“Our happiness depends on the habit of mind we cultivate. So practice happy thinking every day. Cultivate the merry heart, develop the happiness habit, and life will become a continual feast.” ~Norman Vincent Peale
From an evolutionary perspective, happiness is not something that’s much on our radar. Instead, our minds are mostly preoccupied with looking out for danger.
This negativity bias is simply built into our brains – giving more attention to what went or will go wrong is part of our survival mechanism as humans. It’s easy to imagine, therefore, that if we let our thoughts take over, we can soon find ourselves on a slippery slope to unhappiness and despair. Yikes!
To counteract this negativity bias we have to consciously seek out the good in life, focus on joy and gratitude, linger on the positive, take in the good, be present to life’s small pleasures, do what makes us happy in the moment…
In other words, in order to be happy we need to practice happiness.
Remember: what we focus on grows.
You Can Wire Your Brain For Happiness
“We don’t rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training.”~Archilochos
Did you know you have the power to encode happiness into your brain? You can literally train your brain to be happier thanks to the power of neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to reorganize/rebuild itself by forming new connections.
The more we focus on and “practice” happiness, the more happiness we hard-wire into our brain. How amazing is that!
This is nothing new, though.
Throughout life, we learn all kinds of skills through practice, whether it’s walking, talking, biking, playing an instrument, cooking, negotiating, parenting, etc. – we learn by practicing, by doing.
Likewise, we can learn to be happier.
We can rewire our brain for happiness, joy, and pleasure simply by practicing happiness, joy and pleasure. And, we can let the negative pathways fall away by dropping the negative habits and beliefs we’re carrying around.
And since what we practice and repeat becomes automatic, we can use the power of habit to naturally and instinctively shift our mindset from self-defeating and negative to more open and positive over time.
Building Happiness Habits with Mindfulness
You can nurture a happier and more resilient brain using the power of mindfulness and habit.
Mindfulness is simply awareness and acceptance of what is – and it can be our gate to happiness. Paying attention illuminates the present moment in its entirety. It allows you to show up for the good experiences you might have otherwise missed, as well as move through the hard ones.
Focusing on the little things that are going well for us at this very moment allow us to experience life wholeheartedly – we let ourselves experience the good alongside the bad. We realize our lives are complex and not as negative or even dreadful as our minds would have us believe.
We learn to savor the here and now, allowing moments of joy and pleasure in the midst of our to-do lists. We learn to see beauty underneath the everyday. Slowly, we’re more awake to life’s small pleasures, dropping constant worry and distractions from taking over our lives.
But there’s more.
Mindfulness can also shed a light on how your thinking perpetuates your own misery. Understanding your thought patterns and beliefs and how they came to be can be liberating. By paying attention to your reactions and emotional responses you can begin to consciously challenge the negative thoughts and limiting belief systems that underlie them.
In other words, by noticing your habitual negative thoughts you can loosen their grip, gain control over them, and ultimately change and let go of them, raising your happiness level along the way.
The more focus you place on what makes you feel good, the easier it’ll be to manage whatever is making you feel bad.
Awareness and self-knowledge take practice. You can get to know your unconscious beliefs and thought patterns with mindfulness journaling – writing combined with a simple mindful check-ins when we move our attention inward to listen to what’s going on inside us. This self-discovery opens the door to true happiness which can only be found within.
Unpacking those deep-seated beliefs, bringing them to light so you can work with them, changing those that don’t serve us, and rewriting/reframing your story so you can let it go, is the path to inner peace and happiness.
5 Happiness Habits to Practice Daily
Happiness is something we can practice and cultivate. We can build up a lasting sense of ease, confidence, self-acceptance, compassion, feeling loved, contentment, and inner peace through daily happiness habits. Here’s a good start:
- Start your day by setting an intention for joy – decide to be happy on purpose.
- Make a list of things that make you happy and bring you joy – do more of that daily.
- Practice gratitude often.
- Love and nurture yourself from the inside out – self-love and self-care is necessary for feeling well.
- Practice mindfulness to strengthen your self-awareness muscles.
Commit to practicing mindfulness – throughout the day, practice awareness and acceptance of the present moment. Be still and focus on your breath. Become aware of your body, your emotions, and what is happening at that moment. Notice sensations. Le go of your thoughts, just for a little while. Realize when you’re hijacked by your thoughts and bring yourself back to now by focusing on your breath.
Don’t judge. The point is to notice these internal distractions and mind wanderings then bring your focus back to your breath. The more you practice, the easier it will get.
Set these habits in motion. Soon you’ll notice yourself becoming more present, grateful, and content.
Truth is, by taking control over your mind – your thoughts, how you respond and react to life, and what you focus on – we can control our experience and build more happiness into our lives!
You’re worthy of putting yourself first!
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