The human brain is complex and interesting, to say the least. Reading about the neuroscience of happiness one learns about the brains “negativity bias” which is our brains tendency to look for, respond to, and store negative information over positive information. While this “feature” of our brain served as a mechanism to keep our ancestors alert and safe, today our tendency to focus on the negative leaves us feeling guilty about things we haven’t done, and ruminative over small insignificant mistakes we may have made. “I can’t believe I said that!” … “They probably think I’m an idiot”… this inner dialogue is almost guaranteed to maintain, and exacerbate feelings of sadness and regret.
This upcoming year, a small practice that we can each adopt to counterbalance our inherent negativity bias is: reframing our automatic negative thoughts into more balanced, and compassionate ones. When responding to yourself, think first of what your response might be to a friend who approached you with a similar problem, or negative statement. You may be surprised to find that your response to your friend (with the same problem as you) will be kinder than the words you use towards yourself. Taking the time to focus on a positive moment, and creating lists of things you are grateful for (i.e., gratitude list) are other ways in which we can allow positive experiences into our awareness. Find a positive experience to focus on, no matter how small. Practicing this daily, among other small practices can counterbalance our tendency towards negativity and begin to hardwire happiness. A book that I often recommend to my clients Just One Thing: Developing a Buddha Brain, by Rick Hanson is an excellent read that outlines many other small practices that we can incorporate into our daily routines to create happiness and contentment within our lives.
I hope everyone reading has a happy and healthy New Year, and a 2020 filled with gratitude, mindfulness, and positive experiences that lead to an increase in overall happiness.