Try These Happiness Brain Training Practices

Happiness is a state of mind.

Happy woman by the beach.

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Happiness is a state of mind. When you learn to observe your thoughts and emotions, you can nurture a joyful life and think more positively. After all, everyone has the potential to feel happy.  

Training your brain for happiness doesn’t mean you’ll never have unpleasant emotions. A full, healthy life means experiencing a full range of feelings. But when you apply certain practices, you can learn to observe thoughts and emotions, and nurture more positive ways of thinking. Over time, you’ll train your brain to think more positively and develop a joyful state of mind.

Rewiring the brain
Your brain is filled with neural pathways. According to verywell mind, as you experience life and learn new things, these neural pathways change and adapt., known as neuroplasticity, this is the brain’s ability to change and adapt in response to experience. 

You can apply the concept of neuroplasticity to train your brain to think more positively. Certain, repeated practices can actually rewire your brain and modify thought patterns to focus on productive, positive ways of thinking. This starts with observation: What kinds of thinking habits do you usually have? 

When you become aware of your thoughts, you can recognize situations that tend to cause negative thinking patterns. Inc Magazine recommends using a tactic known as “Notice-Shift-Rewire”. 

Being aware of your thoughts creates an opportunity to carve new neural pathways and redirect thoughts in a positive direction. It allows you to reverse this type of negative thinking, and retrain your brain toward positive thoughts

You can start by understanding which situations trigger negative thought patterns. When negative thinking occurs, step back for a moment and shift your attention to a productive focus. For example, to see the positive side of the situation or to focus on gratitude. When you develop this practice, over time, you’ll actually rewire your brain to think more positively. 

Keep a thought diary
Positive Psychology suggests keeping a thought diary, writing down thoughts throughout the day to notice patterns. Spend a week or two keeping a thought diary, writing down thoughts as they come up throughout the day. 

When you’ve finished, go back and read your thought diary out loud. Do you notice any patterns? Can you identify negative self-talk or limited thinking that might hold you back from feeling joyful?

When these situations arise in the future, step back for a moment. Evaluate why you think this way and what happened the last time you were in this situation? Perhaps you can even come up with alternative optimistic perspectives to the situation. 

Tame the monkey mind with meditation
Is your mind full of questions like: “What do I really want to do with my life?” “ Am I happy?” “What do I want for dinner?” “Did I remember to lock the door?” Sometimes that chattering voice in your head behaves like a bunch of drunken monkeys, bouncing around, screeching, and carrying on. No wonder Buddhists call it the “monkey mind”! 

In this YouTube video, Tibetan Buddhist master, Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, explains that if you want to cultivate a happy, peaceful mind, you must not treat your thoughts like your enemies. You must make friends with them. 

Get to know your thoughts by observing them. Train your monkeys and give them a job to do, like watching your breath, repeating a mantra, or simply observing the present moment. Although challenging at first, these types of meditation practices train your mind and help calm the monkeys in your head. Slowly your mind becomes more calm and peaceful. 

Respond vs react
People cannot block thoughts and emotions because they are neccesary. Even so-called negative emotions, like anger, sadness, or fear, have their function. They often guide you in the right direction and make you aware that something needs to change. After all, a healthy fear of heights keeps you from falling off a cliff!

The trick is to not allow your emotions to overcome you. Psychology Today recommends learning to respond to your emotions, rather than react. When you react, the unconscious mind takes over. You may take action without thinking, and do something you regret. 

Response means taking a step back and observing your emotions. When you develop this type of emotional awareness, you notice feelings as they come up. You do not allow your emotions to run the show. You weigh your decisions first, rather than allowing your emotions to take over, and as a result, you make better choices in line with your core values.

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