What is it that makes us happy? Is it money? Fame? Security and freedom? Is happiness something that happens to us, or is it truly an inside job?
According to Nick Vujicic, happiness and contentment have more to do with our mindset than our circumstances. An internally known author and speaker, he is also a painter, skydiver, and an avid swimmer. He also happens to have been born without arms and legs.
In his book, Life Without Limits, Nick talks about how he made a conscious choice to overcome bitterness and move forward in spite of his challenges. He realized that he could give up or go on, and that in order to do so, he would have to let himself risk failure and engage life fully.
Many other great thinkers have realized the same thing. It is not so much what happens to us, but how we understand, process and respond to the slings and arrows of daily life. Moment to moment, choice by choice, we have the freedom to interpret the world any way we choose.
When You Cannot Control the Circumstances, You Can Still Control Your Mind
Of course, right now you could be thinking of some terrible challenge, painful event, or discouraging scenario which you feel would contradict that. While it is true that terrible things are not easy, and they can (and do) happen, I submit that most things are not necessarily good or bad.
And even in terrible circumstances, people can at the very least, feel somewhat more at peace when they learn to think differently. You might now be able to control what happens, but you have the power to choose how you think and therefore feel, about it.
One of the leading, and perhaps shocking things that researchers are learning about the brain is that it is able to change. For decades, doctors thought that your mind was more like cement; once set, that was that. Now we know that the brain is constantly rewiring itself, forging new neural connections on a minute-to minute basis. This ability to move from one state to another, is known as neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is the bedrock of developing a Peak Performance Mindset.
Neuroplasticity: The Key to Greater Happiness?
And because your emotions are tied to what you think and believe, changing your mindset automatically changes the way you feel and experience life. Neural scientists have been able to clearly identify specific pathways that can help us recover faster from negative experiences, reboot negative thoughts, and promote a healthier mind and body. (The body is synced to the mind and therefore the entire immune system.)
Simply by changing the way we speak, focus, and feel, changes the network of our brains. When, for instance, volunteers were taught to calm themselves, become more mindful and engaged in the present moment, and more aware of self-talk, subsequent brain scans showed that they developed physical brain changes such as white matter, which is related to self-regulation and calmness.
They also noted similar positive changes in gray matter, the hippocampus and cortical thickness- all of which are tied to a sense of wellbeing and improved brain function. Simply put the mind (your conscious and unconscious thoughts and beliefs, have a physical effect on the actual structure and function of your brain- and vice versa. It essence it is a large feedback loop that affects every area of your life and the health of your body too. Three things that you should know:
The brain can change (and as it does, the mind and body follow)As you change the way you think, the brain also changesYou can create positive changes that allow you to perform better, lower stress, increase happiness and boost your overall health.
The Head and Heart Connection
Not only that, but leading edge research has also shown that your heart is connected to the function of your brain in unexpected ways. For example, if you think of a happy memory or even a desired positive event, your heart and brain will synch in a more beneficial way.
Don’t believe me? Try it. Imagine for a moment a vivid, wonderful, or happy memory. If you can’t remember one, then day dream one. It needs to be something that makes you feel good and fills you with joy. Hold that image, as vividly as possible for 30 seconds. Imagine how you felt or would feel. Add colors, textures, sounds, and any other thing that makes it as real as possible.
Now, after only 30 seconds, you have just lowered your stress hormones, and helped your immune system. You have also created a better, more fluid heart rhythm. This, in turn, has also changed your brain chemistry and neural connections. If you were to take a test after completing this exercise, you are likely to score higher, and solve problems better. All while feeling less stressed and more content.
Happiness is not based on your experiences, but rather on the way you experience, think about, and feel the world around you. All of which, you can control. Like riding a bike, it takes practice. To learn more about developing a Peak Performance Mindset, please follow my blog or contact my office for details.
Jamie Crosbie is CEO and founder of ProActivate, LLC, and has 20 years of experience in sales leadership and the talent acquisition industry. Previously, she served as vice president of sales at CareerBuilder, where she successfully led a team of 80+ people and exceeded her revenue goals on a quarterly and annual basis. Her sales business experienced 50-85 percent revenue growths annually. Join her at the Sales 2.0 Conference in Philadelphia on November 14, where she will participate in a panel discussion, “Innovative Ways to Help Reps Reach Peak Performance Levels.”