6 Ways To Rewire Your Brain For Greater Happiness

Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could hack into our own brains and rewire them to be happier?

Science has shown we actually can thanks to a phenomenon called experience-dependent neuroplasticity. “It’s a fancy term to say the brain learns from our experiences,” says Rick Hanson, neuropsychologist and author of the book Hardwiring Happiness. “As we understand better and better how this brain works, it gives us more power to change our mind for the better.”

Hanson assures he isn’t just talking new-age mumbo jumbo. “This is not just ‘smell the roses,’” he says. “I am talking about positive neuroplasticity. I am talking about learning. … The brain is changing based on what flows through it.”

Understanding how our brains function can help us better control them. Here are some key takeaways from Hanson on how our brains work when it comes to wiring for happiness:

1. RECOGNIZE YOUR NEGATIVITY BIAS.

Our brains are awesome at overlearning from negative experiences. “The brain continuously scans for bad news,” says Hanson. “As soon as it finds the bad news, it overly focuses on it.”

Think of where we’ve evolved from and this starts to make a lot of sense. “Our ancestors evolved in really harsh conditions,” he says. Negativity bias is really good for animals surviving in the wild. It’s what Hanson calls the “eat lunch don’t be lunch” mentality. But these days, we aren’t exactly running from predators, yet our brains are still functioning as if we’re in the wild.

Try not to overlearn from your negative experiences. That means if you get a performance review from your boss, for example, and he tells you countless positive things about your work and one bit of criticism, don’t obsess (as we often tend to) on the one negative thing. “The brain is like a garden, except its soil is very fertile for weeds,” says Hanson.

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