Oh, the ever elusive happiness.
Is it just a fleeting emotion? Is it something that we can reach and actually sustain?
Researchers have been studying happiness and wellbeing for a few decades now. And they have discovered some pretty fascinating things.
And although some of it has caught on in the mainstream media, (gratitude, yes, start a gratitude practice, gratitude boosts our well being and level of happiness) a lot of it hasn’t yet.
And a lot of what hasn’t really caught on yet is actually pretty transformative.
Here is an interesting fact that can shift your perspective a little bit and nudge you in a good direction, if you’re wondering why it’s so hard to just be happy.
Today’s Happiness Fact:
We’re not wired to be happy. We’re wired for survival
What does that mean? Well, it means that the “bad” is stronger and more attention-getting than the good. This is called the negativity bias. And we all have it.
You know how you can do a presentation or a project and you can receive a whole bunch of compliments and they feel, well, pretty good. But then you get that one little criticism and …OUCH!! Exactly. The bad is more attention-getting than the good. You feel the “bad” with a lot more intensity than you feel the “good.” Or you know how having something stuck in your teeth, or a tiny pebble in your shoe can practically ruin an otherwise perfectly good day?
Our minds are wired to notice and pay attention to what’s wrong around us. We evolved this way because it helped us to survive. Our ancient ancestors that noticed and tended to the potential dangers in our surroundings (what was wrong or what might be wrong) instead of just noticing what was good, were more likely to survive the tigers, the poison berries, and whatever else posed a risk in their environments.
But what does that mean for us now? Getting some negative feedback isn’t likely to affect our survival, but it definitely can affect our mood. And focusing our attention on every little thing that is wrong in our lives can leave us feeling pretty down. No wonder it’s so hard to feel happy, even when things are going well!
So what can we do about it?
A powerful thing we can do is to amp up the positive. This fits in with one of the other amazing things that scientists have learned about our brains pretty recently. Our brains are constantly changing. And we can wire and rewire our brains with our thoughts and behaviours. This is called neuroplasticity.
So focusing on what’s good around us, deliberately, and creating a habit out of it, actually changes our brain to see more of what’s good. You see, what we practice we get better at. And that includes where we put our attention. That’s a big reason why gratitude is so important and valuable for boosting our happiness and wellbeing. It counters the negativity bias and changes our brain to see more of what’s good.
What else? Savouring and mindfulness are also powerful tools you can use and actions you can take. And there are also strategies to challenge your negative thoughts head on. Learn about them on my future posts, or sign up to one of my online Flourishing Skills Groups where we do a deep dive into all of this cool stuff. And we do it while building a heart-centred community and connection, which is another key component of wellbeing and happiness.
Lina Maria is a certified life coach and well-being educator with a background in Positive Psychology. Her drive has always been to find the most effective way to bring meaningful, positive social change to societies and the world. She combines her knowledge of the science of optimal human functioning and wellbeing with her experience in education and coaching to bring powerful and effective change to people’s lives through coaching, Flourishing Skills Groups, and workshops.
Through personal coaching, Lina Maria provides a safe and supportive space combined with powerful solution-focused questioning and reflection to support you to find clarity and direction for moving forward in the direction you want to go in your life. Schedule a free life goals assessment and coaching session. And stay up to date on my events and other cool wellbeing science-related stuff by Following me on Facebook.
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