“Happiness is a work ethic . . . . It’s something that requires our brains to train just like an athlete has to train.”
Shawn Achor, Author of, “The Happiness Advantage”
In the previous post on ‘Mental Wealth” we saw how we could use the Tetris Effect to change our brains. So let’s talk about ‘Happiness hacks’ that can rewire your brain for more happiness. Happiness can be learned the same way we learn anything else. Through repetition. Think of it as a foreign language, or as physical skill, as Achor suggested in the quote above. How do you learn a language or skill? Through repetition and practice. So how do we learn happiness? Let’s start with three happiness hacks.. Simple ways. Easy ways….to increase your happiness.
Gratitude: There are at least 26 benefits to gratitude. Quite a number of studies show that increasing happiness is among them. At the beginning or end of each day….every day… write down three things you are grateful for. They don’t have to be big, earth-shattering events. Simple joys will do. Did you have an especially good cup of coffee? Notice the shape of a flock of birds against the sky? Have a fun interchange with your child? The important thing is that you write them down. You can keep them in a note on your phone, or in a notebook you keep for that purpose. Or there’s an app for that, whether you have an iPhone or Android. Another important point is to try to have unique entries each day…using the same ones over and over is cheating, because part of the skill is noticing new things you are grateful for.
Random Acts of Kindness: The science of kindness is amazing. Studies show that acts of kindness benefit both the receiver, the doer, and those observing! When you perform an act of altruism, or kindness, the levels of serotonin rise in your brain (and in the brain of the recipient, and in the brains of anyone observing!). Serotonin is neurotransmitter… a chemical in your brain…that causes feelings of calm, and reduces anxiety. Many antidepressant medications work by increasing levels of serotonin, and this is a way of increasing that level naturally. Additional studies have shown that kindness is also contagious. People who observe acts of kindness are more likely to perform them in the future. So spread the kindness…that’s something else to feel good about! “A little kindness from person to person is better than a vast love for all humankind.” – Richard Dehmel, poet and playwright (1863-1920Smile: A 2009 study that measured brain activity while smiling concluded that it activated the part of our brain that processes feelings of happiness. Just the using the facial muscles to produce the smile is all it takes. You don’t have to be happy. We all know that happiness can produce a smile. It’s awesome that it also works the other way around. Another study concluded that one smile produced the same amount of brain stimulation as 2000 chocolate bars! And like the Acts of Kindness discussed above, it is contagious. Researchers found that people observing a smile were less able to produce a frown. Again….spread joy to yourself and others. By smiling!
There they are…3 of the quickest and easiest happiness hacks…ways to rewire your brain to increase happiness. The hard part is not doing them. It’s doing them...over…and over…and over. Because remember, repetition is the key to rewiring your brain.