Feel Happier Happiness By Parinaz Samimi Are you happy? Did you have to think about your answer for a moment? Did you answer “no”? You’re not alone. And you’re not stuck. With a little work, you can rewire your brain and find the happiness you desire. Happiness While the issue of happiness is a complicated one, too many people report being unhappy with their lives. A study of American adults, for example, showed that their Happiness Index number is a mere 31 out of 100. Of course, several stressors come into play: money worries, work problems, health concerns, political anxiety, among many other issues that might keep us from being happy. The truth is, none of that is what’s holding us back from our happiest lives. According to psychologist Shawn Achor, even when we are successful and things are going well, we aren’t happy. Instead, we believe we always need more to be happy. As he puts it, You got good grades, now you have to get better grades, you got into a good school and after you get into a better one, you got a good job, now you have to get a better job, you hit your sales target, we’re going to change it. And the end result? We’ve pushed happiness over the cognitive horizon, as a society. If we continue with this way of thinking, nothing we do will ever be enough to make us happy. Don’t worry, though—happiness is within your reach. You don’t have to be stuck in this pattern of thinking, although creating change and a new way of being does require some effort. One key component is the power of positive thinking. Positive Thinking It’s not what you’re thinking about—it’s how you’re thinking about it. Or, in Achor’s words, 90 percent of your long-term happiness is predicted not by the external world, but by the way your brain processes the world. The way you think about things matters, and it can change how you feel about your life. Take your stressful job, for example. You might think that your circumstances make it difficult, but Anchor found that 75 percent of job successes are predicted by your optimism levels, your social support and your ability to see stress as a challenge instead of as a threat. Those are all things within your power to modify. Thinking about your job with optimism and initiative can change how happy you are. Positive thinking can do more than help you hate your job less. Research shows that positive thinking helps you see more possibilities in your life. That means you can see your potential, you can build new skillsets, and you can create the life you want to live. If you adopt a mindset of positive thinking, you’ll be able to apply this to all areas of your life. Even if your job isn’t ideal or if money is tight, positive thinking will help you identify the parts of your life that are indeed good and working for you. It might appear that this is easier said than done. It’s one thing to say you want to think positively, but it’s another thing entirely to put it into practice when you get a flat tire, your heel snaps off in the street, and you get splashed by a car driving by. So how do you cultivate positive thinking? Gratitude It turns out that simply expressing gratitude daily can make a big difference in the way you perceive the world. Achor goes so far as to say you can actually rewire your brain in just 21 days, if you’re training it correctly. His method is simple: each day, record three things you’re grateful for. Do this for 21 days. It might not sound like much, but Achor reports that the results are impressive: participants do this for 21 days, and their brain starts to retain a pattern of scanning the world not for the negative, but for the positive first. They train themselves to think positively—in other words, they train their way to happiness. It shouldn’t be surprising that gratitude can have that kind of effect. Research has shown incredible benefits from expressing thanks, including better sleep, improved physical health, and stronger self-esteem. When you’re thinking positively, happiness is bound to follow. There are plenty of other ways to express gratitude. What matters is that you’re doing it consistently and daily. Try setting a reminder on your phone if you need to. In fact, try incorporating gratitude into your morning routine, before you ever get out of bed. Do whatever it takes to express gratitude—you might be surprised at how different you feel in three weeks. Rewire Your Brain Happiness won’t just happen to you, and no one can give it to you—that power lies within you alone. If you’re ready to love your life, then start today! Express gratitude, change the way you think, and live happily.