The Secrets to Wiring a Happier Brain

Learning how to give more love to ourselves is a key practice that when turned into a habit, becomes a source of happiness and resiliency.

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One of the secrets to wiring our brain toward happiness is in the simple understanding that what we practice and repeat starts to become more automatic.

Call it a happiness or resiliency habit and it’s something that anyone can create. The fact is, we all have thoughts and behaviors in our lives that influence states of unhappiness or happiness. While the brain defaults toward paying attention to negative stimuli to keep us safe, we are active participants in our health and well-being and can nurture a happier and more resilient brain.

To help us really get to the root of all the elements necessary to make happiness a practice, I did my research. I interviewed over 20 highly respected and accomplished people in the field of happiness and well-being like Sharon Salzberg, Byron Katie, Dan Siegel, Rick Hanson, Jack Kornfield, Tara Brach, Dan Harris, Kelly McGonigal, and so many more. I wanted to hear what their definition of happiness was and discover the practical ways we can make it come alive.

This is the online Uncovering Happiness Symposium and that took place earlier this July.

Here’s a suggestion to start with that comes from the Daily Now Moments that many people receive in their inbox:

“One of the things we can give in life is love to ourselves. This isn’t always easy, but it’s necessary to feeling well. Consider today, what is one way you can give love to yourself? Maybe it’s taking a vacation from the inner-critic for a day, indulging in a treat you don’t normally give yourself the luxury of, or perhaps simply putting your hand on your heart and priming your mind for good by wishing yourself to be happy, to be safe, to be healthy and to be free from fear.”

This can seem so simple and yet it is so powerful.

Learning how to give more love to ourselves is a key practice that when turned into a habit, becomes a source of happiness and resiliency.

While our brains are incredibly complex and mysterious in some ways, they’re also fairly simple in other ways. Take the process of conditioning. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to understand at this point why a dog salivates at the sound of a bell after it has been introduced to dog food numerous times. That’s the classic Pavlovian tale.

In the Uncovering Happiness Symposium, Sharon Salzberg, a leading figure in the field of compassion, talks about the small ways we can bring compassion into work and home life. She calls compassion “gift giving.”

In this same vein, when we practice and repeat introducing ways to love ourselves in certain contexts, the contexts themselves become cues for that to begin happening automatically.

Take a moment to really consider this question. What would the days, weeks and months ahead look like for you if loving yourself came more naturally?

Your Practice Today

Treat this as an experiment for the next week; consider what loving yourself means to you. Then begin sprinkling that more into your day as a practice for the next week. Set your judgments aside and be curious.

What does your experience teach you?

Five More Science-Based Practices for Daily Happiness

Try these five practices for daily happiness.

This article originally appeared on Mindfulness & Psychotherapy