Joy School: Train Your Brain to be Happy

By Erin Moraghan

You could be happier by the end of this post.

Brain studies continually show that what we’ve been trained to believe about happiness all our lives is false. Thoughts have a far greater impact on our happiness than external factors. Let’s let that sink in for a moment. How we think about what’s happening has more power over us than what actually happens in our lives. This is what keeps people stuck on a life-long pursuit for happiness like a dog chasing her tail.

I call it the “If This Then That” cycle. 

Here’s some of mine over the years:

  • If I get to that yoga retreat, I’ll find peace.”
  • If I nail this strategy, I’ll be successful.”
  • If my dad will apologize, I’ll feel peaceful.”
  • If my partner will stop drinking, we’ll be happy.”
  • If the tests come back negative, I’ll be free.”

When we live this way, we make this lie true to our subconscious mind daily: 

Happiness is somewhere in the future, on the other side of me getting my way.

There are a lot of guarantees with this kind of thinking, the biggest one being that we will never find the joy we’re looking for if we don’t shift our perspective. Life rarely goes our way, in fact, it’s often when things go the opposite of how we want them to that we uncover the most powerful gifts and opportunities.

Why do we think this way?

Why wouldn’t we? Culturally, we’ve placed more importance on optics than substance. Most of us were raised to believe that happiness will land in our laps once we work hard for it, and all around us are messages reinforcing these ideas. A quick scroll through your Instagram feed proves that we’re subconsciously assessing how happy others are based on how white and clean their kitchens are, and what they’re eating and wearing within it. 

What’s the fix? 

The solution is so wildly simple, yet most people won’t employ it. After all, it’s easier to roll with the status quo and carry on as we always have. But when we get still enough to hear our own voices, there’s a rebel inside who whispers, “I can create a different reality.” But how?

Joy School.

Litethriive’s Rebel Mindset practice is like signing up for daily Joy School. Using strategies rooted in neuroplasticity, we celebrate the brain’s incredible ability to rewire by connecting to conscious thoughts and feelings at the start of each day. I always compare it to tuning a guitar. Sure, you could sit down and start playing away, and it may sound ok. But pausing for just a few minutes to connect with the instrument and see how it’s functioning? Well, it’s just the smarter thing to do if we’re looking for success.

If you don’t have a morning mindset practice, and the idea of meditation doesn’t feel like a fit, well, here’s more good news. Our mindset practice isn’t meditation. It’s a series of 8 conscious activities that help you rewire your brain in as little as ten minutes each day. Over the short term, you’ll find yourself developing the tools to become less stressed and more content. Over time, you’ll become a problem-solving happiness machine, finding joy in the tiniest places.

5 minutes to joy, NOW.

You don’t need to wait for the perfect moment to begin retraining your brain. Here are 3 of my favourite ways to experience joy instantly. Pro tip: get out of your head and focus on feelings. Then try to let those positive feelings radiate through your whole awesome self.

  1. Music. Not just any music. Scroll back in your memories to a song that reminds you of an incredible, even hilarious moment in your life. Crank that song and let yourself smile and be filled with positivity. If you’re feeling ambitious, belt it out and bust out your air guitar.
  2. Smile! If you’re reading this during the pandemic, it’s an unusual time for smiling. If you work in a masked environment, there’s a real disconnect happening inside our brains. We’re used to smiling at people and having them smile back, which triggers a feel-good chemical response in the brain. Because smiling truly changes our chemistry, we have to be a little more intentional about it. Smile on Zoom. Smile at the people in your home. Hell, smile at the squirrels on your afternoon walk. Smile and pause long enough to notice how it changes you, then let that feeling grow.
  3. BE HERE. It’s one thing to go through the motions of being present. You might take a walk in the woods to clear your mind, but the whole while your wheels keep turning. So pause, fill your lungs with fresh air, and tell yourself what you see. “Here are trees. The clouds are low. It smells like earth. I hear sparrows. The cold air feels sharp.” Ground yourself in the present moment by using as many sense as you can, then allow yourself to truly land in the moment and choose joy. 

The secret. 

Happiness can’t be found in the right car, outfit, or most Instagrammable backyard oasis. It isn’t on the other side of our education, that raise, or a victorious debate. Happiness isn’t even on the other side of anyone’s kind words toward us, or their expression of love, care, and validation for the good people we are. 

Happiness is already yours. You were born with it blooming right inside your centre. Oh sure, over the years it’s been dulled and quieted by all the wrong messages, which is no one’s fault. It’s human nature to make things more difficult than they ever need be. 

We don’t need to wait for anything to happen before we can feel it. Joy and happiness are right there waiting to shine bright in spite of life’s tough roads.

What about when everything just feels like too much? 

Here’s what I’ve learned on my journey so far.

We might not get on a plane this year, but we can find joy in new adventures, right in our backyards.

We might lose someone we love to addiction, but we can find blissful reedom on the other side of those lessons.

We may hear very tough news from the doctor, but we can focus on where we are whole. Where we are strong.

People may try and hold us back, but when we hear our own voice and know who we are, we become limitless. We can breathe deep into the joy of knowing that we have all we need at the start of each day to experience wholeness and quiet strength.

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