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Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence Kindle Edition
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Why is it easier to ruminate over hurt feelings than it is to bask in the warmth of being appreciated? Because your brain evolved to learn quickly from bad experiences and slowly from good ones, but you can change this.
Life isn’t easy, and having a brain wired to take in the bad and ignore the good makes us worried, irritated, and stressed, instead of confident, secure, and happy. But each day is filled with opportunities to build inner strengths and Dr. Rick Hanson, an acclaimed clinical psychologist, shows what you can do to override the brain’s default pessimism.
Hardwiring Happiness lays out a simple method that uses the hidden power of everyday experiences to build new neural structures full of happiness, love, confidence, and peace. You’ll learn to see through the lies your brain tells you. Dr. Hanson’s four steps build strengths into your brain to make contentment and a powerful sense of resilience the new normal. In just minutes a day, you can transform your brain into a refuge and power center of calm and happiness.
"The cultivation of happiness is one of the most important skills anyone can ever learn. Luckily, it’s not hard when we know the way to water and nourish these wholesome seeds, which are already there in our consciousness. This book offers simple, accessible, practical steps for touching the peace and joy that are every person’s birthright." -Thich Nhat Hanh, author of Being Peace and Understanding Our Mind
"In this remarkable book, one of the world's leading authorities on mind training shows how to cultivate the helpful and good within us. In a beautifully written and accessible way, Rick Hanson offers us an inspiring gift of wise insights and compassionate and uplifting practices that will be of enormous benefit to all who read this book. A book of hope and joyfulness." -Paul Gilbert, Ph.D., O.B.E., Professor, University of Derby, author of The Compassionate Mind
"Rick Hanson's new book works practical magic: it teaches you how, in a few seconds, to rewire your brain for greater happiness, peace, and well-being. This is truly a book I wish every human being could read - it's that important. I hope we'll soon be saying to each other, in meetings, over coffee, in crowded subway cars: “Take in the good?” -Jennifer Louden, author of The Woman's Comfort Book
"Learning to take in the good is like fully and mindfully breathing in life: it allows us to access our inner strengths, creativity, vitality and love. In his brilliant new book, Rick Hanson gives us the fascinating science behind attending to positive experiences, and offers powerful and doable ways to awaken the deep and lasting wellbeing we yearn for." -Tara Brach, Ph.D., author of Radical Acceptance
"Hardwiring Happiness teaches us the life-affirming skills of inverting our evolutionary bias to hold on to the negative in our lives and instead soak in and savor the positive. What better gift can we give our selves or our loved ones than an effective strategy to increase joy through brain-based steps that are both accessible and pleasurable? Bravo" -Daniel J. Siegel, M.D., Clinical Professor, UCLA School of Medicine, author of Mindsight, The Mindful Brain, and Brainstorm
"Rick Hanson is brilliant at making complex scientific information about the brain simple. For anyone wanting to decode the black box of the brain and take advantage of its potential, this is the book to read." -Harville Hendrix, Ph.D., co-author of Making Marriage Simple
Q&A with Rick Hanson
Q. What does it mean to “hardwire happiness,” and why is it important?
A. Whether we are happy or sad, loving or angry, or wise or foolish depends on what’s inside the brain. Bringing good things into your brain is the key to well-being and effectiveness, psychological healing, creativity, and spiritual practice.
So, how do you get good things—such as resilience, self-worth, or love—into your brain? These inner strengths are grown mainly from positive experiences. Unfortunately, to help our ancestors survive, the brain evolved a negativity bias that makes it less adept at learning from positive experiences but efficient at learning from negative ones. In effect, it’s like Velcro for the bad but Teflon for the good.
This built-in negativity bias makes us extra stressed, worried, irritated, and blue. Plus it creates a kind of bottleneck in the brain that makes it hard to gain any lasting value from our experiences, which is disheartening and the central weakness in personal development, mindfulness training, and psychotherapy.
To solve this problem, I developed the four HEAL steps of taking in the good: Have a positive experience; Enrich it; Absorb it; and if you like, Link it to negative thoughts and feelings to soothe and eventually replace them.
Q. Is it really possible to overcome this Stone Age negativity bias? How much time does it take?
A. Your brain is constantly changing its structure based on what you think and feel; scientists call this “experience-dependent neuroplasticity.” When you take in the good, you take charge of this structure-building process.
Hardwiring happiness is not mere positive thinking, which is usually wasted on the brain. It’s about transforming fleeting experiences into lasting improvements in your neural net worth. It usually takes less than half a minute. Any single time you do this won’t change your life. But half a dozen times a day, day after day, you really can gradually change your brain from the inside out.
Q. What could I get out of doing this?
A. Besides building up specific inner strengths such as determination or feeling cared about, taking in the good has additional, general benefits. It’s a way to be active rather than passive—a hammer rather than a nail—at a time when people feel pushed and prodded by events and their reactions to them, a way to build oneself up when the world is wearing you down. When you take in the good, you treat yourself like you matter, which is especially important if you haven’t mattered enough to others. And over time, you could sensitize your brain to positive experiences, so it becomes more efficient at learning from them: making it like Velcro for good.
This is the good that lasts. Many little moments add up to big results over time.
Q. Some researchers believe that there is a happiness set point; do you agree?
A. This was the idea that people tend to return to their baseline after a big positive or negative experience—which was used sometimes to argue that there is no point in trying to become happier since we’ll just sink back into our old ways.
More recent research has shown that many people do gradually lift their happiness set point over time. But we have to earn this happiness. We have to do the work . . . which, in terms of taking in the good, is pretty enjoyable!
Q. Is taking in the good just another way to chase after positive experiences?
A. By incorporating these positive experiences into your brain—by building up the sense of being already happy, loved, and peaceful—you won’t have to seek out those feelings outside yourself. Your well-being will become increasingly unconditional, less dependent on external conditions like a partner being nice or having a good day at work. Experiencing that your deep needs are basically met, there’s no basis for the craving and clinging that lead to suffering and harm for yourself and others.
This practice (both the most pleasurable and the most powerful way to defeat the negativity bias and to build up inner strengths) brings you home—home to a comfortable intimacy with your own experience, to a confident openness to life, and to a sense of competence, even mastery, with your own mind.--This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
- ASIN : B00CCPIIZK
- Publisher : Harmony (October 8, 2013)
- Publication date : October 8, 2013
- Language : English
- File size : 5617 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Sticky notes : On Kindle Scribe
- Print length : 306 pages
- Best Sellers Rank: #87,219 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
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Reviewed in the United States on July 13, 2019
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Hanson’s ideas in this book are based on the brain’s ability to change, which is a concept called neuroplasticity. In our busy lives, we miss opportunities to notice, create, and build upon happy experiences. Hanson aims to show that we can positively restructure our brains by simply taking extra time to absorb positive experiences. Through comprehensible explanations and clear organization, he successfully utilizes a simple acronym, HEAL, to demonstrate how to alter our neural structure for consistent happiness and confidence. He successfully ties complex science ideas and terminology and the simple, yet abstract, idea of happiness to ensure that anyone can work towards a more enriched life.
Hanson organizes his ideas in this book into two major parts, with the first part being shorter and more focused on scientific background information. Hanson lists major structures of the brain and their functions, and he also writes about why we should work to change our brain structure. He begins by explaining that humans have a natural negativity bias based on evolution. In order to survive, humans had to focus on the negative. Focusing on the negative might create unwanted issues like paranoia, but negativity has helped humans survive by making sure that they can avoid danger. It is in our human nature to focus on negative situations, which is why negative situations always seem to overtake the positive ones. It would be beneficial to practice absorbing any positive experiences, which can modify our neural structure and offset the repeated history of negativity.
Hanson continues on and uses simple terms to explain the complicated science information that underlies his key points. For example, he dives into brain explanations when he talks about the three major parts of the brain: the brain stem, subcortex, and cortex. These major areas of the brain relate to three specific human systems we have and can utilize to help provide for our basic needs. Based on our human nature, we have three basic needs: safety, satisfaction, and connection. The first basic system is avoiding harm, which meets the need for safety. The second basic system is approaching rewards, which meets the need for satisfaction. The third basic system is attaching to others, which meets the need for connection. Additionally, these human systems essentially have two different modes. The responsive mode means we respond to our problems in a healthy manner since all of our needs are fulfilled. This allows us to be at peace, which is why the responsive mode is where we should try to be at all times. The other mode is the reactive mode, which means we react, rather than sufficiently respond, to adversity in life since our needs are not fulfilled. This particular mode leads to fear and instability, which is why it is important for us to practice neuroplasticity to work to maintain the responsive mode. In other words, changing our brain structure is good, and we can do this by taking time to seize and absorb all the good experiences and opportunities in our lives.
Part two of this book focuses on an actual process to changing our neural structures and creating happiness. This part mainly revolves around an acronym, HEAL. The “H” stands for having a positive experience. The “E” stands for enriching that experience. The “A” stands for absorbing that experience. The “L,” which is the only optional step of this four-step process, describes how we can link positive and negative experiences to help us change the way we might associate certain people, materials, or situations with negative experiences.
After describing his HEAL process, Hanson emphasizes the idea that there is a difference between positive thinking and positive experience. Most people go through their lives trying to be happy just by positive thinking. Instead, we should become aware of the positive experiences in each day, no matter how small. For example, simply being aware of our consciousness counts as a positive experience. Smelling our coffee in the morning, or feeling the warm sun touch our skin can also be a positive experience. We can also create positive experiences; for example, one way to create a positive experience is by thinking of the past, which can stir up good memories that instill positivity within us. Once we become aware of a positive experience, we must stay with it, and let it be enriching. A lot of times, people will experience a positive feeling, but they let it pass by and become covered up by negative feelings and stress. When we have a positive experience, it is important to stay with it for a longer period of time, even if it’s only an extra 30 seconds in our day. We need to breathe, relax, and let the positivity take us over. After we allow the experience to be enriching, we have to really let into absorb into us. Finally, it can also be helpful to work on getting rid of negative experiences by linking positive and negative experiences, which will allow the positive to override the negative. Essentially, each time we practice this HEAL technique, we are altering the structure of our brain in a good way, such as making new synapses. These changes can help us sustain the positivity and maintain happiness.
The last two chapters in the book are interesting because they emphasize further applications of the HEAL process, and I would recommend taking the time to read them. For example, Hanson believes we can practice “HEALing” others so they can live more fulfilling lives, too. We can also apply the HEAL process to promote the growth of our major inner strengths, like love.
Considering all of these key points, Hanson does a great job of making the text easily understandable by explaining any complex terminology. When he talks about any part of the brain, he immediately gives its definition or function. For example, he clearly explains the difference between parasympathetic and sympathetic divisions of our nervous systems in simple terms, such that they lead to rest and digest and fight or flight, respectively.
Another great aspect of this book is the outstanding organization and clarity. Each chapter has multiple tables and charts summarizing information, as well as an overall summary at the end of every chapter. Hanson also writes the book in a way that each chapter builds upon the previous chapter. He clearly states when he feels he is being redundant (thus allowing for the reader to skim to the next part), and he provides references back to specific pages that allow readers to relate new points with previously stated ideas.
It is also excellent that Hanson engages readers and fully guides them into restructuring their brains in a highly interactive way. He thoroughly explains every step that he recommends taking. He has guided practices in gray boxes throughout the book that allow the reader to take a step back and actually practice the techniques.
Despite all of this, the biggest question still remains: does this HEAL process work? From my personal experience, I am used to being very busy and becoming easily stressed out. After applying Hanson’s suggestions as I read, I felt happier because I started to appreciate the small pleasures in life. I relished in the feeling of taking a bite of my sandwich when I was hungry, or the feeling when I received a call from a loved one. I didn’t let these feelings quickly pass by, and this improved my mood and reduced my stress. It also seems that this process worked for others because Hanson included other people’s personal examples and stories. I enjoyed reading these small stories because it put the whole process into perspective by showing what actions or behaviors these people may have changed for the better. Other people are taking small actions to change their lives, too, so why can’t we all do it?! For example, one person decided to write down one positive experience per day and collect them throughout the year as a reminder of how much positivity is present in the little things in life. Hanson even included a few examples of how he applied his techniques, which makes the process seem more credible and realistic. He mentions that he enjoys listening to his kids laugh with each other, and he becomes happy knowing his kids are affectionate towards each other.
To me, the only minor downfall of this book is the amount of science-based information that is actually incorporated. I expected neuroscience to be a main part of the book, but the science seems to only function as a way of enhancing the self-help techniques. However, I still believe that the science included in the book does an acceptable job of clarifying how this process actually works. Hanson gives a sufficient amount of science-based information to accurately explain what it means to restructure and rewire the brain. He makes up for where he lacks by including notes and acknowledgments in the back of the book so science-driven people can look up extra resources. I am glad he didn’t include too much science information because it would have taken away from the main point of the book: helping people find happiness.
Even though I was surprised that neuroscience wasn’t the overriding focus of the book, I still thoroughly enjoyed this book. I feel myself becoming happier as I take in all the positive experiences in my life. I loved interacting with each chapter and thinking of all the positivity that surrounds me.
I would recommend this book to everyone except to people who are narrow-minded or impatient. Some may believe this book is overly optimistic, so it takes an open-minded person to be willing to carefully read and interact with the text. It is an easy read, but the book is more powerful if the reader takes the time to try out all the exercises.
Overall, I give this book 5 out of 5 stars because it is a very well-organized book with easily comprehensible text. The end of the chapter summaries clarify main points, and each chapter allows readers to engage with the text and practice the HEAL process in their own lives. The HEAL process is a very interesting and optimistic approach to how we should live, and I am glad I took the time to apply Hanson’s techniques to my own life. For me, Dr. Rick Hanson was successful because I already feel happier, and I am going to go on his website to look for further resources on this topic. I highly recommend this book to increase happiness. I can’t wait to keep rewiring my brain in positive ways!
A considerable amount of Hanson’s book focuses on explaining how his practices and lessons affect neural connections to improve overall happiness in one’s lifetime. Hanson’s concepts are considered more reliable and credible than other self-help books that are more opinion based in comparison. This is due to the fact that Hanson is familiar in his knowledge in not only the psychological aspect of the application of positivity into everyday life but also with the neurological approach. Hanson explains how negativity is wired into our thought processes to last longer and become more prominent because of reasons such as evolution and learning from bad experiences. He also explains how that can be reversed to be able to learn from negative situations as well as keep in mind many positive situations that one has been through and integrate that into our learning methods.
Another great aspect of Hardwiring Happiness is Hanson’s practicality with his applications. Hanson’s applications involve many physical things that are done that helps one feel like progress is being made. This gives initiative for people to think about how the process has affected their neural system and strengthened learning from positive experiences rather than just basing his practices on theories and ideas. It makes the idea of reaching happiness more tangible. Additionally, Hanson’s ability to manifest his practices into small everyday changes that are still be able to have large increases in positivity proves the efficiency in his practices.
Rick Hanson also uses some personal experience to explain how his methods have worked on himself. He explains that he has done research on all of his practices to make sure that they will be helpful to people neurologically as well as in every other aspect. Since Hanson goes through his process of perfecting his practices, readers are able to learn and understand how their brain works and see how and why it reacts in certain ways. This can help readers learn to overcome situations because of their new understanding of their reactions which is very useful.
As a whole, I found Rick Hanson’s Hardwiring Happiness very helpful to make positive experiences become learning experiences and to better understand how the mind works when faced with both positive and negative situations. As someone who always starts “self-help” and “improvement” books but never finishes them, this book has been effective enough that it can catch someone’s attention and actually works when the practices are done as told. It was interesting to learn about the neurological approach to something like happiness because it was something that I had not read about before. It is also very accessible because one does not necessarily have to think of the book and its method’s neurologically for the applications to work.
One instance in which I apply these concepts to my life frequently is whenever I feel sluggish and lazy and as if I cannot do anything right because it is just not my day. When I am having one of those moments, I have been able to stop my negative thinking towards others, myself, and in general by reminding myself of my potential and how I can willingly turn around my whole mood and performance throughout the day to my benefit. Although it is a small concept which is not recognized as often as it should, it does make a significant difference is it is used correctly. Overall, I was impressed that the practices were effective from day to day, and I can honestly say that I have become a more positive thinker.
I rate this book a 5 out of 5 because it is one of the first books that I have ever been able to see myself improve from as compared to others. Also it has a much different approach that can change one’s point of view and therefore allow readers to have more trust in Hanson’s methods. It is also very intriguing because it changes the way you end up viewing the world and other’s reactions as well as your own. Although some concepts were constantly repeated throughout the book, it allows one to really understand the full meaning behind it.
Top reviews from other countries
help me enormously to break old habits and start feeling happier.