2012-03-14

Hacking the brain for happiness

This was on my to-do list for a while and finally today, I started with the exercise of writing down three things that I am grateful for every day. I intend to fill one small notebook with the lists of good things in my life, one day per page.

No, I do not plan on spamming my readership with the daily lists, but I wanted to share with you the reason for my starting the exercise.

Happiness, as you may already know, requires work, and not the kind that conventional wisdom may lead you to believe. You don't buy that car/house/purse you've always coveted and become happy for the eternity. You experience a peak of happiness and then it wears off. Evolution made our brains in such a way that we never settle for what we have, and every goal we reach only raises the bar for the next happy high that little bit higher.

Now, compared to our ancestors roaming the prehistoric savannah scavenging for food, our lives are astronomically better. Uh-uh, you don't get to complain. You are reading this on a computer or a web-enabled mobile device. Your life rocks. At least in aggregate.

So how do you make the brain pay more attention to the good stuff, and snap out of the bad habit of constantly looking for the next big thing, ignoring the "bird in hand?"

There was a flutter of articles about it all over the web, but here's one that I read most recently, talking about increasing your happiness and thus your performance in all areas of life.

I read it and thought, I should try this. So here are my three things for today:

  • Grippy new tires to keep me safe in the rain
  • Cafeteria had a dish that I liked that was also Paleo-compliant (for my permissive version of Paleo)
  • Pandora playing one of my recently favourite songs, Heart of the Country by Paul McCartney

Our brains are programmable, and I am going to hack the shit out of mine.