The Hardwiring of Happiness

The Hardwiring of Happiness

We can often feel left out or ignored and can all identify with our negative feelings. 

In his inspiring Ted talk, Dr. Rick Hansen points out the connection between happiness and action. By connecting the two, we might be able to overcome the negativity bias of the brain.

Here are the main takeaways from the Ted Talk. You can also see the full video below.

How to turn passing experiences into useful structures in our brains

Hansen discovered this theory through personal experiences of being left out and ignored. He came to the realization that people need steady supplies of human attention and acknowledgment. Without it, they can become empty shells.

Even when we have a small taste of human recognition, we can feel better and more confident. There's a common saying in Neuroscience 'Fire together, wire together'. Basically, this phrase is here to remind us that every experience, thought, feeling, and physical sensation triggers thousands of neurons, which form a neural network. When you repeat an experience over and over, the brain learns to wire those neurons and trigger them together. According to Hansen, this is why when we associate positive human interaction with happiness we can actually create change because the brain will eventually create the relevant neural networks. 

Can we actually change our neurological structure?

Yes, we can! Endless studies already showed that mental activity can affect our brain structure, which is why we become increasingly sensitive to stress. Our actions and thoughts can change our brain, which will affect our mind and actions, and so on. The inner strengths we all want are potentially located inside our brain, the only question is how to activate and control them. 

Most of our inner coping mechanisms are built from positive interactions with inner strength, for example - if you want more success learn to cope with challenges and the brain will associate achievement with positivity. The only obstacle is the fact that we need to get over our brain's built-in negativity bias. 

Overcoming our negativity bias 

Bad experiences sink in very easily in our brains. This was once an evolutionary advantage that helped our ancestors to protect themselves, but it's one of the main reasons why people become negative and depressed. That's the negativity bias; it's a fundamental bias in the brain that creates a weakness when we attempt to grow, to always expect the worst. What can you do to deal with it? Dr. Hansen is offering to use H.E.A.L...

H.E.A.L.

We need to learn to take in the good and weave it in with positive experiences in the brain. When we

Have a good experience we need to

Enrich it in order to install it in the brain as a neural trait, and then to 

Absorb it and, finally,

Link it to a negative experience and change the brain's structure from positive to negative 

Watch the full YouTube video →

Rick Hanson is a neuropsychologist and the author of Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence, best selling author of Buddha's Brain, founder of the Wellspring Institute for Neuroscience and Contemplative Wisdom and an Affiliate of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, he's been an invited speaker at Oxford, Stanford, and Harvard, and taught in meditation centers worldwide.