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  • These 6 Brain Hacks Can Increase Your Happiness (Part 1)

    Sonja Lyubomirsky is an academic researcher and professor at the University of California Riverside. She’s dedicated most of her career to studying human happiness. A skeptic might ask, “what can science tell us about happiness or being happier?” As it turns out, the answer is quite a lot. Lyubomirsky defines happiness as “the experience of joy, contentment or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful and worthwhile.” Here are three of six simple changes you can make in your life today that can help you feel happier:

     

    1. Where there’s a will, there’s a way

     

    Improving your willpower isn’t as daunting as you might believe, according to Stanford health psychologist and lecturer Kelly McGonigal. Willpower works like a muscle, to gain and maintain strength you must practice regularly. The secret is taking tiny steps, and treating yourself with compassion rather than derision if you happen to slip up.

    UC Berkeley conducted research revealing that dissatisfaction with personal performance and feelings of guilt can be alleviated by following a simple instruction: Imagine you’re talking to yourself about this [weakness/action/situation] as a compassionate and understanding friend. What would you say?”

    Treating yourself with kindness helps increase optimism and ultimately your happiness.

     

    2. Take the scented route

     

    Our brains are essentially biological computer systems, constantly routing and processing information. But did you know there’s a way to hack that system? It happens through smell. Yes, you read that correctly. Neuroscientist Jessica Freiherr states that our olfactory nerves actually bypass the brain’s processing gateway (thalamus) and instead travel straight to the cortical areas, stimulating emotions and memories, oftentimes without our awareness.

    Perhaps this is why scent has the strongest ties to our memories. Take advantage of this by keeping some pleasant and calm-inducing scents nearby and sniff them throughout the day to boost your happiness.

     

    3. Fake it till you make it

     

    We all have the stories we tell ourselves? The reasons we imagine/create to explain our failures and disappointments. But positive psychology expert Homaira Kabir claims that stories containing the words “should,” “always,” and “never” are indicative of extreme and biased beliefs. And it’s these beliefs that make us unhappy.

    If we change the stories we tell, we’ll change our beliefs. It’s called “self-directed neuroplasticity” and relies on the controlled use of attention. When we focus on things we resent or regret, it’s like building the foundation of a great Sadness HQ in your brain. Making it easier and easier to feel down and discouraged. But if we shift attention towards our gratitude and blessings, that Sadness HQ becomes a Happiness HQ.

    Even if you don’t believe what you’re saying—studies show that on some level, you’re internalizing it and re-training your brain.

     

    We’ll finish up the happiness hacks in our next blog post. For more tips and tricks to alleviate stress and increase happiness, contact John Gallagher, LMHC. John Gallagher, LMHC has been providing individual and couple’s counseling services for over 15-years.