Quote of the Week:
“What if everything we’ve been told about human nature is wrong and we’re actually very generous, communitarian, altruistic beings, who are distorted by the system we are in but not made happy by it. What if we can actually be better people in a better world” (Rebecca Solnit, May 26, 2016, OnBeing).
A while ago I came across the book Hardwiring Happiness and added it to my library list. A week ago I downloaded it to my kindle and started reading. The book is a little “self-helpy,” which typically carries this upbeat, cheerleading tone I don’t care for and that also makes me embarrassed to be reading it. I pushed on, kept reading.
The last book I read with a similar tone was when I was trying to quit smoking, it didn’t work - but it has already been 3 years since I last had a cigarette! It wasn’t a bad book, but it had a similar tone. Part of the premise I didn’t like in both books is one I categorize as training or tricking the brain - delusional.
I had a strong physical addiction to nicotine (still miss it), but most of my failure to quit smoking was psychological. When I am low or struggling with a difficult task, there is a part of me that loves to fail. Proving to myself and others that I cannot do everything. I have so rarely given myself permission to fail or embarked on journeys with a real possibility of failure that it can feel so good to throw in the towel - especially when I’m feeling down. - Living in fear.
To support the claim we are programmed to better remember negative experiences, the author gives a cursory explanation of the evolution and physiology of the brain. Based on this premise, he provides a method and exercises to train our brain to recognize, honor, and remember the positivity that surrounds us all the time. Although I read quickly and skipped most of the guided meditation type exercises, the book was not without value for me.
As I read I was connected back to painful memories from my past, but not in a bad way. The book helped me draw a few connections between experiences that affected me and the person I am today, which I value because understanding is something I constantly seek and crave.
The book talks a lot about finding, pausing, and welcoming or enjoying positive moments when they happen, so I began to try and appreciate positivity in my life. For the last week, I have been more intentional about recognizing when I have done something well. I sit and breathe in a complement for a few seconds instead of shyly dismissing it and running off to my next task.
This book did not fix any of the problems I was struggling with the last few weeks, but it probably helped me avoid cycling deeper into a negative thought pattern. I don’t know that the future sees me hardwiring any more happiness into my brain, but the benefit I received this week alone was worth the read.
Photos from my bike ride.
Update from Last Week
The sick patient who was admitted to the hospital a little over a week ago died. We visited her once, and she was responding to our voices, but was clearly unwell. I had hoped to visit her again, I had thought she was about to turn the corner, and I was looking forward to caring for her and seeing her smile again at the care center. She made me feel so welcome when we first came. Here funeral was this week as well.