The emerging science of Positive Psychology continues its exponential growth using evidence-based approaches. New research and practical applications map pathways for moving our mental health and well-being from good to great.
Rick Hanson is a neuropsychologist, founder of the Wellspring Institute for Neuroscience and Contemplative Wisdom, and an Affiliate of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley. The title of his latest book, Hardwiring Happiness, describes his main premise drawn from the latest research in brain science and psychology.
“Neurons that fire together wire together. Mental states become neural traits. Day after day, your mind is building your brain … the structure-building processes of the nervous system are turbocharged by conscious experience, and especially by what’s in the foreground of your awareness. Your attention is like a combination spotlight and vacuum cleaner: It highlights what it lands on and then sucks it into your brain — for better or worse.”
We’re programmed to focus on any and all possible dangers and threats. Those basic survival instincts kept our ancestors from being eaten by saber-toothed tigers. But our prehistoric brains haven’t evolved nearly as quickly as civilization has eliminated those primordial perils. Rick explains, “the negativity bias is tilted toward immediate survival, but against quality of life, peaceful and fulfilling relationships, and lasting mental and physical health. This is the default setting of the Stone Age brain … makes it like Velcro for bad experiences but Teflon for good ones … if we don’t take charge of it, it will continue to take charge of us.”
The book is built around his HEAL process to rewire our brains for internalizing positive experiences:
1. Have a Positive Experience — notice or build positive sensations, connections to others, experiences, gratitude, or sense of accomplishment.
2. Enrich it — hold on, deepen, and intensify the positive experience for five, ten, or more seconds. We could find something fresh novel, personally relevant, or nourishing in that moment.
3. Absorb it — visualize or feel it sinking deep into your body and as you sink into the experience.
4. Link positive and negative material (optional) — hold the positive experience in the foreground as you recall and displace a previous negative experience in that same space. The danger (and what makes this step optional) is the negative experience may crowd back in and take over our thoughts.
Hardwiring Happiness is well written, easy to read, and full of application exercises that can be a bit overwhelming. The key is focusing on the most relevant ones and repeated application to rewire and refire our neural network.
For over three decades, Jim Clemmer’s keynote presentations, workshops, management team retreats, seven bestselling books, articles, and blog have helped hundreds of thousands of people worldwide. The Clemmer Group is the Canadian strategic partner of Zenger Folkman, an award-winning firm best known for its unique evidence-driven, strengths-based system for developing extraordinary leaders and demonstrating the performance impact they have on organizations.