Research has shown that a large component of happiness is habit. This is good news, because it means we can create greater happiness simply by changing our habits and perspectives. According to modern neuroscience our plastic brains can rewire themselves, if we can sustain a new habit daily for 2-4 weeks. By repeating the same exercise, action, or words several times a day over an extended period of time, we actually create new neural connections. Similarly if we stop repeating actions or words which decrease our happiness (such as those critical voices that tell us we are not good enough, are stupid, or will never be successful) we weaken those neural pathways. If we can manage to completely stop feeding our inner critic it will eventually die of starvation. If, instead, we start feeding our inner wise self/inner best self/inner CEO, that part of us will grow stronger.
What messages do you give yourself every day? Are they critical or positive? What is the ratio of each to the other?
Here are two two minute exercises, that if repeated daily (better yet 3X a day) for 30 days will increase your happiness:
1) Close your eyes, place you hand on your heart, take a few deep breathes, imagine you can breathe in and out through your heart, as you breathe in say to yourself “I breathe in love”, as you breathe out relax, as you breathe in say to yourself “I breathe in ease”, as you breathe out relax, as you breathe in say to yourself “I breathe in compassion”, as you breathe out relax, as you breathe in say to yourself “I breathe in peace”. Repeat for 2-5 minutes.
Fun fact: this exercise stimulates the release of oxytocin, which is the the hormone that surges through your body when you feel love, or make love, or when a mother nurses her baby. It has a calming affect on the nervous system.
2) I know it sounds cliched, but keeping a gratitude journal has been shown to increase overall happiness and satisfaction. It is a simple act that can radically change your life for the better. Simply spend time each day (I find right before bed works for me) writing down three things you are grateful for or appreciate every day. It could be something that happened that day or a more general positive aspect of your life. You could even make it more public and do as a friend of mind does and post your daily gratitude to Facebook. She calls it “three good things” and it is beautiful practice.
I plan to do both of these things for the next 30 days. I call it the 30 day happiness challenge. Will you join me? Report on your discoveries and progress in the blog comment section and testify on my Facebook page.