Train Your Brain To Make You Happy

Have you ever noticed that you have a harder time hanging on to the good things that happen to you, and that instead it’s the bad or scary things that your mind just can’t let go? Well, it’s not just you, virtually everyone has this problem, and it’s actually a finely-honed result of evolution. Think about it: the humans who survived the most often were the ones who remembered dangerous or frightening situations and replayed them over and over in their mind, because they were more likely to recognize similar situations when they came up again, and thus avoid the danger.

This skill doesn’t translate well into modern life, however. Now, the only day-to-day dangers we face are jay-walking and speeding in traffic, and yet our brains are constantly searching for dangers to identify and re-live. This is why, when you’re lying in bed about to fall asleep, you might suddenly start replaying all the embarrassing or bad things that happened to you over the day. It’s never the good things that replay automatically, because that’s not evolutionarily valuable.

Before you give up all hope of being able to banish these thoughts, there is good news! Recently a study was conducted at Harvard labs and others, which suggests that the brain’s extreme plasticity (its ability to adapt and perform tasks) enables people to train their brains to new (and more beneficial) habits! This means that we can actually make our brains work for us, provided we give them a little training at first. If we make a habit of thinking positively when those negative replays come on, the brain’s plasticity makes it easier and easier to do so each time. Soon the habit is effortless, and instead of falling asleep to a replay of your disappointments and fears, you can be rewatching all the moments that make you happy! Of course it takes work, but so does every habit!