Feeling happier on a regular basis doesn’t have to be hard. It could be as simple as knowing a few things about how our brains work and implementing a couple of new habits.
Sound too easy? You might want to consider challenging yourself to find out for sure, by trying out the simple exercise at the end of this post for an hour to find out how you feel after that hour. It might be easier than you thought to change your overall levels of daily happiness forever.
We’ve learned from neuroscience that our brain is continually asking us three questions:
“What do I focus on?”
“What does it mean?”
“What do I do?”
These questions are hard wired into our experience and we can see the value of them in terms of surviving. When our earlier ancestors lived in extremely life threatening environments, these three questions came in very handy to keep them alive, and they still do that for us today.
But our brain continues to ask these questions even when we’re not in immediate danger. Even In our current environments where most of us aren’t experiencing immediate danger, our brain continues to ask these questions and find answers to them.
How our brain answers these three questions on a regular basis has more to do with our level of happiness than virtually anything else.
Unless we have already consciously chosen, or are consciously choosing in each moment, how to answer these three questions, our brain will use the easiest, most readily available information to get answers to them. This results is that our brain filling in the answers with a combination of our conditioned responses from social programming and other learned responses from throughout our life and the strongest stimuli we are experiencing in the moment .
This can result in our overall levels of happiness feeling like they either happen on a very random basis and like we have very little influence over them, or worse, they can feel very predictably negative, turning almost anything that happens into a negative experience.
So how can we use these three questions to help us raise our overall levels of happiness when we aren’t in need of them keeping us from immediate danger?
One way is to decide ahead of time how to answer these questions for our brain, but in a way that won’t stop it from keeping us safe when we need it to. What I mean is, if we simply supply answers about what to focus on, what things mean and what to do, then we are simply programming our brain to respond in a certain way no matter what happens. This is exactly what social programming does and it doesn’t take into account what is actually happening at the time. For example, a workaholic’s programming might supply these answers:
“What do I focus on?” – work
“What does it mean?” – I’ll make more money (or I won’t feel the emptiness inside)
“What do I do?”- work
These answers might be fine in some environments (like at work) but might create a lack of health and joy if they are used in every situation.
So if we design answers to these three questions in the form of another question, one that points our attention to what we most want to experience AND to what is actually happening simultaneously, then we have answers that provide our brain with enough direction AND enough openness to help it find more happiness in any situation.
Here are two questions you can try out to raise your own happiness levels by supplying your brain with these answers:
“How am I feeling better than ever?”
“What’s the most exciting thing to do now?”
In asking the first question, you are answering your brain’s first two questions:
“What do I focus on?” – answer: focus on how I am feeling,
“What does it mean?” answer: it means I am feeling better than ever and I’m going to find out how.
In asking the second question, you are answering your brain’s third question:
“What do I do?” – answer: find out what the most exciting thing to do is right now and consider doing that
If you are curious about these, play around with asking yourself these two questions over the next hour and find out how much of an immediate impact they can have on your level of happiness. If you think of better questions for you, you can try them out too.
Thanks for reading!