Book review: Hardwiring Happiness

Book cover for Hardwiring Happiness by Dr. Rick Hanson

Every day, we have to make hundreds of choices, if not more. One of the most important ones we make is at the beginning of every day. We must choose our disposition. We can choose to be happy, or we can choose to be miserable.

Researchers have proven time and again that those who choose happiness tend to live healthier, more successful, and overall better lives. The Happiness Advantage is one of my favorite books that examines this correlation.

For most of us, we have to make a conscience decision to be happy. It is not something that comes naturally. But what if we could make happiness our default operating condition? Dr. Rick Hanson explores how one can achieve this state in the book Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence.

Dr. Hanson opens the book by exploring why we are not naturally wired for happiness. He traces it back to our ancestors, all the way back to those that were hunter-gatherers. To survive in those days, the brain was wired to remember negative experiences so they weren’t repeated. Or, as he puts it, the brain developed a negativity basis that makes it like Velcro for bad experiences but Teflon for good ones. While this worked for our ancestors, it’s not as useful in today’s society. Most of the primary dangers our brain was wired to avoid, like being eaten by predators, aren’t relevant.

In today’s environment, a positive mood, common sense, integrity, determination, and a warm heart are the more important qualities our mind must operate with to survive. Dr. Hanson explores why these traits are important and the various ways that these qualities can be cultivated so they become our default mental state.

Overall, I found the book interesting. It raised my awareness of the importance of being happy, what it takes to be happy, and how we can can use our mind to develop these conditions. I’ve read other books that have covered these same topics, so for me, this was more reinforcement than new ground which is why I wouldn’t consider the book one of my Must Reads.

However, if you’re looking for ways to amp your meditations or want exercises to improve your mental outlook or state of mind in specific areas, then Hardwiring Happiness is worth the read. It will not only reinforce why choosing happiness is important but also help you with exercises and techniques to make it easier to choose it as your default state of being.

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