‘Brain Training’ for Happiness

More news on how we can rewire our brains

We recently published a blog post discussing the importance of gratitude, and what it can give back to you.

Research has shown that our sense of gratitude is directly linked with our sense of life satisfaction.

That is, the more gratitude we feel and express, the happier we are.

And the less grateful we are, the more disappointment we feel.

And disappointment gets in the way of our happiness!

It’s a simple formula… and one that to some people may seem too simple to be true.

But now, research is suggesting that this correlation is not just a theoretical one, it’s a neurological one!

Neuropsychologist Dr. Rick Hanson believes that our brains are naturally wired to focus on the negative, which can make us feel disappointment, stress and unhappiness, despite all the other positive things that may be happening in our life.

The good news?

He also believes that we can rewire our brains to invert this natural inclination, and the key to doing so is…


While some negative feelings are unavoidable, Dr Hanson wholeheartedly believes that we can train our brain to appreciate positive experiences when we have them too, and refocus our attention onto ‘installing’ them in our brain.

Hanson calls this process ‘Taking in the good’:

‘The simple idea is that we all want to have good things inside ourselves: happiness, resilience, love, confidence and so forth. The question is, how do we actually grow those, in terms of the brain? It’s really important to have positive experiences of these things that we want to grow, and then really help them sink in.’

By doing this, says Hanson, we convert our positive everyday experiences into our ‘neural structure’.

Unfortunately, the brain is much better at building brain structure from negative experiences…

For example, the negative experience of pricking your hand on a thorn will leave a more lasting impression than the positive experience of smelling the scent of the flower.

But Hanson contends that when it comes to neural structure, practice can make perfect, and by repeating positive patterns of mental activity we can actually rewire our brain.

It’s not about eliminating negative thoughts, or even about optimism or ‘positive thinking’.

It’s about ‘taking the extra 10, 20, 30 seconds to enable everyday experiences to convert to neural structure so that increasingly, you have these strengths with you wherever you go.’

And that’s exactly what psychologists aim to do — equip their clients with coping mechanisms and skills that will help them deal with the various challenges life will present to them.

And much like meditation, which we also advocate as a life skill, the ideas behind ‘Taking in the good’ will benefit those who practice it both in challenging times and throughout every day life.

So encourage and practice ‘Taking in the good’ with your family on a daily basis.

Dinner time, driving home from school, or before bed can be a perfect time to reflect on the positive experiences you or your children have had that day.

And in doing so, you’re helping to train your brain towards greater life satisfaction and happiness.







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