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How to train your brain to be happy - The Week

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I'm not sure I condone the social comparison technique, but I definitely condone (and promote!) the three blessings technique and the story telling technique...

Three blessings means making a Gratitude Journal:

You must teach your brain to seek out the good things in life. Research shows merely listing three things you are thankful for each day can make a big difference.

Every night for the next week, set aside ten minutes before you go to sleep. Write down three things that went well today and why they went well. You may use a journal or your computer to write about the events, but it is important that you have a physical record of what you wrote. The three things need not be earthshaking in importance ("My husband picked up my favorite ice cream for dessert on the way home from work today"), but they can be important ("My sister just gave birth to a healthy baby boy"). Next to each positive event, answer the question "Why did this happen?" [Flourish : A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being]

This technique has been proven again and again and again. One of the reasons old people are happier is because they remember the good and forget the bad.

More that I've learned from Eric Barker and Martin Seligman about gratitude journals:

We are feedback loops so tell yourself the right stories:

When your vision of your life story is inadequate, depression can result. Psychotherapists actually help "rewrite" that story and this process is as, if not more, effective than medication.

According to the psychologist Michele Crossley, depression frequently stems from an "incoherent story," an "inadequate narrative account of oneself," or "a life story gone awry." Psychotherapy helps unhappy people set their life stories straight; it literally gives them a story they can live with. And it works.

"Retrospective judgment" means reevaluating events and putting a positive spin on them. Naturally happy people do it automatically, but it's something you can teach yourself. [The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human]

Other research bears this out:

Lyubomirsky showed that happy people naturally reinterpret events so that they preserve their self-esteem. [Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth]

Timothy Wilson, author of Redirect: The Surprising New Science of Psychological Change, has talked about how the process of "story-editing" can help us improve our lives:

…we prompted students to reinterpret their academic problems from a belief that they couldn't cut it in college to the view that they simply needed to learn the ropes. The students who got this prompt — compared to a control group that didn't — got better grades the next year and were less likely to drop out. [Redirect]

And when it comes to the future, be optimistic. Optimism can make you happier.

We are feedback loops. We are the stories we tell ourselves.

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