"Being happy is what virtually everyone says they want,” award-winning researcher and author, Dawson Church wrote in his book, Genie in Your Genes. “Even miserable people seem to be happy being miserable. Many human activities revolve around the goal of creating the conditions in which happiness can flourish. Material well-being, safety and security, and physical health all contribute to happiness. Spiritual practices can change our brains in ways that promote happiness.
“Yet happiness is not an on-off condition like a light switch. You aren’t either miserably depressed or ecstatic, with nothing in between. It’s more like a the dimmer on a lamp, in which the position of the slider might be at any point between total lightness and total darkness, and is usually somewhere between those two extremes.
“Happiness can be found along a continuum. At any given moment, we’re somewhere on the spectrum between ecstasy and despair. The difference between feeling slightly content and slightly discontent might only be a few clicks along the slider, not very far apart at all. The trick that happy people have learned is to push their emotional state closer to the happy end of the scale, and further away from the dark side.”
Are you happy?
I heard of someone (forgive me, I don’t remember who) that when asked if he was happy, he replied, “I am happier than I was, and I’ll be happier in the future.” He was a man that engaged in the practices of happiness, continually moving his slider to the “happy” side.
Neuroscientist Richard Davidson says,“Based on what we know of the plasticity of the brain, we can think of things like happiness and compassion as skills that are no different from learning to play a musical instrument or tennis...it is possible to train our brains to be happy.”
As each of us knows from experience, learning a skill is all about repetition. What we repeatedly practice gets easier. Practicing happiness makes happiness easier. Repeated practice literally changes the wiring of our brain.
Church writes, “Like a house that adds wiring to the electrical connections that are used most frequently, and strips wiring away from neglected circuits, the plastic brain is in constant motion, responding to stimuli by creating new neural pathways. Unhappiness reinforces our unhappy brain wiring, and vice versa.”
Ask yourself: Am I practicing happiness or unhappiness throughout my day?
What can I do right now to push my emotional state closer to the “happy” end of the slider?
Meditation? Prayer? Surround myself with happy people? Acts of kindness? Compliment someone? Change my attitude to a positive one? Turn off the tv? Invent stories and imagine visualizations that are positive? Read a book to expand my mind and enrich my heart?
…all of these are research-proven ways to bump up happiness. Pick one.
Here’s to conquering stress.
The Stress Experts
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