Commuting is unquestionably the most arduous part of my day. Traffic-filled roads and people-filled trains, and that’s because I cannot justify living in the city for 2k a month for a bedroom that’s the size of a walking closet. No thank you! So I keep telling myself, there is nothing I can do about it for now, “Just Zen”. Only to find myself still rolling my eyes out of frustration at the dumb car that cut right in front of me or that one person who’s still trying to get on the train when there is CLEARLY no spaces left.
THEN I remember the power of positive thinking. Be positive, Revan! Be happy!! Then again I remember that dude who was forcing his way in the train and I just get hopping mad again!!!! I go back and forth like a supersonic Ping Pong match. Negative thoughts, pollyana thoughts, then gloomy again and so forth. I mean just look at this picture..
Ugh, why can’t I just be HAPPY, why can’t you too? What’s it mean to be happy and why is it so hard? Well, Dr. Rick Hanson (one of my favorite neuropsychologists) explains it like this: “The neurons that fire together, wire together.” Cute, right? Yes, but also true. Neuroscience says that there isn’t enough wiring and firing going on, meaning we don’t celebrate our positive experiences long enough for our brain to encode it into our neural structure. In fact, we naturally fixate on the negative experiences for longer than we should and we lose sight of the big picture. YIKES.
Well, why is it that we fixate on negative experiences rather than positive? We’re not sure yet! Dr. Hanson describes the brain as “Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive ones”. But Worry not, it’s believed you can hardwire your brain. You can indeed think your way out of negative feelings. And no, I am not saying, stop feeling and start thinking, although sometimes that’s what you need to do. What I am saying is to learn emotional intelligence. This will lead to lasting happiness.
The only disturbing evidence behind negative thinking is that it prevents you and I from learning from the positive experiences. Think about it, if you don’t learn, will you ever grow? And if there is a huge impediment in the way will you ever learn? Negative thoughts are the impediments, so remove them! Besides, no one likes negative Nancy, so don’t be negative Nancy!
Ok ok the secret formula of happiness. Well, there is never a secret formula, you just tell your brain to stop being a wimp and it’ll listen, but remember, be assertive! But, surely Dr. Hanson has some tips for those who have ears to listen.
Dr. Hanson says in order to hardwire happiness into our beautiful brains and feel peace we must:
- Take in the good: I have not met one person who has not encountered positive moments in their lives, no matter how small or insignificant. The ugly truth is, we don’t celebrate our wins for as long as we should. We don’t give them the intensity and duration they deserve and hence we don’t effectively “wire” them into our brains. When we celebrate the wins and augment the positive experiences: “increasingly, there’s a sense of being filled up already inside, or already feeling safe inside, or already feeling loved and liked and respected. So we have less of a sense of striving … Insecurity falls away because you’ve got the good stuff inside of yourself.” need I say more?
- Be on your own side: Research shows that in order to be happy you have to have the intention to be happy and to insist upon it. Ever heard the joke “How many therapists does it take to change a lightbulb? Only one, but the lightbulb has to want to change.” hahaha I know. Lame, right? but again true and weighty.
- Maintain a sense of wonder: being constantly curious doesn’t only make you smarter but also helps your happiness. When we experience positive moments as children with much curiosity, freshness and novelty, we allow them to stick in our brains longer thus making their way into our emotional memory. You know why they say children’s’ brains is said to be like a sponge? Well because it is, but because they approach everything with a different perspective than we do now! Children are so curious and want to touch and play with everything. THAT curiosity driven learning is what makes information stick and they never forget. Approach happiness with curiosity so it makes it into your emotional memory and lasts longer! Be a curious soul Paul!
- Open your eyes and look around: PAY ATTENTION! It’s the secret to bliss. I actually make an effort everyday to notice the little cordial encounters, enjoy the hugs, the small friendly gestures and my support system. Also, Dr. Hanson mentions mindfulness as a strong tool to help positivity and being more present in your own life.
In addition to dr. Hanson’s approach to maintaining a happy brain, I have a trick of my own. What has worked/works for me is a simple smile 🙂 I don’t mean to brag but I seldom meet someone who hasn’t mentioned my smile. My smile is my reminder to always be happy, it’s my reminder that the world isn’t collapsing, that life is beautiful even when it feels like it’s not, it’s my reminder that I will always be okay. Smile more.
At the end of the day, I always tell myself that now is the time to be happy and celebrate life. I mean If you’re not happy now, then when? When you find your soulmate? Get married? Lose weight? Make more money? Buy a house? Get a promotion? Are you waiting for next week? Next month? Next summer? Next year? Maybe when you’re dead? Ha.. exactly!
We forget that life is going on NOW.
when I feel down I remember this: “When the tide of life turns against you, and the current upsets your boat. Don’t waste time on what might have been, just lie on your back and float.” Stop worrying, stop dwelling on what might’ve been. Make a conscious effort to be more happy (whatever that means to you). Don’t fixate on the negatives and celebrate the positives.
Stop looking and start living now, ya’ll!
Love, peace & Coffee.