The amygdala is the part of the brain that regulates our emotions. If the amygdala is, for whatever reason, malfunctioning, we can become depressed (less happy) and therefore less able to handle the stress and aggrivation of daily living. That's a pretty simplistic explanation, but you get he idea. But that's why some of us become stressed out when we get struck in traffic, or when the boss yells at us, or the kids mishave. It is a fact that those folks born with a sunnier disposition are better able to handle life's little setbacks. Why is this?
Research shows that some people just naturally wear the proverbial "rose-colored glasses" that allow them to focus on the positive instead of the negative. Another reason could be that, for some of us, it's just easier to to savor the good things in life which, in turns, lifts our moods while still allowing us to see the bad. It seems that humans have a negativity bias, a tendency to focus on threats, but science has proven that it is possible for people to compensate for this by consciously trying to focus on more positive things. Some research shows that the amygdala is also at the heart of our compassionate instincts and by focusing on the needs of others can actually make us happier individuals.
So, is it possible to become happier people? Or are those of us with a cloudier disposition, destined to stay that way? I think we can change. We can learn to be happier, just as we can learn a new language or learn a new skill. It takes practice and patience. It's not something that will happen overnight. But, overtime, we can change our outlook. The next time you feel stressed over rush-hour traffic, try listening to calming or soothing music. Or when you find yourself standing in an endless check-out line at the grocery, focus on your weekend plans, or mentally plan a romantic dinner for your partner; anthing positive that will take your mind off the negative and place it on something positive. Watch how time, and stress, disappear! Brains, it seem, love patterns so if we give it lots of love and positivity, in time, it'll begin to "think" that ways on it's own, thus creating new patterns of thought. I believe this. I've seen it happen, not only in myself, but in others, as well. Reading something positive and uplifting, before retiring at night, can also help us sleep better. And when we sleep better, we will awaken rested and happier with the new day.
I've got some city driving to do today and I know I will inevitably encounter heavy traffic. I've loaded up some great tunes on my iPod and I know that no matter what unpleasant and irritating stuff I encounter today, I'll feel better, be less angry, and nicer to be around. And doesn't that benefit everyone?
As Bobby McFerrin famously wrote, "Don't worry, Be happy." Thanks. I think I will.