New issue of az-lifestyle.com has just come out! Check out the new Mindset column, “Happiness is…” on page 62-64. Wonderful issue on all the holiday happenings in Phoenix. http://az-lifestyle.com/2012/12/1212.html?pageindex=40.
Here’s a sneak peek…
Remember that old You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown T.V. movie where all the familiar characters got together and sang about happiness? “Happiness is two kinds of ice cream, knowing a secret, climbing a tree…Happiness is being alone every now and then, and happiness is coming home again…For happiness is anyone or anything at all, that’s loved by you…” O.K., it’s corny…but isn’t it true?
To be honest, it can be pretty hard to be happy. Our brains actually have a negativity bias. To avoid getting eaten by tigers in cave people days, we had to be on alert for things that didn’t look right, things that could be signaling danger. Negative stimuli gets more attention and processing from our brain because we’re wired to survive. Unfortunately, that means we naturally pay attention to and remember bad things more easily than good things. Believe it or not, we learn faster from pain than pleasure. The negative interactions in our lives are more powerful than positive interactions, which leave a greater mark on our learning and on how our brain functions. But, perhaps worst of all, negative experiences shift into our implicit, unconscious memory quickly, controlling our expectations, judgments and view of ourselves and others. Wow!
Luckily, good things are happening around us all the time. Unfortunately, they frequently pass us by, because too often we are focusing on what upsets us or what we don’t have. In short…we aren’t taking notice. The key to happiness is awareness. So, what happens if youmake a point to look for the good around you? Make a point to pay attention to it, when you find it? Actively look for the good in your life. Perhaps, be a bit more like Charlie Brown and his friends. Notice a smile on someone’s face as you walk by them, be brightened by a pretty flower, take in the fragrant smell of an orange, enjoy a kind word from a friend, feel good about accomplishing a small task, get pleasure from the feel of soft clean sheets, or take time to revel in a pleasant memory.
Now once you’ve noticed it…let yourself savor it…make it last. See if you can stay with the pleasant experience for 5 to 10 to 20 seconds without letting your attention wander off of it. The longer you focus on the positive experience, the more you allow your brain to literally change and hold onto other positive experiences. Let yourself notice the reward of it…how good it feels…so you can carry that feeling around with you whenever you need it. Expand upon the experience, think of similar experiences that brought you happiness in the past, or think of how you achieved this. Integrate this positive experience into who you are. Let these feelings of happiness connect you to something larger than yourself.
Science is now confirming, that when the mind changes, so does the brain. By moving your mind off of focusing on the negative and rerouting onto the positive, you literally change your brain by making new neuronal pathways, not only making it more resilient, but more open to positive experiences in your life.
Negative emotions promote an inflammatory immune system response that can be triggered by physical and emotional stress. Inflammation can lead to disease. What does this mean? Over focusing on the difficulties in our lives can literally make us sick. However, the more you focus on the good, the more your brain literally changes, the better able you are able to notice and experience the good, and the better you will ultimately feel.
Because our brain has a negativity bias, it takes an active effort to internalize positive experiences. But, it’s important to remind ourselves that it’s worth the effort! Focusing on the good over time will strengthen our immune systems, make our cardiovascular system less responsive to stress, improve our mood, increase optimism and resiliency, and will help us connect meaningfully with others. Yup, being happy has actual benefits.
Now I’m not saying never allow a negative thought to cross your mind; we can’t have the good without the bad. But perhaps be on guard against letting the negative brain run the whole show; give happiness a fighting chance. Let the negative be on the wings of your awareness and allow the good to take center stage, whenever you can. Charles Shulz, the creator of Charlie Brown, seems to have gotten it right. Happiness is all around us, if we allow ourselves to pay attention and take notice.
Happiness is…good for you!
Be happy and well,
Editors pick on Paperblog in December 2012!