Bit of a cheat this – not really a blog post – but I’ve been dipping into these three books a lot recently and thinking ‘I should share this’. They’re life-changing books, in my opinion, and you’re all about changing your lives, right?
We all want to be happier
It seems as if nearly everyone who contacts me these days has ‘To be happier’ on their list of things they want to change about their lives. What do we mean when we say that? We might feel perfectly happy at certain times, in some situations, moment-to-moment and yet rate our overall happiness levels quite low. It doesn’t mean we’re miserable all the time either. Just that we somehow know it’s important for our health and well-being, for our resilience in times of difficulty, if we can allow ourselves to be happier. Learn to be happier.
Is happiness a habit?
Yes, in a way it is. We can learn to be happier. Research suggests 50% of our happiness may be due to genetics, only 10% is about our life circumstances but a whopping 40%; is down to US – our habits and thinking and the CHOICES we make. It’s something I’ve touched on in an earlier blog
We’re wired for negative emotions – Psychologist Martin Seligman says: “Because our brain evolved during a time of ice, flood and famine, we have a catastrophic brain. The way the brain works is looking for what’s wrong.”
So how do we change the negative habits?
We know now that learning to have a more positive attitude leads us to feel happier. Learning to be grateful, learning to laugh more, learning to be more hopeful, learning to love more. All help us be happier.
This first book is about just that process. It’s called ‘Hardwiring Happiness’ and Dr Rick Hanson gives us simple, daily ways to begin to retrain our brains to stop looking for the negative and to notice the positive. As Rick says, our brains evolved to help us survive in the ancient past, becoming “like Velcro for negative experiences but Teflon for positive ones”. In our modern world that makes us feel anxious, stressed, lonely and inadequate. Unhappy, in other words.
Also by Dr Rick Hanson is ‘Buddha’s Brain’ which is packed with practical ways to open up “the neural networks of compassion, empathy, and love – and clear out resentment, envy, and ill will”. By improving our awareness in our daily lives, with mindfulness and meditation, we can feel happier and “more at one with the world, and less separate and vulnerable”.
And talking of vulnerability, this last one ‘The Gifts of Imperfection’ by Brené Brown was given to me by my best friend whenI was in the middle of my own midlife struggle. I keep it with me all the time. If you don’t already know of Brené then have a look at the video of her TED talk (which went viral, much to her surprise, as she talks about in a second TED talk). I love her. She’s turned vulnerability into something we can be proud of – being vulnerable, living with a whole heart, with authenticity and courage, is what helps us to connect and find love.
The book is packed with wise words but this is one of my favourite quotes:
“People may call what happens at midlife “a crisis,” but it’s not. It’s an unraveling – a time when you feel a desperate pull to live the life you want to live, not the one you’re supposed to live. The unraveling is a time when you are challenged by the Universe to let go of who you think you are supposed to be and to embrace who you are.”
So, what are your own recommendations to readers of the Wednesday Teatime blog? I’d love to hear from you.