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Train Your Brain to Be Happier: Dive into the Strategies

Happiness isn't a mere emotion but a holistic state that's woven through the very fabric of our lives.

Science increasingly reveals how our brains can be trained to lean more towards joy, satisfaction, and contentment. Here, we delve into the evidence-based strategies that can reshape our minds to be more ‘happiness-oriented’.

1. Finding Your Happiness "Flow"

Coined by psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, "flow" describes a mental state of optimal experience. When in the flow, individuals are completely engrossed, time seems to evaporate, and they derive genuine pleasure from the activity.

  • Engage in Activities that Challenge You: A 2014 study published in The Journal of Positive Psychology emphasizes the balance between skill and challenge. Activities that are slightly challenging promote engagement and satisfaction.

  • Transforming Tasks: Reframing tasks can alter our neurological response. A 2016 study in Cognitive Therapy and Research revealed that cognitive reappraisal (changing the emotional response to a situation) can influence mood and overall well-being.

2. Harness Your Inner Strengths

The "strengths-based approach" has gained traction in positive psychology. It's the art of recognizing and using inherent strengths to foster happiness.

  • Identify Your Strengths: Instruments like the VIA Survey of Character Strengths are invaluable. A 2017 study in Applied Research in Quality of Life showed that utilizing these strengths can amplify life satisfaction.

  • Incorporate Strengths in Daily Life: Once identified, intertwine these strengths in everyday tasks. The same study noted that individuals experienced elevated happiness when they consistently applied their core strengths.

3. The Transformative Power of Gratitude

A wealth of research underscores the profound effects of gratitude on our brains, reshaping neural pathways to enhance positivity.

  • Gratitude Journaling: A study from the University of Miami demonstrated that participants who wrote about things they were grateful for were more optimistic and felt better about their lives overall than those who didn't.

  • Expressing Thanks: A study from UC Berkeley highlighted that showing gratitude can improve relationships, boost resilience, and even improve physical health.

4. Savor Life's Simple Pleasures

The act of savouring—the awareness of pleasure and the deliberate attempt to prolong it—can amplify happiness.

  • Mindfulness: A 2011 research study in Psychosomatic Medicine showcased that mindfulness meditation could alter the structures of the brain, particularly in areas linked to self-awareness, compassion, and introspection.

  • Diversify Pleasure Sources: The Journal of Consumer Research published a study in 2014 that indicated varying experiences can enhance overall pleasure. Interspersing different types of joys prevents hedonic adaptation, where the impact of the same pleasure diminishes over time.

Practical Takeaways:

  1. Allocate time for activities that slightly push your comfort zone.

  2. Practice reframing daily tasks from "have to" to "want to."

  3. Take the VIA strengths survey and brainstorm how to incorporate your strengths daily.

  4. Set aside 5-10 minutes daily for gratitude journaling.

  5. Show appreciation at least once a day, whether it's thanking a colleague or sending a note to a loved one.

  6. Engage in mindfulness practices like meditation or simple breathing exercises for 10 minutes daily.

  7. Vary your leisure activities; if you read today, maybe take a walk tomorrow.


Conclusion

Try it - what have you got to lose!

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