Embrace your potential

Hardwiring Happiness: a rush of happiness that lasts

Hardwiring Happiness is a fascinating book by renowned neuropsychologist Rick Hanson. It reveals a unique perspective on how to cultivate happiness and inner strength. By understanding the basic principles of hardwiring happiness and implementing the four steps of HEAL (Have, Enrich, Absorb, Link), you can train your brain to focus on the positive and experience lasting happiness.

And it’s one of my favorite happiness practices, because it takes only a few seconds, it feels great, and it’s part of life (rather than an additional activity).

Hardwiring Happiness: The Basic Idea

The basic idea behind hardwiring happiness is that our brains have a natural negativity bias. This bias evolved to keep us safe from potential threats, but it can also lead to unnecessary worry, anxiety, and even depression. The good news is that we have the power to override this bias and rewire our brains for happiness.

According to Hanson, taking in the good is the key to hardwiring happiness. It involves deliberately internalizing positive experiences in our implicit memory. By doing so, we can create new neural pathways that strengthen positive emotions and increase our overall sense of well-being.

The answer to the question of how to grow good things inside your mind is this: Take in experiences of them.

Rick Hanson

The 4 Steps to HEAL

In his book, Rick Hanson describes the four steps of HEAL:

Step 1: Have a Positive Experience

The first step is to actively recognize the positive experiences in your daily life. It could be as simple as appreciating a beautiful flower, enjoying a delicious meal, or spending time with loved ones. The key is to be fully present in the moment and allow yourself to embrace the positive emotions that arise.

Step 2: Enrich the Positive Experience

Once you have identified a positive experience, take the time to really savor it. Stay with the positive feelings for 10-20 seconds or longer. Pay attention to the sensations in your body and intensify the positive emotions. By fully immersing yourself in the experience, you can enhance its impact on your brain.

Step 3: Absorb the Positive Experience

In this step, you actively intend to absorb the positive experience into your memory. Allow the experience to sink in, so that it becomes a part of you. Visualize the positive emotions and sensations being absorbed into your body and mind. By doing so, you create lasting neural connections that support happiness and well-being.

Step 4: Link Positive and Negative Material (Optional)

The final step is optional but can be incredibly powerful. While focusing on a positive experience, bring to mind a negative experience that you have been struggling with. By linking the positive and negative, you can help reframe the negative experience and find new perspectives or solutions. If the negative experience takes you out of the positive experience, let it go and return your focus to the positive.

Examples of Hardwiring Happiness

HEAL might make this sound more complicated than it really is. To understand how hardwiring happiness works in practice, let me share a few examples:

  1. I drop my son Thomas at school each morning. Often it’s transactional. I’ll give him a kiss and watch as he runs into school and turns the corner, then I’ll be on with my day. Occasionally, I’ll remember: HEAL. I remember to recognize this experience, to actually feel how wonderful it is to see my son run into school. To fully immerse myself in the emotions. And after he has turned the corner I’ll linger for a moment, savoring and soaking up the feelings. It becomes a beautiful experience.
  2. I’m out with my friends, having a long lunch. Plenty of banter about the Premier League, the dire state of the world and our respective misfortunes – it’s great fun. And occasionally, I’ll remember: HEAL. And I’ll take a moment, I’ll be quiet and just soak it all in, savoring the moment. Literally feeling the warmth and friendship as a physical thing, it’s amazing.
  3. Or a sunny Sunday walk with all the family. Easy to be consumed in conversation, keeping Thomas on track, and avoiding the dog poop. The I’ll remember: HEAL. I’ll take a moment to be present, to engage my senses, to feel how good it is to be out in the sunshine with the people I love. And I’ll linger on that, absorbing the emotion. Wonderful.

The key ideas from the book “Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence” are covered in Rick Hanson’s TED Talk:


You can rewire your brain, one positive experience at a time. Remember to seek out and recognize positive experiences, savor them fully, and absorb them into your being. With practice and commitment, you can transform your life and experience lasting happiness.

So why not start today? Embrace the power of hardwiring happiness and embark on a journey towards a more joyful and fulfilling life.

Written by colinwbates
I'm at my best when helping people to learn, grow and be happier. This might be facilitating a training program, coaching a colleague, or sharing advice with my kids. I'm also an introvert by nature, and love to read, reflect and write. Hence this blog! You can also find me on LinkedIn.

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