Happiness is good for creative work – it’s an open place, a place of ease and flow, curiosity. I think of myself as a happy person and I think of myself as someone who deals well with failure but I, and I think most of us, can relate to the tendency to focus on negative experiences – the way one criticism can outweigh heaps of praise. And I’m pretty sure a big success has never woken me up at four in the morning. It turns out it’s our default setting – it’s called a negativity bias.
“Unfortunately, to help our ancestors survive, the brain evolved a negativity bias that makes it less adept at learning from positive experiences but efficient at learning from negative ones. In effect, it’s like Velcro for the bad but Teflon for the good.”
Accomplishments get blown right past but what’s not working, what isn’t done, failures, fears criticisms and negative consequences are dwelled upon – I’m a champion at this. Stress is a powerful motivator and very effective in the short term but I think for a lot of my life I convinced myself it was a good place to be, a sort of no pain no gain mentality. Chronic stress eventually becomes self perpetuating and the physical and mental consequences are real and painful.
I came across Dr. Hanson, author of Hardwiring Happiness on this episode of one of my regular listens – The Accidental Creative. I hope you’ll listen, it’s fascinating and his advice for changing your brain, teaching it to learn more efficiently from positive experiences, one thought at a time, is practical and pretty effortless.
“Passing neural states become lasting neural traits”
There are so many little positive moments and accomplishments throughout the day, little successes and moments of gratitude and connection that aren’t acknowledged – ordinary moments, ordinary happiness that we are apparently neurologically designed not to notice. Giving attention to these little positives, spending an extra moment with them can add to our bank of well being, our happiness.