This book came at just the perfect time. I have been working through Jon Kabat-Zinn’s WHEREVER YOU GO, THERE YOU ARE and I had questions. Namely, I wanted to understand accepting happiness without the use positive thinking. If you’re like me, you grew up on positive thinkers like Zig Ziglar, Napoleon Hill, and W. Clement Stone. The problem is: there wasn’t a lot of science behind it. Without the understanding, there’s only so much a Pollyanna-like attitude will do for your true internal happiness.
In HARDWIRING HAPPINESS, Rick Hanson describes the differences of being mindfully aware of positive experiences versus classical positive thinking or trying to manufacture positive experiences. He expresses this in a saying, “liking without wanting is heaven, while wanting without liking is hell.”
This may sound like an overly deep concept that’s difficult to understand, but it really isn’t. The author maintains “a few times a day, a dozen seconds at a time, you’ll learn how to take in the good.” He teaches how we have a negativity bias, where the large negative experiences stick to us like Velcro, and the positive experiences may seem minor and bounce off us like Teflon. He says, “If you don’t take those extra seconds to enjoy and stay with the experience, it passes through you like wind through the trees, momentarily pleasant but with no lasting value.”
Hanson further breaks down his methodology for hardwiring happiness (saying “mental states become neural traits”) through his H-E-A-L process. He says you have to: Have a positive experience; Enrich it; Absorb it; and, Link positive and negative material. That last one being optional until the other three are a regular part of your habitual routine.
There is an excellent chapter dealing with the brain, specifically parts of the brain and the brain’s placidity. There are two concluding chapters dealing with special scenarios, such as trauma, and special meditations (this is what I’ll keep returning to the book for). My favorite part—largely due to my neurotic need for it—is the perfect trifecta at the end: bibliography, chapter-specific reference notes, and a thorough index. It’s sick, I know, but it’s so, so what I love. I NEED to have follow-up material and proof of theory.
Does it all work? While I’m still working through another mindfulness book and I just read this book yesterday, I would say: yes. Everything seems logical and conclusive and easy to implement. Take time to be aware of the present moment, recognize even the seemingly insignificant positive experiences, and embrace them. You’re worth it. You deserve happiness.
Thanks to Harmony, Crown Publishing, and Random House for sending me this book to review. It’s on the shelf in front of me and will be referenced often—and I’ll be happier because of it.