The Positive Mindset & How To Achieve It

Last night I was reading an article about hard-wiring yourself to be happy. It says it only takes minutes per day. This information is from the front lines of brain science. 

Recent studies suggest that happiness results from certain habits that can be sculpted into the tissues of our brain. 

Neuropsychologist Rick Hanson, Ph.D in Berkley, California says that rewiring is possible because of what scientiests call "neuroplasticity." This is loosely defined as the brain's ability to change its structure in response to thoughts, feelings and life experiences. 

All mental activity is based on the underlying actions of billions of nerve cells that continually signal each other through vast networks of connections. This complex activity is constantly changing your brain. 

I won't go into more scientific explanation. I will break it down into what is easier to understand. 

The key to rewiring for happiness is focusing on positive experiences and memories. The brain is primarily shaped by what you pay attention to. This means that by redirecting your attention, you can deliberately create and prolong the kinds of experiences that will shape your brain so that you are happier. 

Sounds too easy, doesn't it? But read on. 

Why is happiness so elusive for many people? The brain has a negativity bias. It's engineered to note pleasant experiences only in passing, if at all. While it is very good at fully absorbing negative experiences and turning them into something unpleasant. 

In other words, negative reactions become a habit.

Why do people have a negativity bias in the first place? Evolution. Good stuff differs from bad stuff in its urgency and impact. Our Stone Age ancestors had to get good stuff, such as food and shelter, and avoid bad stuff, such as predators. In other words, the brain was hard-wired for survival, not happiness.

So our brains evolved a negativity bias that allows them to learn much more quickly from negative experiences than from positive experiences. In their world, it was life and death on a daily basis. 

As a result, good experiences tend to bounce off the brain, while bad ones go right in. 

What can you do?

You can turn your brain into Velcro for the good and Teflon for the bad instead of the other way around. If you do, eventually the good experiences will be woven into the fabric of your brain. 

So what's the method of achieving this?

First, have a good experience. You're now activating a positive mental state. Gaze out the window and watch a bird up in a tree, or flowers swaying in the breeze. 

If you're looking at this bit of nature that is pleasing but not consciously registering it as a positive experience, it doesn't count. The next part of the process is to install this active state into the neural structure of your brain. 

So how do I accomplish that?

First, dwell on the experience by staying aware of it for 10-12 seconds. Also, enrich the memory by accessing many different senses. 

For example, if you're standing outside on a spring morning, inhale the scent of the soil and feel a soft breeze passing over your face. If you're remembering a positive experience, recall the pleasant details. 

By prolonging and enriching this experience or memory, you're aiming to get as many neurons as possible firing together so they start wiring together.

Some people do this by imagining that the experience is going into them the way water goes into a sponge.

Done often enough, this absorbing of the experience creates new neural connections that transform passing mental states, such as feeling cheerful, into lasting neural traits, such as being a cheerful person. 

Savor a positive experience for 10 consecutive seconds. Sounds easy enough. 

Work at is consciously. Here's how: While you're absorbing a positive experience, bring up in the back of your mind something negative that's related. Say the person who handed you your coffee at McDonalds smiled at you and told you to have a great day. Then think of something that happened that day that annoyed or upset you, like you smiled at someone on the street and they didn't smile back. 

If you're aware of both the cared-for and the annoyed feelings at once, and you keep the positive experience bigger and refuse to allow it to be hijacked by the negative one, the positive material will gradually start associating with the negative material, which is a step toward downgrading the negative stuff and its impact. 

Therefore, over time, the positive will gradually soothe and ease the negative. And eventually replace it. 

Do we need to do this hundreds of times a day to achieve results?

No. Far from it. If you "absorb" good experiences half a dozen times a day for less than half a minute at a time (that's three minutes a day) this neuropsychologist promises that it will change your life. 

My own personal conclusion:

This is the mindset of the individual who looks at the glass as half full. It is the mindset of the individual who stops to smell the roses. I always told my children: Don't rush through life. Stop to smell the roses. 

If you don't happen to have that mindset, using the tools in this post will help you to move your mindset from a negative one to a positive one. And everyone knows that it is how something is perceived, more than what has actually occurred, that makes the difference in how it affects you.

And above all, practice loving yourself first. It is not a selfish thing to do. It is the way you learn how to love. It is like doing an experiment on yourself first before you practice it on others.

So today, do something wonderful for yourself. 


  1. I have always been the Pollyanna - half full person and drive my family crazy with my upbeat "happy".

    But, lately, I am seeing them focus on the positive much more and they say they are much happier.

  2. So much food for thought in this post! I have personally been trying to work on this for quite some time, but now I know the science behind it and will hopefully have much better results. Thanks so much for sharing this information and for breaking it all down so I can understand it! :-)

  3. See Judy Jones's "Hardwire to Be Happy" in More magazine as a source.

  4. Ok I am going to go eat something chocolate :)

  5. I love this. I'm going to suggest this to someone that wakes up grumpy. xoxoo

  6. I read this articale last night on aol news. It caused me to do a search for ways to increase my wareness. I found several things I plan to start tonight before going to sleep..

    if they work//7 to 10days//I'll share my methods and experiences in a blog post.
    Keeping an open mind is all that allows us to have any hope of improving our lives.

  7. Very interesting post. It sounds like it would be quite true and give the intended results if done. I kind of fall into the "philosophical" catagory, but I am going to try this.

  8. I enjoyed reading about this subject. I've always loved psychology. I thought it was interesting learning how we are hard wired from our ancestors. That makes sense. Have you ever noticed that in old pictures people never smiled either? I'm talking about during the hard times of the depression etc? No wonder we are all on anti-depressant drugs now. LOL!

  9. Very interesting, Brenda, and a helpful addition/explanation to what I've been doing to fight my bent toward negative thinking. I can say that I am definitely a more positive-thinking person than I was several years ago. It's worth the effort! Have a great week, Bess

  10. I love reading things like this! I think I usually tend to think in a positive way but I am going to be even more conscious of it now!

  11. My husband drives me crazy, he is a world class pessimist. I on the other hand, am optimistic to the point of silliness. I think he always thinks the worst so he will be pleasantly surprised when it turns out better than expected. I have tried to get him to look on the bright side, but it never works. I guess together we would make a calm and level headed person.

    1. Perfect match then! You outlook probably helps him a lot.

  12. I have always been able to see the good in something bad. My family just grit their teeth when I get started. My glass is always half full.
    Being married to someone whose glass is filled with anger and bitterness I am very glad to have the glass I do.
    I have always believed that in order to be happy you have to let go of all the past hurts. A person won't/can't be happy while filled with bitterness.

  13. I've always been a middle of the road kind of person. Not overly optimistic but not a pessimist by any means. Basically, I'm a tried and true Capricorn. Logic and reason rule.

    I saw this article the other day somewhere and thougt it very interesting to learn 'why' we are hard wired for negativity. Makes perfect sense.

    Aside from being happy, a positive attitude can keep a person healthy, and conversely, a negative one can make a person sick. That in itself is reason to see the glass as half full.

  14. Brenda, your pictures and writing help me start my day with positive thoughts. Thank you.

  15. Years ago I had a to go to a class discussing this for contract work I did at a hospital. This is such important information. Companies dealing with people really need to learn this. I'm sur they would truly understand the need fo good customer relationships. We're naturally wired to remember the negative experience just about forever. We remember the positive about 3 years. Negative is a knee jerk reaction. I agree at ant age a person can change IF they truly want to.

  16. Oh this ipad! I have a love hate relationship with it. Excuse the spelling errors. Nothing like a real keyboard.

  17. Thank you for posting thus! It just goes to show why we should be proactive for happiness every day!

  18. Wonderful information..coming from a very negative family I have been working to try and make my life and thoughts more is hard to do when so many people are so negative..but I won't give up..

  19. The older I get, the more the glass IS emptying, but what I fill it up with now is sweeter and more refreshing.



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