How to Rewire Your Brain to Be Happy

Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions. ~ Dalai Lama

Are you feeling like you could be a happier person but optimism isn’t your strong point these days? Well, you’ve come to the right place.

“Training your brain to be positive is not so different from training your muscles at the gym,” says Shawn Achor, researcher and bestselling author of The Happiness Advantage and Before Happiness. “Recent research on neuroplasticity—the ability of the brain to change even in adulthood—reveals that as you develop new habits, you rewire the brain.”

This research also shows that happiness leads to success. “People who cultivate a positive mindset perform better in the face of challenge,” states Achor. When added to a person’s daily routine, Achor says these six happiness exercises are proven to make anyone—even children as young as four years of age—happier.

  1. Gratitude Exercises. Write down three things you’re grateful for that occurred over the last 24 hours. They don’t have to be profound. It could be a really good cup of coffee or the warmth of a sunny day.
  2. The Doubler. Take one positive experience from the past 24 hours and spend two minutes writing down every detail about that experience. As you remember it, your brain labels it as meaningful and deepens the imprint.
  3. The Fun Fifteen. Do 15 minutes of a fun cardio activity, like gardening or walking the dog, every day. The effects of daily cardio can be as effective as taking an antidepressant.
  4. Meditation. Every day take two minutes to stop whatever you’re doing and concentrate on breathing. Even a short mindful break can result in a calmer, happier you.
  5. Conscious Act of Kindness. At the start of every day, send a short email or text praising someone you know. Our brains become addicted to feeling good by making others feel good.
  6. Deepen Social Connections. Spend time with family and friends. Our social connections are one of the best predictors for success and health, and even life expectancy.

Can’t seem to fit six happiness exercises into your daily routine just yet? No worries! Research shows that you can actually rewire your brain to be happy by repeatedly recalling three things that you are grateful for. So, for the next 21 days, think of three things you are grateful for before you fall asleep. Within three weeks, you’ll feel yourself shift into a positive mindset. Achor’s research reveals that people’s brains begin to “retain a pattern of scanning the world not for the negative, but for the positive first,” making them happier which in turn makes them poised for success.

Achor’s newly released book, entitled Big Potential, explains how to unlock hidden sources of potential in ourselves and others. This highly anticipated follow-up to The Happiness Advantage shows that success and happiness are not competitive sports. Rather, they depend almost entirely on how well we connect with, relate to, and learn from each other.

For more information on Shawn Achor and to learn more about his happiness research, check out this TEDxBloomington video where Achor talks about The Happiness Advantage.

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