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  • Writer's pictureTamera Chapman

4 Steps to Happiness

Happiness is one of the many emotions we get to choose in this human experience. When we haven't practiced happiness in a while, it can seem to elude us. Our brains do what we tell it to do. It used to be thought that our brains could not change but the last decade has shown that not to be the case.

Neuroplasticity is a term that is used to prove that the brain can change. The word itself means flexible brain. It's how we learn. Your brain is extremely flexible. Something may feel hardwired, like habits, but neuroplasticity can be used to change our brains.

Our brains are probably the most incredible parts of our body. Our brain is impacted by our interpretation and experience. Little grooves are created in our brain and then "evidence" we find deepens those grooves. If you were taught/experienced that heights are dangerous you will feel that fear and anxiety as a natural response to heights.

If you decide that you want to have less fear of heights and create new experiences with flying or going up on higher elevated areas, your brain will start to see that it is not a danger and start creating NEW pathways. The more you think and experience the new thoughts, the grooves become deeper and the fear and anxiety don't take hold of you.

If you have a habit of constantly looking for the negative, it is really easy to find/see all the bad in the world (and maybe this served you at one point but it's not serving you now). Those grooves are deep but you can create new grooves. It's important to know that happiness doesn't just happen to us. Our thoughts create our feelings, not the other way around.

Most of the time, we feel unhappy and we look for something external to bring us temporary pleasure like turning to food, alcohol, drugs, a new relationship, retail therapy, or whatever shiny distraction that you choose to compress your emotions. So, we have to make new grooves. You show your brain what to look for and it will reward you with finding more of it.

1) Look for the good. Write down 3-5 things you are grateful for. Intentional gratitude is a way of teaching you to look for the good each day. At one point in my life, I lived on someone's enclosed back porch. I was tens of thousands of dollars in debt. I just got divorced. My father just committed suicide. It was tough for me to look for the good. I remember thinking things like, "I'm grateful I have 2 legs. I am grateful to be able to breathe. I'm grateful for this back porch." It was all I could do to find 3 things.

2) Do something for someone else. When we are serving other people, we are giving our brains a break from thinking about why our lives are not the best. It doesn't have to be something huge. I wasn't in a place where I could give money or time but I could simply smile at someone and say hello. A smile, or service, brings connection to other humans and we are wired for connection.

3) Ruminate on the good. Have you ever just looked around at all the beauty that is around you? Take a walk. Play with your dog/cat. Hug your family. Be in the moment instead of thinking about all the things you need to do. Those things can wait. Take a picture of something beautiful.

4) Laugh. Find something funny to watch. Laughter brings joy. There are so many great videos that will bring you laughter...and much like your brain, once you start looking for those videos the algorithm will change and those videos will become easy for you to find.

This is a practice, this doesn't mean that it will be an immediate relief but it is teaching your brain to find the joy in life again.

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