The great book Hardwiring Happiness, by neuropsychologist Rick Hansen, says that if you are joyful, positive, and stress-free, your brain’s shape will reflect that. If you are often negative, stressful, or fearful, then your brain will look different – it will reflect the state of unhappiness.
Rick Hansen writes that “your brain is like Velcro for negative experiences but Teflon for positive ones.” Doesn’t sound like a great recipe for lasting happiness, does it?
What goes wrong is that as soon as you have a positive experience, your brain immediately starts to focus on what is wrong. The happy moment doesn’t stick because you don’t give it the time it needs to have real staying power. This happens not only in your mind, but also in your body.
Our experience with yoga has that same recipe. I often hear, “Class today was great, as yesterday’s was awful.” I go through that same experience both as a teacher and student. Even when I teach a great class my mind often wants only to think of another class in which I was off, unhappy, or unfocused.
We are excellent at going to that place of doubt and insecurity. Now it is time to consciously make a step in the direction of comfort and joy, through a lasting moment-to-moment awareness of happiness.
Rick Hanson uses the acronym HEAL as a tool for hardwiring your brain to happiness.
H – Have a positive experience
E – Enrich it
A – Absorb it
L – Link positive and negative material so that positive soothes and eliminates the negative.
This is a powerful message that goes beyond the standard idea of healing. We can use the HEAL tool to remember what we need to do to allow those positive experiences – the great, happy yoga classes – to actually sink in. To absorb into our bodies, our blood, and our cells, and have a lasting effect, not just a fleeting one.
As you move forward in your practice, be mindful of those moments when you fall into your patterns. It’s so easy. We have to switch our perspective and note that it is also easy to change to a profound and happy brain state.
I would like to call this the happiness experiment. I invite you to try to HEAL daily. Can you do this simple exercise to make a life-changing shift in your mental state?
Start with your yoga practice, and work on making the positive experiences stick. Even with discomfort and pain, there are positive things in every class that will help you HEAL.
HEAL in a way that is inspirational.
HEAL in a way that allows for you to share your journey with others.
HEAL in your practice.
Happiness is always there. Can you swim in its pool forever?