Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Speaking Tree - To Feel Happy, Just Rewire Yourself

Speaking Tree - To Feel Happy, Just Rewire Yourself

While life gives us both good and bad experiences, most of us tend to remember the bad experiences more frequently and intensely. When we recall an old failure, rejection or humiliation our calm and happiness goes for a toss in a moment. But when we are down, dwelling on a memory of achievement, being loved or appreciated does not seem to help much.

In a recent study published in the ‘Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience’, researchers found that several areas of our brain show greater activity in response to stimuli that are more negative than positive. This could explain our collective preoccupation with the negative.

Although this negativity bias may seem strange at the outset, it does seem to have a strong evolutionary basis. From the earliest days, man’s existence depended on his ability to detect and keep himself safe from unpleasant events and danger. Therefore, our brain evolved such that it could pay better and more attention to all unpleasant stimuli. This tendency then seems to have generalised to all stimuli that evoke negative feelings. So, whenever there is anything negative in our life we focus on it with all our attention and energy and in the process develop an obsession towards it. Bad feelings and negative thoughts then engulf our mind leading to sadness and depression.

However, does this imply that we make peace with our tendency to slip into negativity at the drop of a hat? Not really, because we are constantly in the process of an individual and collective evolution. If we have a burning desire and make sustained efforts then we can rewire our brain to be happier. Our brain needs to give up the tendency to focus intensely on the negative. Happiness already exists out there and we must train our brain to see and feel it more and more. The simplest way to do this is by cultivating gratitude.

The first step is to register and record all the positives in our life by keeping a gratitude journal. One carefully records all the good things, events and feelings whether big or small that have come one’s way during the day. This also includes attending to and appreciating positive aspects of life in general. Over a period of time, we will realise that the world is quite full of positivity. Once our brain learns to pay attention to the abundance of good things and rejoice, it will be able to ignore the frustrations that it often dwells upon. Happiness will then become a constant state of mind.

Secondly, one should make repeated attempts to visualise how one’s life would be without whatever one has at any given moment. This makes us value things, relationships and aspects of life that are often taken for granted.

Thirdly, we should work on dissolving our ego. This can be done by repeatedly telling ourselves that individually we are too insignificant to be entitled to anything and whatever we have is through the grace of other sources. We must thank all those sources and make attempts to repay them. This attitude fills us with positive energy and makes our goals aligned towards the larger collective good. Although we are made in a certain way, the Divine has given us immense potential to rewire and transform ourselves. 

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