Possibility Warrior

Lighting The Way Forward

Trick Yourself Happy

| 7 Comments

You can use your mind to change your brain to change your mind.

Your brain is “neuroplastic,” which means it can change by forming new neural connections.  Throughout our lives, our brain changes in ways that affect our behavior.  For example, the death of brain cells that occurs naturally with aging can affect our memory.  However, we can also change our behavior in ways that change our brain.  Active brain exercises can slow the process of dementia by slowing brain cell death.

Medical equipment like MRIs can be used to learn which parts of the brain are involved in various tasks or emotions.  We can see how damage to an area of the brain impacts the tasks or emotions controlled by that part of the brain.  We can also see how practicing specifically chosen activities can affect that same area of the brain.

For example, memorizing a map thickens the hippocampus, involved in visual-spatial memory.  Meditating thickens the insula, involved in tuning into the state of your body and emotions.  Meditation also strengthens the prefrontal cortex, involved in controlling attention.  If you want to strengthen a specific area of the brain, you exercise it — just like with muscles.

So how do you strengthen your brain’s happy muscle?  Your brain has some happy muscle in the left prefrontal cortex, but you don’t even have to know that to exercise it.  All you have to do is get that left prefrontal cortex firing.  By being happy.  Which will reinforce being happy.  Which will keep that left prefrontal cortex flexing your happy brain muscle. Which will result in you feeling like a happier person.

In other words, if you can trick yourself into feeling enough happiness, happiness becomes your new default!  Yep, we humans are that gullible!

All you have to do to make a pumpkin happy is draw a smiley face on it.  How does it work for humans?  Well you can try drawing a smile on your face, but people are likely to think you are a clown and be afraid of you.  You can practice smile therapy, where you intentionally smile regardless of how you feel inside; my experience with this practice is that, until you are well on your way towards happiness already, it’s more likely to induce fury.  ;p

No you have to actually feel happy to be happy in your brain so that your brain will then work to make you feel (more) happy.  And the best way to start feeling happy is to actively look for all the ways you actually ARE happy.  In other words, control your focus.  Focus your attention on what does make you happy.  Even if there is only one thing in your life that makes you happy, if you focus as much attention as possible on that happiness, you will start to generate more happiness!

So this is a trick that’s also a treat!  I challenge you to give it a try.  Pick (or find) something that make you happy and focus on it as long and as often as you can.  Keep bringing your attention back to this “happy place” throughout the day.

Let me know what makes you happy, and what affect focusing on that happiness has on your mood!


Reference:  How to Trick Your Brain for Happiness

7 Comments

  1. Julie –
    I love this piece on Tricking your Brain – and the specific brain science pieces. It’s a great example of where we don’t need to over-engineer something … simply smiling will start doing the job.

    What you’re also talking about is recalibrating your Set Point for Happiness. Recent research has shown that shifting our Set point is about 40% under our “control.”

    Thanks!!!

    Your sister Warrior of Possibility –
    Danila

  2. Very interesting post.! I would love to know more about brain exercise. For instance, how to slow down memory loss (especially short term memory). It would also be great if I could trick my brain into understanding and liking maths! 🙂

    • Thanks Shery and great questions. The easy answer is practice what you want to keep! Practice short term memory with online memory games. Physical exercise, puzzles, and learning new things all keep your brain active and healthy.

      As for learning to like math, perhaps you have a mental block because at some point you decided math was hard or not fun. You can apply all the same tricks for happiness to math! Remind yourself how much math you can do and so easily — even if you start with 2+2! Expand your definition of math to include puzzles like Sudoku! 😀

      • Thanks for the great advice! Yes, I always dreaded math in school – I don’t think I had very good teachers, and became convinced I was just no”bright” enough when it came to maths. I think it was only in university when I forced myself to focus with the help of a friend, that I realized I could actually understand certain things. I still do have a bit of a mental block though.

        • Me too, even though I am a physicist!! I can point to a long history of bad teachers and discriminatory behavior that convinced me math is difficult and traumatic!

          BUT since math is so necessary to get ahead in life, I’ve decided that I have to fight the brainwashing — for my own sake and for the sake of women world wide! I find it easier to do when I give it such a broad significance. 😀

          Big Hugs to you Shery! I’m standing with you as you bravely master that Math!
          ~Julie =)

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