How to Rewire Your Brain for Happiness
We all want to be happy. It’s a desire almost as strong as our need to breathe. Some would rather not be alive than to be alive and miserable. Our instant gratification generation is obsessed with chasing happiness, like it’s some kind of achievement or ultimate goal in life.
With such high expectations for being happy, it’s natural to feel that we’ll get there only through monumental effort. It doesn’t have to be so. Sometimes, all it takes is a simple mental shift to set us on track to a happier and more fulfilling life. Below are six ways we can reframe our thoughts to feel happier.
- Ditch the “I’ll be happy only if…” mentality.
This common mindset traps us in the vicious loop of constantly waiting for the ideal conditions to be happy. When we do get what we want, we’ll be happy for a moment. Soon we’ll be dissatisfied again with the new normal. It’s human nature to keep wanting more. Avoid setting rigid expectations for what it takes to finally be happy. That way we can open our lives to new possibilities that can make us happy.
- Stop trying to escape stress; focus on creating happiness.
Life always will throw unforeseen problems and obstacles into our path. It’s impossible to escape stress. Instead of trying to eliminate it, work on creating sources and moments of happiness to balance out the tough times. The more difficult life gets, the more we need at least one outlet to release the stress and recharge us for the battle.
- Redefine your criteria for success.
The traditional definition of success is a recipe for unhappiness. It ties happiness and fulfillment to a specific outcome. Life rarely bends to our will and a terrible outcome today can well be a great blessing tomorrow. Rather than determining success by results what we achieved, make success failproof by defining it as the completion of a challenging process. It’s our commitment to the goal that counts, not our bank balance, job title, number of social media followers or entitlement to a luxurious lifestyle.
- Stop catastrophizing and challenge your negative self-talk.
We set ourselves up for unhappiness by making mountains out of molehills and engaging in binary all-or-nothing positions. Such thought patterns often lead us to overreact or be uncompromising. Each time you find yourself caught in these negative thought patterns, challenge the validity of your perceived reality. Get yourself back on track by asking yourself, “Is this the whole picture?,” “Am I being fair in my judgment?,” “Will it matter a year or five years from now?” and “Is there something I can do?”
- It’s okay to say no or to ask for a compromise.
Often we believe that we can’t say no to the conditions imposed on us or negotiate for more acceptable terms. We see the situation as something cast in stone and ourselves as prisoners with no hope for reprieve or escape. We might get a positive outcome if we try to speak up for our needs in a reasonable and nonaggressive way. An example of such communication would be “I need (insert request here) because…”.
- Remember what you have now is what you once wanted.
We create our own unhappiness by obsessing about money, career progress, social status and appreciation. We forget what we now have is what we previously desired either at a conscious or subconscious level. With time and focused effort, we can achieve what we want and also be grateful for what we have received in our lives so far.
Huang, S. (2018). How to Rewire Your Brain for Happiness. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 8, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/how-to-rewire-your-brain-for-happiness/