Not too many years ago I had a brief stint as a high school track coach. For the most part, my responsibilities included working with student athletes to train them to compete in the longer distance races. Daily training included lots of stretching, drills, and putting in the miles. One afternoon as we were gathering in the bleachers before practice an athlete asked, "Hey, coach! What's it going to take for me to run faster?" My answer was simple. With as straight a face as I could muster, I replied simply, "Run faster."
Of course, there is a little more to it than that. But not much. Simply put, running faster requires the runner to run faster.
No longer a track coach, I'm not as interested in helping people learn to run faster. But as a life coach, I am fully invested in helping people live happier. When the teens I work with ask the question, "How do I learn to live happier?" I have a simple reply. "Choose happy." The best way to develop greater happiness is to experience happiness...over and over and over again. Taking in the good will, over time, rewire your brain. Much as running drills over and over, faster and faster, will make you a faster runner, increasing exposure to happiness will make you a happier person.
Unfortunately, our brains are actually hard-wired for negativity. Have you ever wondered why when you have an absolutely perfect day, with everything going your way, and a single setback pops up, all you remember about the day is the setback? Here's an example: you get to school and everything is going just fine. It's a perfect hair day. All your friends are getting along, and you don't have any tests scheduled for the day. Your lunchbox is packed with all your favorites. And then, you get to your last class of the day and your teacher announces, "Pop quiz!" Suddenly, the WHOLE day is shot! By the time you get home from school you're miserable. You shout at your kid sister as you throw your backpack across the table and spit out the words, "Today was the WORST!" You've completely blocked out all the good things from the rest of the day.
Research reveals that our painful experiences routinely overpower our good ones. And those painful experiences are what are held in memory and are used to wire our brains. To rewire our brains toward happiness, we have to keep the happy thoughts coming to crowd out the bad. Rick Hansen, PhD, psychologist, and best-selling author says in his book, Hardwiring Happiness, "Your brain is like Velcro for negative experiences but Teflon for positive ones." He teaches that by dwelling on the good things in life, taking time to really experience these moments fully, we can install these happy experiences in the brain, and create a sense of happiness that is long-lasting.