Friday, July 30, 2021
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Hack your brain for happiness

Hello everyone, a question that I get very often in my seminars is “how can I be happy?” So, this week let us understand the science of happiness. Now, I am not going to get into any clichés. I know they are inspiring, but you have already heard plenty of those. Neither am I going to suggest that you go to the top of some mountain and meditate. Happiness does not reside there. Why is it so hard to be happy? Finding happiness can be a challenge, but once you know the science behind it, the task becomes easier.

So, let me give it to you straight. Your brain does not care about you being happy or on your happiness. It has zero interest in that. Now you may be thinking, “I definitely know for a fact that I care about being happy”. But that is not your brain talking, that is your mind. You know by now that they are not the same. Your mind is the consciousness that resides within your brain. Your brain’s main job is your survival. Try to hold your breath; it will knock you out to get you breathing again. It only cares to keep you alive; it focusses only on danger not on your happiness. This is a recent discovery. We now understand, that our brains barely notice the positive things in our lives. Through this and the next couple of articles, I am going to explain to you how you can rewire your brain so that it begins to look for all of the positives in your life. Following these ideas you will make yourself feel happier than ever, you will be less stressed and less anxious than you have been in years. I will show you how you can harness the control of your mind and rewire your brain. Let me make it clear, your brain is not against you. It just has not been wired to understand that happiness is what will keep you healthy and safe in the modern times. Being stressed, anxious and upset will make you sick and will eventually kill you.

Neuroplasticity was discovered in 1998. Neuroplasticity means that our brains can switch jobs and grow new cells. This discovery was an eye-opener for scientists. They never thought this was possible, as they always believed that everything was in concrete and can never change. Neuroplasticity is what happens to the blind person who can suddenly hear better than a normal person and that is because his occipital lobe that used to receive input from his eyes is now bored, so it now looks at its closest input to get busy. This doubles the amount of brain power of hearing for the blind person. I am sure you have heard of cases where people had a head injury and they suddenly could start playing the piano or start painting. That is neuroplasticity. Most of us are so stressed that we live for weekends and vacations, while hating the days in-between. We waste precious energy, trying to manage the awful feelings and physical effects from stress. Street is painful and it is the reason that we eat too much, sleep too much or not enough. We create comfort foods that are bad for us, suffer the diseases and then we beg our doctors to help us to stop the pain.

Our brains do not operate by being alert for the good things in our lives. It only focusses on what could possibly go wrong, put us in danger or affect our survival. The area of our brain responsible for this is the amygdala. It is the alarm bell in your brain. When your alarm bell rings it is supposed to make you feel horrible and uncomfortable. Your brain signals you to stop doing whatever you are doing. This system functioned very well for our ancestors. It alerted them to the dangers of a charging lion or a dangerous snake. Back then lives were in constant jeopardy. But times have changed and science and technology have taken advanced leaps and bounds while our DNA has not changed much. Your amygdala does a great job on focussing on what will kill you but not know what keeps you happy. Today your brain is still over reacting to all those same situations – your boss being annoyed at you, a fight with your spouse or family arguments etc. All of these mean deaths as far as amygdala in your brain is concerned.

Although we know they are not life threatening situations in this century, your amygdala still sends an SOS stress signal. The amygdala releases a chemical called cortisol in your nervous system. Once cortisol reaches your cells, you can’t think your way out of it. All this happens in a flash of a second. The trigger is the thought that is focussed on fear or concern. You never notice this because it only takes a small concern for your amygdala to get busy and hit the panic button. Have you ever lost your cool or reacted abruptly and later wondered, “Why the hell did I react like this?” Now you know why. Your brain thought your life was in danger. You reacted instinctively to this. In next week’s column, I am going to discuss the way out and acquaint you with our happy chemicals i.e. Dopamine, Oxytocin and Serotonin.

Until next week,

Stay positive, stay abundant

Umesh Pherwani 

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