The bad news: Our brains are wired to be negative. The good news: Happiness doesn’t mean you have to be naive, just think realistically.
Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could hack into our own brains and rewire them to be happier?
Science has shown we actually can thanks to a phenomenon called experience-dependent neuroplasticity. “It’s a fancy term to say the brain learns from our experiences,” says Rick Hanson, neuropsychologist and author of the bookHardwiring Happiness. “As we understand better and better how this brain works, it gives us more power to change our mind for the better.”
Hanson assures he isn’t just talking new-age mumbo jumbo. “This is not just ‘smell the roses,’” he says. “I am talking about positive neuroplasticity. I am talking about learning. … The brain is changing based on what flows through it.”
Understanding how our brains function can help us better control them. Here are some key takeaways from Hanson on how our brains work when it comes to wiring for happiness:
Inside the quest to disrupt death. (Or at least kickstart a slow aging movement.)
“The death by a thousand cuts applies to aging. So I am working to kill aging with a thousand cuts.”
During the dotcom boom, Dave Asprey made $6 million in one swoop. At the age of 26, in the rush of power and possibility that came with that sudden windfall of cash, he felt like nothing was beyond his reach, not even death. “I decided that I was just not going to die,” he tells me, with a smile. “That would be my next challenge.”
And, so, Asprey joined the age-old fight to conquer death.
Over the last 15 years, Asprey has been tinkering with technologies in the hopes of slowing the aging process in his own body. He describes this as bio-hacking, using the hacker mentality to turbocharge his own biochemistry. And to hear Asprey tell it, that’s working:
There are people who don’t feel pain. Now, that might sound cool, but it’s not. If you can’t feel pain, you could get hurt, or even hurt yourself and never know it. Pain is your body’s early warning system. It protects you from the world around you, and from yourself.
He found that the best times to drink coffee (or any caffeinated beverage) for those who wake up between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m. is from 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. and between 1:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., since this is when our cortisol levels usually drop off and we begin to feel sluggish.
In other words, having a cup of coffee when you first get up doesn’t actually make you feel more awake.
Rather than making a decision when the time comes, if-then planning allows you to plot out your defense ahead of time so that you’ve already made the right decision when the time comes.
Unfortunately, though, we can’t always plan for what’s ahead, which is when our willpower really needs to kick in.
Psychologist Roy F. Baumeister and science writer John Tierney, who wrote a book all about willpower, believe that willpower is like a muscle. It is something that we can build up through the right sustenance and exercise, and it is also something that can get worn out.
Here are some quick tips to boost your mental strength and fortitude:
A tattoo machine causes a wound that alerts the body to begin the inflammatory process, calling immune system cells to the wound site to begin repairing the skin. It is this very process that makes tattoos permanent.