Happiness and Neural Wiring (Part 2)

November 4, 2013

Last week we talked about the negativity bias – our hard-wired tendency to notice negative stuff more than positive stuff.  Now let’s talk about getting around that bias, and getting happier!

Every time you use your brain you are messing with its wiring.  When you learn a new word or try a new dance step, it changes things just a bit up there.  When you keep on practicing that thing that neural pathway gets more use.  The longer that pathway gets used, and the more neurons that fire, and the more intensely they fire, the more we get wired in that direction, and that thing – that way of thinking, or doing, or feeling – is easier next time.  It’s how habits are made.

If we want to change our wiring to be more positive, we have to notice and stay with positive experiences longer, to give them a chance to become a part of our neural structure.  So look for those experiences.  Seek them out.  Remember you have a natural tendency to notice negative things, so put some extra effort into noticing those tiny purple wildflowers, or the smile on that kid running by, or the pleasant texture on the overdone rice.  Stay with it for a few moments longer than you normally would.  Then look for the next tiny piece of joy to add to your increasingly happy brain structure.