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Think about it: If ten things happen in a day, and nine feel good and one feels bad, what affects you the most?

Probably whatever was stressful or painful. That’s because your brain has a “negativity bias” that makes it like Velcro for the bad but Teflon for the good. That's why it's important to learn the 3 key steps to help the good sink into you.

 Rick Hanson, Ph.D.

1. Notice Positive Experiences

Most of us have many enjoyable or useful experiences each day. For example, it feels good to take a relaxing breath, finish a task, or smile at a friend. 

But these feelings typically wash through the brain, while stress, worry, and hurt leave harmful traces behind. 

The good news is, you can use mindfulness to highlight times you feel calm, centered, satisfied, friendly, or cared about. You can also create positive experiences by deliberately thinking of things you feel thankful for, or calling up compassion for someone in pain. These might seem like small, irrelevant experiences, but they are real and they matter. Studies show that you really can make significant changes inside your own brain.


Dr. Rick Hanson’s Tips for Hardwiring Happiness into Your Brain and Life

2. Turn Passing Experiences into Lasting Brain Change

There’s a famous saying: neurons that fire together, wire together.

To hardwire a positive experience into your brain, try one or more of these methods:

  • Stay with it for a breath or two or longer 
  • Feel it in your body
  • Focus on what's enjoyable about it
  •  See how it could be meaningful or helpful to you

To turbocharge this process, you could also:

  • Sense the experience sinking into you, like water into a sponge
  • Imagine it soothing any hurting places inside

Stay mindful of the positive experience while also letting it flow and change. You are not clinging to it or getting attached to it. 

In fact, by receiving it into yourself, you’re filling yourself up from the inside out—so you can meet the next moment feeling already full, and resilient, and at peace.

3. Grow the Strengths You Need Most

You can grow your inner strengths that are matched to any challenges that are outside you or any wounds that are inside you.

By using these methods, you are not denying what is painful, lacking, or unjust. You are simply focusing on what is also true—which will help you be able to deal with difficult things when they arrive.

Feeling anxious or irritable? 

Be mindful of authentic opportunities to feel determined, protected, reassured, centered, capable, relaxed, or calm. Then use the methods in #2 above to take these experiences into yourself.

Feeling frustrated, disappointed or blah? 
Look for the genuine facts that support experiences of gladness, gratitude, pleasure, accomplishment, or effectiveness. Then when these “songs” are playing in your inner iPod, turn on the “recorder” and help them become a lasting part of you.

Feeling lonely, hurt, inadequate, or resentful? 

Be aware of real moments when you are included, seen, appreciated, liked, or loved- and help yourself feel included, seen, etc. Look for chances to feel compassionate, kind, and caring yourself. In all its forms, love is love whether it’s flowing in or out, you can weave it into your nervous system, and into your life.  


Practice taking in the good in the flow of daily life, and also at specific occasions, such as at a meal or the end of a meditation. These single moments might seem small, yet they really add up.

Bit by bit, authentically and reliably, you will be changing your brain for the better—and feeling stronger and happier along the way. 

And as you fill your heart with the good that is real, you’ll have even more to offer to others—helping to nourish what is wholesome and helpful in them as well.

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Three Ways to Hardwire Happiness into Your Brain