Hardwiring Happiness: Raising Your Set Point for Joy

“I was born with a high set point for happiness.” (Goldie Hawn)

Many of you are probably too young to remember Goldie Hawn on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In television program. She seemed to have a perpetual smile. I used to think that this was just part of her act, but I later heard an interview with her, and she said she thinks she was “born with a tickle.” This high set point for happiness has helped her through tragedy and a bout of depression earlier in her life.

I was first introduced to the idea of “hardwiring happiness” when I read the book of the same name by Rick Hanson, Senior Fellow of UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, and New York Times best-selling author. Hanson explains the idea of hardwiring happiness by saying on his website, “Your brain has a negativity bias that makes it like Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive ones. This bias evolved to help ancient animals survive, but today it makes us feel needlessly frazzled, worried, irritated, lonely, inadequate, and blue.”

Hanson suggests that we attempt to Velcro our positive experiences. He says that rather than looking at a beautiful sunset for a moment and then looking away, we should hold our gaze longer so that we can bring the positive feeling into our hearts and minds, and into our memory. Before we go to bed at night, we should try to bring back those memories.

I created a journal of the things I had seen and experienced. I drew pictures of some, and I took photos of others. I also created a memory box of letters and trinkets that reminded me of fond memories. Here is a gallery of some of the visuals I hold in my heart that help hardwire my happiness:

One of the most important aspects of the hardwiring happiness process is not about having a beautiful scrapbook, but having meaningful memories in your heart and mind. When you find yourself ruminating about a negative experience that is velcroed in your heart or mind, try bringing forward one of the happy images to replace the ruminating thought. As my spirit guide Holly reminds us:

Holly: Most of you have noticed that your news reporting is largely focused on hardwiring your brain for negativity. That night-after-night, and day-after-day, bombardment of negativity makes it difficult for viewers to experience much happiness in their waking hours. We will encourage you to take a few moments each day to hardwire your brain for happiness. Build your awareness of the beauty and wonder around you. Hold your gaze for twice as long as you normally would, and pull the feeling into your heart and mind. Just a couple of moments of happiness can’t possibly outweigh the negativity being fed you on a daily basis, but perhaps you’ll eventually choose to spend more time velcroing positive experiences than negative ones. It is really your choice. You don’t have to be a victim to the negativity of media or of others.

These two photos, of the granddaughter of a dear friend, and of my granddaughter, are part of my hardwired happiness.

We hope, for your own sake, and that of humankind, you’ll choose to be hardwired for happiness rather than despair. You haven’t all been born with Goldie Hawn’s “tickle,” but you can raise your set point for joy with the diet you feed your heart and mind. Soul Bridge Coaching and Holly (June 15, 2021)

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