Firing and Wiring Towards Happiness
As I stepped outside today, the warmth of the sun on my face took the edge off the fall breeze. I inhaled the freshness of the moment as I caught a glimpse of the large cottonwood tree showing the beginning of its changing colors. Everything felt crisp today. Relishing in the moment, I pushed the “pause” button. There was joy right here, right now. I allowed the delight to seep over me like putting on a warm suave and noticed it as I felt the bliss move deep within me. I made a mental note of the landscape and the feeling within as I appreciated the beauty.
There are moments like this all day long if we are aware. These are our opportunities to capture the moment, to push the pause button, and step into it allowing the feelings of the positive moment to be noticed and internalized – anchored within us. According to Rick Hanson, author of Hardwiring Happiness, this practice actually has a place in changing our brain structure. Hanson states that any growth requires structural changes within the brain. He gives some specific steps to hard wire these experiences which create the pathway to experience more of these feelings and thus, hardwiring happiness. (Hanson, 2013)
Hanson states that we need a useful experience to activate the mind to reach the mental state that would be enjoyable. Then we want to download that useful state – we want to “install” it for lasting structural changes in the brain giving way to us easily accessing these states.
To do this Hanson has some specific suggestions. First he recommends that we “capture” the ordinary experience and we notice it, allowing the duration of the experience to move from one or two seconds into 20 or more seconds. This allows us to increase the duration of our experience which then allows time for the feelings to “sink in” thereby increasing the intensity of the moment. This sets up the opportunity to experience “the feelings” allowing the neurons of these positive feelings to be activated, firing, as they are wired together with the experience. Lastly, Hansen suggests that we step into receiving the moment. Hanson calls this “yielding to it, letting yourself receive the gift” which I liken to putting on a balm and relishing in the moment. This entire practice is done within a minute or less – but the more we do it, the more we change the structure of our brain to wire it for happiness. (Hanson, 2013)
It certainly doesn’t seem like a difficult practice to become more aware of the moments during our day that we can step into appreciating and feeling the moment of gratitude. Take the time today to push the “pause” button when you want to anchor the feeling, thereby, creating easier access to activating the feeling again and again. Get those neurons firing and wiring together towards happiness. Push your pause button and step into receiving what is already there for the taking.
Hanson, R. (2013). Hardwiring happiness: The new brain science for contentment, calm and confidence. New York: Crown Publishing Group.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker
Licensed Independent Mental Health Practitioner
- Janie Pfeifer Watson, LICSW, is the founder and director of Wholeness Healing Center, a mental health practice in Grand Island, Nebraska with remote sites in Broken Bow and Kearney. Her expertise encompasses a broad range of areas, including depression, anxiety, attachment and bonding, coaching, couples work, mindfulness, trauma, and grief. She views therapy as an opportunity to learn more about yourself as you step more into being your authentic self. From her perspective this is part of the spiritual journey; on this journey, she serves as a mirror for her clients as they get to know themselves—and, ultimately, to love themselves.
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