02 Mar 5 habits of happy brains
via the Ladders by Thomas Oppong
Happiness is work in progress but everyone’s process is different. The good news is that every day presents an opportunity to try something that can make you happier.
Many people blame their circumstances, situations out of their control or other people for their own unhappiness.
But the truth is that our happiness is our own responsibility. It’s like that Eleanor Roosevelt quote: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” No one can take away your happiness without your consent.
Your happiness is an everyday process. You can do more of what makes you happy every day to fully experience it. Every day, you have the opportunity to control your mood. You can learn how to be happy and stay happy.
Dan Millman, author and lecturer in the personal development field explains, “I’d always believed that a life of quality, enjoyment, and wisdom was my human birthright and would be automatically bestowed upon me as time passed. I never suspected that I would have to learn how to live — that there were specific disciplines and ways of seeing the world I had to master before I could awaken to a simple, happy, uncomplicated life.”
Wildly happy people have embraced certain habits that set them apart from the rest — they have happy habits. Happy people do more of what reinforces their state of happiness. Elements of the happiness process involve specific routines, activities, and choices. And the more you practice them, the more your brain rewires itself to adjust to the new happiness habits.
When you feel good, your brain is releasing dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, or endorphin — the quartet of chemicals responsible for your happiness.
We want more of these great feelings because our brains are designed to seek them. Here are a few things that any of us — at any stage of life — can start doing to feel the effects of more happiness in our lives.
1. Happy brains find and increase flow experiences
Have you ever lost yourself in something, so much so that you lost track of time? Being consumed by a task or activity, while it can be rare for most people, is a state of being called Flow.
It’s an optimal experience that can make you happy. From hiking to gardening, reading or even watching a particularly engrossing movie or TV show, flow basically describes the inherent sense of satisfaction.
In his best-selling book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, credited with popularizing the flow state with his research in the 1980s and 90’s describes flow as “a state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience is so enjoyable that people will continue to do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.”
During such spells, we experience the paradoxical sensation of time both having stood still internally in ‘our world’.
Flow can be achieved in just about any activity that requires prolonged mental effort and in which our participation is enjoyed, literally, for the sake of it.
To experience happiness without pursuing it, embrace daily happy habits. When your brain builds expectations about what will make you happy, it begins to rewire itself to seek more happy habits. If you decide to be happy, your brain will find things to be happy about.
2. They express gratitude — a skill for happier living
Research shows, for example, that the frequency of small, positive experiences has a greater impact on our life satisfaction than a few epic events of achievements. People who are grateful feel better about themselves and their lives, and they also show higher levels of happiness.
Expressing gratitude helps people feel good about themselves — which improves their self-esteem. Practicing gratitude can also make lasting changes in your brains.
“People who intentionally cultivate gratitude show greater neural sensitivity in the medial prefrontal cortex, a brain region associated with learning, rational thinking, and decision making,” says Ellie Cobb, Ph.D., a holistic psychologist and the director of Psychology for Thankful, a social enterprise and lifestyle brand focused on gratitude.
When practiced in our lives authentically, gratitude can help us feel more grounded, humble, and connected to the world around you. It draws people to us. Practiced over time, you won’t even have to think about it, and you’ll see the effects on your perspective in life…
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