Our brains are full of neurons – synaptic connections that link our life experiences to our emotions. Think of them as wires. Some are conscious and some are subconscious. The Be Happy in LIFE program takes people though the process of noticing their wires, evaluating them, choosing good wires and changing wires on the way to happiness.
Every client who takes a journey with us reaches their happiness goal. We bring the knowledge and all it takes is a bit of courage. I will share the knowledge with you here and all you need to do is gather some courage to make lasting changes.
So, how do we change our wires?
The key is to choose what you want to think. Focus on the things that make you happy. The more you focus on them, the more you will notice them. This is because the more you link positive experiences with positive emotions, the faster your brain will recognize that “this event is making you happy”. Your brain has created a highway. Read how this happens in my post Wired for Happiness: Wires and Highways.
Here are 5 exercises to help you change your wirings and create wonderful and happy wirings (remember, happiness is a choice, so choose well!):
- Make a list of 100 thoughts, beliefs and feelings that are very good and healthy for you. Post this list up in a place where you can read through it often. Here is an example of how this work: I have a belief that “I am very creative”. Every time I do something creative (even if it is a small thing), I strengthen my belief that I am very creative.Make sure the statements do not involve the snake brain. These are events that incite a run or bite response. If you write something down and you feel a bit pressured, maybe it is not a good idea to add this to the list.
When my clients finish writing their lists, I send it to them whenever they have doubts, when they feel sad, bad, frustrated, and insecure. It is amazing how easy it is to lift your spirits by reading this list.
If you do not think you could possibly come up with 100, let me tell you that you have billions of happy beliefs and thoughts. You just might not be aware of them all. Take some time to think it through. Start with one thing and the rest will come.
- Make a list of 100 thoughts, beliefs or feelings that are badly wired and find alternatives to them. For example, “I freak out every time I need to speak in public”. Think of the one time you succeeded. You can change it to “I was able to speak in front of my friends at the party on Friday” or, “If I practice and rehearse what I want to say, I will be fine to speak in public”. All you need is one example that the statement is not 100% true. If you cannot find one, change it to something empowering, something that you can do and feel better about it.This list will give you an indication of how many wires you need to get rid off. Do not judge yourself. Most of the wires were created when you were a kid and you did not have the ability to control your wiring.
In Wired for Happiness: The Three Brains, we talked about the snake, the puppy and the calculator brains. The snake protects us from danger by reacting instantly. The puppy brain links our life events with emotional reactions. The calculator allows us to analyse situations and think critically.
The snake brain is a survival mechanism from the time of Darwin’s evolution. If you are under attack, you either fight or run away. We are all born with this part of the brain. But the calculator takes a little bit of time to develop. As children, we do not have the ability to think of alternatives or use our calculator brains to think of plausible explanations to things that happen to us. For example, if a parent says something rude to a child, it can create a wire that says “they hate me”. Adults have a far more developed calculator brain. If the same thing were to happen to an adult, the calculator brain would say, “She probably had a bad day at work” or, “She must not have slept well last night”. The puppy would link our responses to our emotions. So the child will be left very sad and lonely when parents are rude, while the adult will be left with, “She did not mean it, she loves me still”.
Sometimes, it is good to try and find the origin of your wire. Try to think of the earliest memory you have with a particular thought, feeling, or belief and consider the circumstances. Notice that you are not the same person. You have different circumstances now. It may give you a great feeling of hope that you can change it.
Often, it is almost impossible to remember so far back. Your mission, in this assignment, is just to get rid of bad wires and replace them with good wires.
- At the end of every day, write 10 good things that happened to you during the day. Do not be tempted to write about the things that did not go well. There is no point treading that path again. We want those wires to die off. It will give you an opportunity to make better wiring connections. A psychologist by the name of Seligman, found that writing down good things that happened to you during the day for 3 weeks increased people’s happiness significantly. Try it for 3 weeks.
- When you experience a feeling, rate it. In emotional intelligence, we believe that rating is a great way to measure your feelings and be able to manage them later on. If you are upset 1 or upset 5, the management of it is different. In the Be Happy in LIFE coaching program, rating is a very practical and powerful tool. The more you do it, the better you will be at noticing how you feel. Learn to treat your feelings the way your brain does. Your brain uses chemicals to give a physical rating but you can simply use a written scale. Try rating your feelings on a scale of 1-3 or 1-5. I personally like the 1-10 scale and in the fine tuning stages of emotional awareness, 1-100. Any scale is fine. Choose the one you like best.This technique is useful at every age, every stage, every intellectual ability and for any purpose. When helping someone else rate his/her feelings, make sure to use a scale that suites them. For young kids who cannot count, use a picture scale using a happy, neutral and an angry face. Or a little angry, medium angry and very angry face. Later on, you can go with a 1-3 scale.
- Imagine a scene in your life where you were extremely happy. When everything is perfect and you are very happy. Find that scene and write it down. If you have a photo of it, use it. I you can make a collage of the scene, that is great. If it is a piece of music, keep it. The idea behind this activity is to disturb your bad wires or connections. Whenever you are down or unhappy, abruptly shift your focus (even for a split of a second) to your happy thought/photo/collage/music. This will disturb your bad wiring. If you do it several times, the brain will look for other paths.
There are some other, more painful strategies to divert the attention, like using the rubber band technique. This is where you flick a rubber band on your wrist whenever you experience a negative event. It works, but I personally do not like it. It is much better to use a positive strategy much like the EBT (emotional brain training) than to replace pain with another kind of pain.
The science of the brain fascinates me. I remember reading about it for first time at the age 16 when I visited the local public library. I borrowed a book on perception and brain functioning. Ever since then, I cannot stop searching for more and more information. I found my knowledge on the brain to be the most useful tool for my work with children. It is amazing to discover how all this is 100% applicable to adults as well, particularly when discussing success and happiness. Happiness is a learned skill. Let’s make happiness a strong and solid highway.