Now we know we can hardwire our brain to maximize happiness. If you haven’t read the previous article, it is preferable to do that before proceeding. Read now – Maximise Happiness in Life – Part 1.
Searching for Happiness Everyday
Sometimes life is hard. Some days are full of unpleasant encounters. Others are way better. But here is an idea – to actively search for mild or strong positive experiences and dwell on them a little longer.
For example, every time you exhale – your body relaxes. So every time you find yourself exhaling after a stressful time, just take a moment with it, feel it in your body, and focus on it. Cherish this moment of de-stress.
Similar to finding a silver lining, you are counting the positive moments and cherishing them. Basically, making a big deal of them. Like counting your blessings, count your happy moments. Stay and focus on them. Be thankful for them.
And slowly, your brain will fire the particular neuron pathways and convert all these positive encounters into true happiness, one interaction at a time.
Enriching & Absorbing
When we take these everyday encounters and marinate them they enrich our lives. When we dwell on them and absorb them into ourselves, we tend to grow into truly happy people.
Dr. Rick Hanson gives 5 scientifically proven ways to enrich a positive experience.
1. Extend the Duration
As seen in savouring, extending the duration of the moment helps us to cherish it more. Like when you extend a holiday, happy moments when given more time and thought – tend to make us happier.
So take a moment with it and feel it in your mind & body.
2. Make it more Intense
If you are feeling grateful, be really really grateful. If your being kind, be kinder than is necessary. Take it up a notch. Challenge yourself to feel more. Be more.
The more intense the experience, the more it becomes a part of the hardwiring of the brain.
3. Multi Modality
Bring more aspects of the experience into the experience. For example, if you want to feel more self confident in front of family members, then sit up straighter and speak louder.
The idea is to bring multiple dimensions into the feeling. Bring an action in the body so the mind can identify that sensation or movement in the body with that particular feeling.
This is being focused on what is new or fresh or delightful about the experience. Usually, new things excite us like a fresh perspective or some new knowledge or technique.
Bring the enthusiasm of a child to new experiences. Enjoy them wholly by fully being in the present. Explore new possibilities and embrace the newness wholeheartedly.
It means focusing on the experience and learning from it. Pondering over it and being open to new ways of thinking, understanding, and reflecting on why this experience is important.
Salience reinforces the experience. To do that ask questions like :
- What have I learned from this?
- How can I grow?
- Why is this helpful?
- How can I change my perspective on this situation?
Being mindful of our experiences helps us grow and evolve as a person. It also makes us calmer and happier in the long run. Savoring these deductions in implicit memory will make us hardwired to maximize happiness.
Which brings us to the 3 ways we can absorb experiences to maximize happiness.
1. Intent to Change
To truly absorb an experience according to Dr. Hanson, you need to internalize it. It means making it a part of our implicit memory. Really reflect on behaviors, memories, characteristics, and consequences and intend to change for the better.
Want to change for the better? Make it a part of your internal dialogue and self-belief, so it eventually becomes who you are.
2. Feel It
It means to feel the warmth of someone’s smile in your heart. How it makes you feel warm all over your body and makes you smile too. You are absorbing happiness when you let it sink in.
If you truly believe in a cause, notice how your body reacts when you talk passionately about it. Truly feel the experience with your mind, body and soul. Let it sit with you and become a part of who you are.
Look for what is rewarding about the experience. Focus on what is enjoyable or meaningful about it because that will increase dopamine and norepinephrine activity in your brain. Both of which, when they are more active, flag the experiences we’re having at the time for long-term storage.
This increases the likelihood that, we will gain from the experience as we’re focused on what feels good about it and want more of that feeling.
In conclusion, happiness is what you make of it. Consciously plan and make happiness big in small ordinary moments, to increase life satisfaction.
For me personally, when I am having a hard day – I go by my window and just sit & reflect. Take several deep breaths and start focusing on the positive. Then I relive those moments and feel the calmness flowing through my body.
And slowly my mind is ready to take on and ably respond to the negative because it has the strength of the positive.
For the next idea to maximize happiness in the concluding part of this series read: Maximizing Happiness In Life – Part 3.