August 22, 2019

Choose Joy

Posted in Compassion, Mindfulness, Well-being tagged , , at 10:12 am by kellyfdennis

Our brains have what is described as a negativity bias. The brain scans for threats or what might go wrong in any given situation. It’s one of our survival strategies that been a part of us since our creation. It’s a great strategy for avoiding real threats and danger, but when there are no real threats, it gets in the way of us enjoying and living our lives. When the negativity bias is front and center, we get hooked on anxiety, mistrust, and hypervigilance.

In recent research on happiness and joy, a common thread with those who were happy and joyful is that they are actually choosing happiness and joy. As writer Henri Nouwen writes: “Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and then keep choosing it every day.”

Brain science is learning more about neuroplasticity. We have learned that how we pay attention rewires the circuits in our brains. Intentionally turning towards joy creates a pathway that refocuses our minds and disconnects the negativity bias. It creates an atmosphere that allows true happiness to exist.

Whatever we practice grows stronger. When we run thoughts about situations over and over in our minds, we are strengthening anxiety and worry. It creates a biochemistry in the brain that causes a kind of “mental rut”. Likewise, when we are grateful, kind to others, caring for ourselves and others, then those are the pathways that deepen and grow.

We can train our minds to soak in the good when we really notice and savor our moments of happiness and joy. Researchers found that just 20-30 seconds of immersing ourselves in the feelings we have when we are hugged by a dear friend, or the laughter of a grandchild, or the beauty and awe of a sunset, we can strengthen the neural pathways in our brains. It can be transformative to pause and sense the goodness that is right here in this moment. When we can notice and feel the happiness and joy for the simple things, then we know we can choose happiness, no matter what.

I offer monthly workshops that can help you learn to train your brain. Click here for more information and to sign up. Be well and have a wonderful day!

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ponderings on life, food, God, and love

Grace on the Moon

Do Not Weigh Your Self-Esteem on a Scale

on anything and everything

my thoughts on what I see

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