I recently sat down with someone who desperately wanted to be happy. They were frustrated because it felt too hard – they had tried countless different things and still weren’t seeing any changes. I hear this a lot, people saying ‘I’ve tried everything, it just doesn’t work’, and as a result they give up and believe happiness is this mystical trait for the lucky few.
Happiness is not a trait we are dealt, it’s something we cultivate, and I believe this is where the problem exists. People spend the majority of their day caught up in negative or critical thoughts, and expect to turn their whole life around in an instant by doing one off things that promote joy, positivity and happiness. It doesn’t work like that.
Cultivating a more positive mindset, and in turn life, requires consistent effort.
Now you might be sitting there thinking ‘What! Why is something so simple as happiness require effort?’ The reason it takes effort to cultivate more happiness in our lives, is because we’re designed that way. We have a negativity bias. As our brain evolved over time it was critical to learn from negative experiences, as they guaranteed survival. To prioritise survival our entire body is wired to find and respond to negative stimulus more efficiently and intensely than positive ones. In fact, 2/3 of the neurons in our brain are geared towards hunting down negative experiences, which are stored in our long-term memory, whereas only 1/3 is dedicated to finding positives, and even still these are stored in our short-term memory.
Although we are wired this way it doesn’t mean you can’t overwrite it. This is where the effort part comes in. Just like any muscle in your body, your brain needs to be trained consistently and consciously to develop strength. This starts with your decisions, and bringing awareness to what you are choosing to say, believe, and act upon each and every day. Do you choose to overlook the good in your life, perpetuate suffering, blame, drama and scarcity? Or do you focus on opportunity, abundance, responsibility and hope? Your mental state becomes neural traits, therefore over time if you consciously pull yourself up on your daily choices and act on them, by putting yourself in a more empowered state and focused on turning situations into positive experiences, you will physically re-shape and rewire your brain for the better.
Start rewiring your negativity bias by asking the following:
- What are the good things in your life that you don’t usually notice, or take time to appreciate?
- What are some positive experiences or facts that you are aware of, but haven’t taken the time to truly appreciate and let sink in?
- What states do you typically find yourself in when experiencing challenges? How can you shift you focus to the experiences that will help you the most in these moments?
Life is short. If you only had one week to live would you allow yourself to suffer or would you take in what’s good, and do good with your time? Why wait, start now. Work on it every day, and before you know it, eternal happiness will become your reality.