Reading Time: 2 minutes
My book review this month is on Dr. Rick Hanson’s book, Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence.
Dr. Hanson is a neuropsychologist and author and his work has been featured widely in the news. The basic premise of the book is that we can change our brain and make ourselves happier over the long term by spending more time focusing on the positive. Several takeaways that you might find useful include:
Look for positive experiences in your life – times of relaxation, happiness, energy, and joy – and revel in those moments. Dwell on them to rewire your brain. Use the HEAL process to get the most benefit – “1. Have a positive experience. 2. Enrich it. 3. Absorb it. 4. Link positive and negative material.” (p. 60) (The fourth step is optional.)
One such experience that he focuses on is the experience of finding a refuge. Focus on a place of refuge for you – whether it’s a spot in your garden, a favorite church, synagogue, or mosque, a park or place that you enjoy visiting, or a behavior (such as persistence) that has positive connotations. Notice how that refuge makes you feel. Absorb the power of that place or behavior. Or remembering the author’s HEAL acronym – Have or focus on a particular experience, Enrich the experience, Absorb the experience, and if possible, Link the positive experience with any negative feelings that you become aware of. If possible, let go of the negative.
Aim to increase the intensity and duration of your positive experiences and dig down and explore them in order to improve the brain’s ability to rewire itself.
While the author doesn’t cite the specific study, he does note that “one study found that reward centers in the brain activated more when people chose to give money to charity rather than to keep it for themselves.” (p. 102) Simply being more caring seems to help generate positive feelings.