America was founded on the shining ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Well, we're alive, we're free...but are we happy? Let's examine the evidence. Exhibit A is the mountain of anti-depressants and anti-anxiety pills Americans take every year. Exhibit B is the overworked, overstressed, overextended lifestyles we live — lifestyles that are, ironically, at odds with happiness itself.
So what's the verdict? Many aren’t really not happy. And that's too bad. According to author Patt Lind-Kyle, author of Heal Your Mind, Rewire Your Brain: Applying the Exciting New Science of Brain Synchrony for Creativity, Peace and Presence, our brains are actually wired for happiness. So...why are we so miserable?
"The fact is, most of know why we're unhappy—we just lack the tools to get ourselves where we want to be," says Patt. The book, ISBN: 978-1-60415-056-8 also has a mind training CD on which Patt’s voice appears. "We know which actions we should take, but we feel powerless to actually enact them."
In other words, we know we're eating too much or drinking too much or damaging our kids with our anger or letting a controlling spouse squelch our dreams. Yet, we accept those negative and harmful behaviors in ourselves. We figure, it's because of stress. You can change those things about yourself that make you miserable. But plain old willpower won't cut it according to Patt.
"Good intentions have failed you before, and they will again," she notes. "If you want to make lasting changes, you've got to go to the source—you've got to rewire your brain and repattern the way it works! And in fact, the new science of brain synchrony proves that the brain is more changeable than we ever thought possible. Your bad habits can be broken and rewired more productively."
So, why is it so darn tough for people to change?
Think about it this way: You can block a riverbed and dam up the waters, but once they're released, they're not going to flow in a different direction. Your brain, and how it directs your behaviors, is similar. Due to a mix of genetic factors and external conditioning, you are locked into a set of habitual and automatic attitudes, thoughts, and behaviors. And trigger A will almost always lead to result B, unless you take specific steps to redefine what B is. ?"You might want to cut back on your candy bar consumption or to stop going ballistic every time your kid leaves his room messy, but wanting to stop isn't enough," asserts Lind-Kyle. "In order to make those changes, you literally need to carve new channels, new neural pathways, in your brain."
So how do I change my brain?
Good news: New research has revealed the brain never stops changing and adjusting! Repetition and new experiences (whether they are physical, emotional, or mental) literally reshape the brain's soft tissue—a quality known as neuroplasticity—and revamp the areas of your life with which you're dissatisfied.
"Generating new and/or creative thoughts can change neuronal pathways, releasing the hold old patterns have on us," Patt explains. "It's important to note, though, that neuroplasticity in and of itself doesn't effect change. It is through the focused attention of mind training that new reactions and habits are formed."
Mind training? What's that?
There are four brainwaves: beta, alpha, theta, and delta. Ideally, they should all work together in harmony, but one often dominates the others. This leads to dysfunctional thoughts and habits, and "negative feedback loops" of behavior. Mind training—a not-so-flaky form of meditation—helps you to focus on and become aware of each of these four brainwaves, thus triggering the neuroplastic function of the brain. ?
"Bringing your brain waves out of whack and into synchrony is a key component of really improving your life," says Patt. "By becoming truly aware of your thought processes and emotional responses, you will become better able to identify why unhappiness persists in your life and what you need to do to correct that!"
I don't have time to meditate. I have to work all day to pay the bills!
Bingo! says Patt. That's probably part of the reason you're unhappy. The high-pressure job you have to work to pay for the big house and new car and gym membership is sucking up all your energy and perpetuating a pace and intensity that's the very antithesis of the mental quality that leads to true happiness.
"Western culture is intense, fast-paced, and goal-driven," she says. "It creates an automatic drive that can get locked into our brain circuitry. And I'm not saying to quit your job and move into an ashram. I'm not even saying to move to a smaller house and take the bus—though that's not necessarily a bad idea. What I am saying is to rewire your brain to break the hold of the automatic circuitry that's making you miserable."
"We are all wired for what will make us happy," Patt concludes. "And what we really want is not success and fame—it's peace, kindness, and happiness. Fulfillment does not come from attaining your desires in the outer world, but from embracing your inner self, which is the real source of your greater identity and peace of mind. You need to be comfortable with yourself as you are, not as how society tells you to be."