Hardwiring Happiness : The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence
by Rick Hanson and Rick Hanson

Overview - Why is it easier to ruminate over hurt feelings than it is to bask in the warmth of being appreciated?
Because your brain evolved to learn quickly from bad experiences but slowly from good ones.

You can change this.

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.


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More About Hardwiring Happiness by Rick Hanson; Rick Hanson

Why is it easier to ruminate over hurt feelings than it is to bask in the warmth of being appreciated?
Because your brain evolved to learn quickly from bad experiences but slowly from good ones.

You can change this.

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. But each day is filled with opportunities to build inner strengths and Dr. Rick Hanson, an acclaimed clinical psychologist, shows what you can do to override the brain's default pessimism.

Hardwiring Happiness lays out a simple method that uses the hidden power of everyday experiences to build new neural structures full of happiness, love, confidence, and peace. You'll learn to see through the lies your brain tells you. Dr. Hanson's four steps build strengths into your brain—counterbalancing its ancient negativity bias—making contentment and a powerful sense of resilience the new normal. In mere minutes each day, you can transform your brain into a refuge and power center of calm and happiness. You can hardwire in happiness.

  • Publisher: Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Gr
  • Date: Oct 2013

From the cover
Chapter 1

Growing Good

Going through school, I was a year or two younger than the other kids in my grade, a shy, skinny, nerdy boy with glasses. Nothing awful happened to me, but it felt like I was watching everyone else through a wall of glass. An outsider, ignored, unwanted, put down. My troubles were small compared to those of many other people. But we all have natural needs to feel seen and valued, especially as children. When these needs aren't met, it's like living on a thin soup. You'll survive, but you won't feel fully nourished. For me, it felt like there was an empty place inside, a hole in my heart.

But while I was in college I stumbled on something that seemed remarkable then, and still seems remarkable to me now. Some small thing would be happening. It could be a few guys saying, "Come on, let's go get pizza," or a young woman smiling at me. Not a big deal. But I found that if I let the good fact become a good experience, not just an idea, and then stayed with it for at least a few breaths, not brushing it off or moving on fast to something else, it felt like something good was sinking into me, becoming a part of me. In effect, I was taking in the good—a dozen seconds at a time. It was quick, easy, and enjoyable. And I started feeling better.

In the beginning the hole in my heart seemed as big as an empty swimming pool. But taking in a few experiences each day of being included, appreciated, or cared about felt like tossing a few buckets of water into the pool. Day after day, bucket after bucket, month after month, I was gradually filling that hole in my heart. This practice lifted my mood and made me feel increasingly at ease, cheerful, and confident.

Many years later, after becoming a psychologist, I learned why doing this seemingly small practice had made such a large difference for me. I'd been weaving inner strengths into the fabric of my brain, my mind, and my life—which is what I mean by "hardwiring happiness."

Inner Strengths

I've hiked a lot and have often had to depend on what was in my pack. Inner strengths are the supplies you've got in your pack as you make your way down the twisting and often hard road of life. They include a positive mood, common sense, integrity, inner peace, determination, and a warm heart. Researchers have identified other strengths as well, such as self-compassion, secure attachment, emotional intelligence, learned optimism, the relaxation response, self-esteem, distress tolerance, self-regulation, resilience, and executive functions. I'm using the word strength broadly to include positive feelings such as calm, contentment, and caring, as well as skills, useful perspectives and inclinations, and embodied qualities such as vitality or relaxation. Unlike fleeting mental states, inner strengths are stable traits, an enduring source of well-being, wise and effective action, and contributions to others.

The idea of inner strengths might seem abstract at first. Let's bring it down to earth with some concrete examples. The alarm goes off and you'd rather snooze—so you find the will to get up. Let's say you have kids and they're squabbling and it's frustrating—so instead of yelling, you get in touch with that place inside that's firm but not angry. You're embarrassed about making a mistake at work—so you call up a sense of worth from past accomplishments. You get stressed racing around—so you find some welcome calm in several long exhalations. You feel sad about not having a partner—so you find some comfort in thinking about the friends you do have. Throughout your day, other inner strengths are operating automatically in the back of your...


"Rick Hanson is a master of his craft, showing us a wise path for daily living in this book. Based in the latest findings of neuroscience, this book reveals that if we understand the brain a little, we can take care of our lives a lot, and make a real difference to our well-being. Here is a book to savor, to practice, and to take to heart." - Mark Williams, Ph.D., Professor, University of Oxford, author of Mindfulness

"The cultivation of happiness is one of the most important skills anyone can ever learn. Luckily, it's not hard when we know the way to water and nourish these wholesome seeds, which are already there in our consciousness. This book offers simple, accessible, practical steps for touching the peace and joy that are every person's birthright." - Thich Nhat Hanh, author of Being Peace and Understanding Our Mind

"In this remarkable book, one of the world's leading authorities on mind training shows how to cultivate the helpful and good within us. In a beautifully written and accessible way, Rick Hanson offers us an inspiring gift of wise insights and compassionate and uplifting practices that will be of enormous benefit to all who read this book. A book of hope and joyfulness." - Paul Gilbert, Ph.D., O.B.E., Professor, University of Derby, author of The Compassionate Mind

"Rick Hanson's new book works practical magic: it teaches you how, in a few seconds, to rewire your brain for greater happiness, peace, and well-being. This is truly a book I wish every human being could read - it's that important. I hope we'll soon be saying to each other, in meetings, over coffee, in crowded subway cars: "Take in the good?" - Jennifer Louden, author of The Woman's Comfort Book

"I have learned more about positive psychology from Rick Hanson than from any other scientist. Read this book, take in the good, and change your brain so that you can become the person you were destined to be." - Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., Professor, University of California at Davis, Editor-in-Chief, The Journ

"Hardwiring Happiness teaches us the life-affirming skills of inverting our evolutionary bias to hold on to the negative in our lives and instead soak in and savor the positive. What better gift can we give our selves or our loved ones than an effective strategy to increase joy through brain-based steps that are both accessible and pleasurable? Bravo"
--Daniel J. Siegel, M.D., Clinical Professor, UCLA School of Medicine, author of Mindsight, The Mindful Brain, and Brainstorm

"Truly helpful and wise, this book nourishes your practical goodness and feeds the vitality of your human spirit. Following these practices will transform your life." - Jack Kornfield, Ph.D., author of A Path With Heart

"Dr. Hanson has laid out an amazingly clear, easy, and practical pathway to happiness." - Kristin Neff, Ph.D., Associate Professor, University of Texas at Austin, author of Self-Compassio

"Rick Hanson is brilliant at making complex scientific information about the brain simple. For anyone wanting to decode the black box of the brain and take advantage of its potential, this is the book to read." - Harville Hendrix, Ph.D., co-author with Helen LaKelly Hunt of Making Marriage Simple

"I happened to be reading Hardwiring Happiness while my mother was dying in hospice. Following the instructions in the book, there was a healing that transformed my experience of my mother's dying. This was the right book for the right moment, and I am deeply grateful for it." - Gordon Peerman, D. Min., Episcopal priest and psychotherapist, author of Blessed Relief

"With current neuroscience to back him up, Rick Hanson has given us an incredible gift. The practices within this book don't take much time at all, yet have the potential to yield true and lasting change." - Sharon Salzberg, author of Lovingkindness and Real Happiness

"Dr. Hanson offers a remarkably simple, yet transformative, approach to cultivating happiness. He provides clear instructions for bringing these insights into challenging areas such as parenting, procrastination, healing trauma, and transforming relationships. This book is a gift, one you will want to read over and over and share with your friends." - Christopher Germer, Ph.D., Clinical Instructor, Harvard Medical School, author, The Mindful Path

"Seamlessly weaving together insights from modern neuroscience, positive psychology, evolutionary biology, and years of clinical practice, Dr. Hanson provides a wealth of practical tools anyone can use to feel less anxious, frustrated, and distressed in everyday life. With humor, warmth, and humility, this book combines new research and ancient wisdom to give us easy-to-follow, step-by-step instructions to live richer, - Ronald D. Siegel, Psy.D., Assistant Clinical Professor, Harvard Medical School, and author, The M

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