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Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science…
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Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and…

by Rick Hanson

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Hardwiring Happiness is all about focusing on the little things. It is not, however, just another one of those books telling you ”live in the moment” which are so popular these days. Instead, it focuses on events and feelings that you can pay attention to in order to build up the inner strength you need to face specific challenges. By focusing on positive experiences, you help yourself remember positive feelings more strongly, despite our brain naturally remembering negative experiences better.

At times this book reads like a piece of fluff. It’s rooted a lot in the author’s own experience and clearly had the illustrative stories I think are so important in self-help books. It was less clear that the author was going to offer actionable advice or back his claims up with science. Initially, a lot of the advice sounded kind of new-agey and silly to me. Fortunately, the author includes explicit directions for performing exercises that will help you feel better about specific challenges. Even better, for me, they worked! For instance, I sometimes feel stressed about running late, so the other day when I was early, I took a moment to savor being on top of things. When I woke up the next morning feeling like I should be somewhere already, I was able to remember the feeling of being on top of things and relax. It might sound silly, but I really think I’m already feeling happier as a result of this and several other little practices from the book.

In terms of scientific backing, I think the author used a paraphrase of “research has shown” maybe twice in the whole book. He is well credentialed and does eventually get into some of the interesting theories of evolution of the brain underlying his ideas. He also occasionally mentioned other credible sources that influenced his theories. However, I was only really convinced that his work was backed by research when I reached his bibliography. This could easily have been a five star review for me had the author integrated this research into his text. As is, I’d love to give this to friends to read since I’ve found it so helpful, but I don’t think I can. I’d have too hard of a time getting people to look past the insubstantial sounding bits when the text doesn’t make it clear how much research is backing it up. That said, I’d love to talk one of you into reading it and actually trying the exercises, because I think this is a book worth sharing.

This review first published on Doing Dewey. ( )
  DoingDewey | Jun 29, 2014 |
Note: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I normally don’t read self-help books, but this one intrigued me with the premise that the brain is like Velcro for the negative and Teflon for the positive. I’m a pessimist, and the Velcro/Teflon thing is definitely an apt and imaginative way to describe how my mind works. Finding out that there’s a revolutionary explanation behind this mindset, and that this is how everyone’s mind naturally works, certainly makes me feel less screwed up.

Hanson goes into the science of why the brain is like Velcro for the negative and Teflon for the positive, and how the accumulation and emphasis of the negative in the brain has a detrimental effect on your life. He describes how the negative neural pathways in the brain can be slowly “rewired” to weaken and remove the negative and to strengthen and increase the positive, making you more resilient to stress, more confident, more secure, and more content. His “HEAL” method for rewiring your brain involves four steps: 1) Have a positive experience. 2) Enrich it. 3) Absorb it. 4) Link positive and negative material. The steps, explained in detail with examples in the book, are logical, simple, and, most importantly, do-able. It essentially amounts to a mental exercise for 10-30 seconds at a time, a few times a day. I think the HEAL method will be helpful in improving my life, and I can’t wait to start trying it. I’ll edit this review in a few weeks with an update on if it was effective for me or not.

Overall, I thought this book was interesting and easy to read, and I’ll probably end up rereading it. I appreciated that each chapter ended with a page or two of review notes to reinforce the most important points. I also liked that the reference list in the back is extensive—certainly a good place to look for sources to explore certain concepts further, and it shows that Hanson has put a lot of research into this book. My only criticism is that the book was fluffy and repetitive at times, but maybe that’s a characteristic of self-help books that I’m not familiar with since it’s not one of my preferred genres. Even with these flaws, I would still recommend/buy this book for anyone that I thought could use some help developing a more positive life and way of thinking. ( )
  PencilStubs | Nov 9, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385347316, Hardcover)

See Through The Lies Your Brain Tells You
 
Why is it easier to ruminate over hurt feelings than it is to bask in the warmth of feeling loved? Your brain was wired in such a way when it evolved, primed to learn quickly from bad experiences, but not so much from the good ones. It's an ancient survival mechanism that turned the brain into Velcro for the negative, but Teflon for the positive.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:00:57 -0400)

"SEE THROUGH THE LIES YOUR BRAIN TELLS YOU Why is it easier to ruminate over hurt feelings than it is to bask in the warmth of being appreciated? Your brain was wired this way when it evolved, primed to learn quickly from bad experiences, but not so much from the good ones. It's an ancient survival mechanism that turned the brain into Velcro for the negative, but Teflon for the positive. Life isn't easy, and having a brain wired to take in the bad and ignore the good makes us worried, irritated and stressed, instead of confident, secure and happy. Every day is filled with opportunities to build these strengths inside, but the brain is designed to ignore and waste them. This makes you come down harder on yourself than you do other people, feel inadequate even though you get a hundred things done, and lonely even when support is all around. Dr. Rick Hanson, an acclaimed neuropsychologist and internationally bestselling author, shows us what we can do to override the brain's default programming. Hardwiring Happiness lays out a simple method that uses the hidden power of everyday experiences to build new neural structures that stick to happiness, love, confidence, and peace. Dr. Hanson's four steps build a brain strong enough to withstand its ancient negativity bias, allowing contentment and a powerful sense of well-being to become the new normal. In mere minutes each day, we can transform our brains into oases of calm and happiness. We can hardwire in happiness"--… (more)

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