comments below. 😉