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How to Train Your Brain to be Happier

By McKella Sawyer

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Article at a Glance:

  • You have a lot more control over your happiness level than you might think.
  • Thanks to a little something called neuroplasticity, our brains remain changeable and adaptable throughout our lives, which means we can rewire our brains for positivity.
  • Psychologist and happiness researcher Shawn Achor suggests several research-backed practices to get yourself into the happiness habit, including gratitude journaling, meditation, random acts of kindness, and exercise.
  • Yes, life is challenging but it doesn’t take that much time to include these happiness habits in your day!

A lot of us believe our happiness depends on our external circumstances. But what if we told you that only about 10% of your happiness comes from things outside of yourself, while the other 90% has to do with YOU and your mindset?

You might roll your eyes and say “Give me a break, are you telling me I can be happy even if I get laid off, my kids are failing algebra, and my spouse is driving me up the wall?”

We definitely aren’t denying that life is hard sometimes, or saying that you can just snap your fingers and be happy no matter what’s going on around you.

What we’re saying is that you actually have a lot more control over your happiness level than you might think.

How Happiness REALLY Works

The field of happiness research and positive psychology posits that happiness is more about how we see the world than our actual external circumstances.

Yes, we can train our brains to see the world in a more positive light!

Thanks to a little something called neuroplasticity, our brains remain changeable and adaptable throughout our lives, not just when we’re little kids who absorb everything around us like a sponge.

In his TedX Talk “The Happy Secret to Better Work,” Shawn Achor, a psychologist, happiness researcher, and author of The Happiness Advantage lays out the reasons why happiness actually makes us more effective in our lives and how we can start to rewire our brains for positivity.

This might surprise you:

  • Success usually follows happiness, not the other way around.
  • Happiness opens us up to more resources, options, opportunities, etc. When we’re stressed out and unhappy, our options are pretty much limited to fight or flight. But when we’re happy and relaxed, we’re able to see all the opportunities around us.
  • When we’re happy, we’re better able to absorb new information, we’re more productive, more intelligent, and more social.

It’s definitely worthwhile to teach yourself to be happy.

Now for the good stuff!

How to Train Your Brain to Be Happier

Shawn Achor suggests these research-backed practices to get yourself into the happiness habit:

#1: Gratitude journaling.

hand writing in a journal

Write down 3 things you’re grateful for every day, and try not to repeat them! This trains your brain to look out for the good things in your surroundings and gives you the warm fuzzies when you think about your circumstances.

#2: Write for 2 minutes about a positive experience you had in the past 24 hours.

Bonus points if you can reframe an unpleasant situation! This helps you focus on the positive, even if it’s something as simple as your child giving you a hug or the especially good pot of coffee you brewed this morning.

It also helps you process and internalize a positive experience that might have otherwise been forgotten in the craziness of everyday life.

#3: Meditation

Meditation has tons of benefits, and one of the biggest is teaching us not to get too attached to our thoughts, including (and especially) the negative ones.

When we realize our thoughts are just, well, thoughts and not necessarily reality, it's a lot easier to shift them.

Meditation is also great practice for calming yourself when things get crazy. You can carry that calm with you and remember that you have everything you need to find that stillness.

#4: Random acts of kindness

This is one of the most effective ways to boost your happiness because nothing feels better than helping someone else. Even something as simple as a smile or telling someone that you appreciate them can do the trick.

Try to commit a random act of kindness each day to raise your overall happiness level to new heights!

#5: Exercise

two friends doing lunges outside

You already know about this one, right?

Moderate, regular exercise has too many benefits to list here, but one of the many is a boost in happiness hormones! Exercise also reduces stress and improves energy, which can contribute to your overall happiness level.

Your Happiness is Up To You

Yes, life is challenging, but you have a lot more control over your happiness level than you might think.

Happiness is a habit, and it doesn’t even take that much time to include in your day!

Our culture team finds personal development concepts like this and shares them with the rest of the company in order to facilitate a culture of continuous improvement (at home and at work!)

And they’re trying these tips every day for the month of September! Join our Happiness Challenge on our Redmond Experience Instagram! (And don’t forget to follow for monthly topics that you can implement to improve your life, work, and relationships!)

Elevate Your Experience is a monthly column written by the Redmond Culture Team to share insights, stories, and research that feeds your body, heart, mind, and spirit and elevates the human experience. For more inspiring content from the Redmond Culture Team, follow the Redmond Experience on Instagram.

Sources:

“The Happy Secret To Better Work” TedTalk by Shawn Achor

The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor


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