What is your response when you are going somewhere and you leave home with plenty of time to spare, but obstacles keep getting in the way, and you start realizing you could be late? Maybe you have an important appointment but people on the road are driving slowly and are interfering with your travels. Or you run into road construction, or you're hitting all the red lights, or an accident has caused all the traffic to have to merge down to one lane, or a slow-moving train is blocking the road and causing everything to come to a complete halt. How much does something like that activate irritability and impatience in you? And then when that happens, what does that do to your level of happiness?
I can usually handle one or two interruptions if I still have enough time to arrive on time, but I confess...when there is a series of them, my frustration level starts going up and my feelings of happiness and well-being start going down. Not surprisingly, if that happens, then that's the energy I bring into wherever I'm headed. What happens for you?
When I started studying more about how the brain operates, though, I realized what was happening in those times was that neural networks associated with impatience and irritability were getting activated while neural networks associated with happiness were being de-activated.
Since this idea of rewiring the brain to raise happiness levels was intriguing to me, one of the simple experiments about that I decided to try was another version of looking for beauty. I chose in those moments, rather than wasting time and energy fretting about the obstacles, to detach from my irritability and take 3 minutes to do some slow, deep Abdominal breathing and, at the same time, look for beauty or any evidence of goodness. I started noticing things like, how the sun was shining through a tree, or the way the wind was blowing some puffy, white clouds across the sky, or a patch of vividly colored flowers in full bloom, or a cute little dog being walked by its owner, or one neighbor helping another neighbor.
Amazingly, I noticed that within 3 minutes, a subtle shift occurred within me physically and emotionally. That was how long it took for me to de-activate neural networks associated with impatience, and to re-activate neural networks associated with calmness, peace, and happiness.
So, I encourage you to experiment with it this week. Maybe it will only take you one minute, or maybe it will take you 5 - 10 minutes to feel the little shift inside. I'm hoping you'll discover that it's harder to remain irritated while you are looking for beauty and goodness.
And, you may be asking yourself, ".Will this strategy solve any problems I'm dealing with today?" No. Your problems will still be there, but it may help you deal with them better. "Will this strategy make me happy for the rest of the day?" Not likely, unless you keep doing the exercise throughout the day. "Can I really expect it to make a difference?" Yes, if you are willing to detach from your negative feelings briefly to look for beauty or goodness. The shift may be subtle, but I believe you will experience it. It's like a tiny infusion of joy and hope.
None of the tools and strategies I'm suggesting in these Blogs are complicated or time consuming. What I am suggesting is that exercises like this that are repeated over and over will "rewire your brain and reprogram your mind" so you feel happier, more contented, and calmer more regularly.