THE PROBLEM: Modern life, as rich in culture and technology as it is, seems to be running us faster and harder every year with no guarantee of a rainbow at the end. Many of us still spend most of our time making ends meet. Our prime goals are our own survival and maintaining the health and comfort of our families, no different than those goals of our primitive relatives.
As a result, many of us have forgotten how to focus on the pursuit of happiness. Social psychologists write about a growing sense of helplessness when thinking about having “the good life” and a shrinking sense of trust that we can live out our dreams.
However, since we are masters at justifying and ignoring anything that threatens what we think we should believe—that life is full of opportunities, that everything will work out, and that all we need to do is to work harder—this desperation sits at an unconscious level. Yet our subconscious minds are afraid. The world feels scarier every day.
THE DILEMMA: If we don’t face our fears, we just suppress them. Then the act of suppression hinders any chance we have for rewiring our fears into hope, faith, trust, gratitude, and love. Many people just mosey along every day keeping the fear down with antidepressants, with shopping, with too much food or mindless sex, with mentally or physically abusing ourselves and others, and with paying medical bills for our stress-induced illnesses.
Sound grim? I don’t mean to foretell doomsday. My intent is to help you be more aware of what is going on in your brain and your body. If you knew there was a poison in your body, wouldn’t you want to get rid of it?
A STEP TOWARDS THE SOLUTION: You may not be able to change the world this month, but you can begin to rewire your brain for happiness. You can teach your brain to default to affection and optimism instead of negativity and frustration. Then, you can teach others to do the same so we can begin to rewire the world.
No matter how smart you are, your brain is dominated by your emotional systems. Even the brilliant mathematician is subject to road rage, jealousy, and the seduction of e-Bay. Yet, as humans, we have free will. This is our hope. With disciplined practice, we can rewire the brain to learn new habits of thinking and reacting. We can create families, communities, and societies based on love, respect, and contentment if we focus on choosing our emotional states instead of falling victim to them.
For starters, make a list of activities in your life where you have the possibility of feeling:
- enthusiasm for your work and hobbies
- exultation for discovering something new and accomplishing a goal
- triumph when you overcome adversity
- restful satisfaction when you complete an act of sharing
- pride for your country, community, family, and self
- gratitude for the gifts you’ve been given, including your skills, your knowledge, and your ability to love
- affection from the nearness of your pets, your plants, and your loved ones
- love from the warmth of your beloved lying in your arms or peacefully existing in your presence
What makes you feel good about life? What are you grateful for? What are you proud of (don’t be humble; you loose the gift of self-love)? These emotions are just desserts for the brain. Find them and feel them as often as possible.
Your brain does love to be emotionally rewarded. We love to reminisce on fun and loving times in our lives. You can give your brain the same gifts by choosing to create fond memories right now.
BONUS BRAIN TIP: If you want to overcome your fears about the future, start with how you see and feel the world.
- Every morning, create the day you want by asking yourself to feel good. Then intend to go about your day thinking about feeling passionate, about feeling incredibly creative, about being unconditional love, and about being wildly happy and gracious for living on this beautiful planet.
- Ask yourself to be on the lookout for evidence that this works—that by thinking you are creative, you create something extraordinary or that by thinking you are wildly happy for being here, something will happen that will accentuate your happiness. Ask for these gifts, and then keep an eye out for them to happen. When they show up, and they will, you will begin to look forward to your wonderful ritual every day.
The more you do this, the more you will actually create the neural network that supports achieving the sense of success you desire.
As William James said, “the human being can alter his life by altering his attitude.” Let’s change the world by starting an emotional revolution.