Hardwiring Happiness: The Neuroscience of Contentment and How to Rewire Your Brain

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This is a must-read for anyone looking for ways to develop inner peace. We all need to take time to relax and unwind. Our environment often brings us out of a peaceful state, which can prime us for feelings of stress and vigilance. Using these tools and techniques, you can get your brain wired for peace and calm. Hardwiring Happiness lays out a simple method that uses the hidden power of everyday experiences to build new neural structures of greater happiness, love, confidence, and peace. Dr. Hanson’s four steps build strengths into your brain— balancing its ancient negativity bias—making contentment and a powerful sense of resilience the new normal. In mere minutes each day, we can transform our brains into refuges and power centers of calm and find happiness.

It would be wonderful to be able to “shut off” your stress response, but if you did, you’d still be in a state of battle. Most people don’t know this, but you actually have a brain that’s made to learn anything. If you have many of the same fears, challenges, or concerns that most people do, then you’re probably living the same reality-challenged life.

Peace is hard to find in modern society, but by doing some simple exercises and applying certain principles, you can help yourself and your family experience more inner peace.

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What Is Inner Peace?

When you are in a state of inner peace, whether you are experiencing an event that feels stressful or one that seems to be chaotic, you will remain calm, balanced, and content. If you close your eyes and imagine what inner peace is, you are creating an image in your mind and not feeling a sensation. Of course, your home may be a mess, your schedule may be a bit hectic, and perhaps your finances aren’t where you would like them to be.

Many people today feel good about themselves when they are in a better mood. They feel good about themselves when they aren’t stressed or anxious. It’s all too easy to look outside yourself and try to control the various ever-changing factors in your life. You should not try to control them but rather take note of them. It’s not a good idea to try to control your outer world. Trying to do that is a setup for disaster. You must train yourself to pay attention to what is going on in your life. In doing so, you will begin to notice how your thoughts, words, and actions affect your experience. Inner peace will only occur once we accept the fact that there’s nothing we can do about it. We cannot control everything in life, and that includes our emotions.

The traditional view of the autonomic nervous system is that the autonomic nervous system is divided into two sections: sympathetic and parasympathetic. If you sense a threat in your environment, you will react with fight or flight. When your sympathetic mode is activated, you\’ll feel tense, your breathing becomes more shallow and fast, and you can’t think clearly. When your parasympathetic mode is activated, you will slow down, relax, and have a calmer, clearer mind. Blood is drawn away from your skin and pumped back to your internal organs. When you’re relaxed, your internal organs receive more blood than they need, and your blood pressure and heart rate drop. The parasympathetic mode is the “rest and digest” mode.

How do you wire your brain to keep yourself in peace? Use the polyvagal perspective and read on.

The vagus nerve, also known as “the wandering nerve,” contains several branches and acts as a primary component of your parasympathetic nervous system. It essentially wanders from your brain to your organs. When you strengthen your vagus nerve through sensory input, such as relaxation techniques and fear management, it enhances your tendency towards ventral vagal and parasympathetic (calming) mode and away from sympathetic (threat) dominance. In this article, we’ll go over how brain harmony can help with those techniques.  A favorite saying of neuroscientists is, “neurons that fire together, wire together.” This means that active synapses—the connections between neurons—get more sensitive and stronger the more they are used.

The polyvagal theory allows us to better understand the different branches of the vagus nerve, and allow us to move in and out of autonomic states more quickly. You’re probably familiar with this kind of state, but if not, it is as follows: You are conscious of everything going on around you. You can focus on what’s happening in your immediate vicinity, but you can also feel other people’s presence. Vagal fibers run from the medulla oblongata and spinal cord to the heart, lungs, liver, stomach, intestines, pancreas, kidneys, spleen, ovaries, testicles, and to the peripheral nervous system, where they send information to various organs, including the brain.

Ventral Vagal = Enacts the feeling of safety by inhibiting the heart rate and supporting calmness. The ventral vagal softens the immobilizing response of other branches. 

Sympathetic branch = Causes the feeling of danger, the need to recruit resources to mobilize and fight!

Dorsal Vagal branch = Causes a feeling of threat to one’s life, immobilization, an evolutionary defense.

When the sympathetic response and dorsal vagal responses are too high, the energy is drained out and there is no ability to restore it. This creates chronic stress and a situation in which the individual is stuck. The polyvagal system is based on the idea that the vagus nerve plays a crucial role in how the brain is “regulated” and we have an important, albeit unconscious, ability to modulate our autonomic nervous systems in and out of different states.

How To Rewire Your Brain For Inner Peace

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A good example of sympathetic dominance is a woman who always knows what you want, even when you are sleeping. People have various levels of stress responses. Some may be wired for the fight or flight response and others for the stress response. But does that mean that you’re stuck in the stress response for the rest of your life? That’s good, but the fact that it’s not a problem doesn’t mean there isn’t an answer.

Your brain exhibits something called neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is the ability of your brain to change in response to experience. This can happen through a process of pruning and forming new connections and pathways. In other words, it’s possible to rewire your brain to be more peaceful and grounded.

The polyvagal perspective and the below techniques will help you understand what’s going on with your body, and it’ll make it easier for you to move from states of chronic sympathetic activation to healthier states of parasympathetic dominance.


Meditation is rapidly becoming an increasingly popular alternative method for managing stress. In particular, mindfulness meditation has been well-researched for its ability to help people move away from anxious and stressful ways of thinking to more open-minded states.

In fact, studies have shown that the expansion of awareness that comes with mindfulness is likely due to a shift away from sympathetic mode into parasympathetic mode. As you close your eyes and get quiet, your mind calms, and you are able to be still. This creates space in your mind, and the chatter of the world is not as present.

 Here is a simple mindfulness meditation technique to try:

●      Lie down and keep your spine straight.

●      Set a five- to ten-minute timer.

●      Observe your breathing when you close your eyes.

●      Maintain your focus on your normal breathing, paying special attention to each inhalation and exhalation as well as the pauses in between.

●      Bring your focus back to your breath as soon as you notice that your mind is starting to stray (because it will).

●      Continue until your timer’s alarm goes off.

Here, it’s important to avoid attempting to alter or regulate your breath in any manner. It’s crucial that you don’t criticize yourself or your thoughts wander. You lose your aim to merely perceive the breath once you begin to judge.

Deep Breathing

You can feel the difference when you’re in different states of mind or when you breathe differently. When your environment makes you feel stressed, you will experience either a rapid increase in breathing or a decrease.

Slowing your breathing down when you feel threatened or stressed will help signal to your brain and body that you are safe, calm, and relaxed. As you start to breathe deeply, it signals to your mind and body that everything is fine, and they should physiologically begin to shift your autonomous nervous system into parasympathetic mode.

Here’s a simple deep breathing technique: 

●  Take a five-count deep breath in while sitting up straight and being relaxed.

●  Hold that breath at the top for three counts.

●  Let the breath out for eight counts.

●  Hold down at the base for three counts.

●   And then repeat from two to five times.

This whole process should take no longer than two minutes but can produce significant changes in your nervous system’s state.

Loving Touch

“Touching” is an experience that we all enjoy and should try to incorporate into our everyday lives. Upregulating the production of the “love” hormone, oxytocin is a great way to bring more love into our lives. Engaging in any kind of touch that is welcomed is beneficial for your health. It helps your body produce oxytocin, which makes you feel more open and loving and helps you feel safer. Oxytocin helps you get in touch with your emotions and enhances overall well-being. There are many different ways that we can incorporate a more loving touch into our lives.

Some suggestions include:
Hugging: Hugging is a great way to connect with another person and boost oxytocin levels. Try to hug your loved ones regularly, and don’t be afraid to linger in the embrace.
Massage: Getting a massage can be a great way to relax and release tension. It can also be a way to deepen intimacy with a partner.
Holding hands: Holding hands with someone you care about can create a feeling of warmth and closeness.
Cuddling: Cuddling with a partner or pet can release oxytocin and create a sense of comfort and security.
Self-touch: Giving yourself a hug or a gentle touch can also release oxytocin and create feelings of self-love and care.
Overall, incorporating a more loving touch into our lives can have significant benefits for our emotional and physical well-being. Try to make it a priority to engage in some form of touch each day to reap the rewards. 

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Chanting mantras is an ancient tradition that’s been used for thousands of years. Chanting can create peace of mind by filling your thoughts with either a sound or a word that takes the place of mental chatter.

Research has shown that chanting can improve your mood, reduce stress, and improve feelings of well-being. Chanting together can create a strong feeling of connection between people. Mantras are typically repeated several times, with a rhythmic pattern and specific pronunciation. The sound vibrations created by chanting have been shown to affect the brain, slowing down brain waves and creating a state of relaxation and focus.
Different mantras are associated with different qualities or intentions, such as peace, love, or protection. Some popular mantras include “Om,” “Om Namah Shivaya,” and “Hare Krishna.”
In addition to the mental and emotional benefits, chanting can also have physical benefits. Studies have shown that chanting can lower blood pressure, improve immune function, and even help with pain management.
Chanting can be practiced alone or in a group setting, such as during a yoga class or religious ceremony. It can also be done while walking or engaging in other activities.
Overall, incorporating chanting into your routine can be a powerful tool for promoting well-being and inner peace. 

Stress and Bringing Chasing to an End

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Hanson looks at the three operating systems of the brain and the modern symptom of reactive stress which drains bodily resources and brings on “a kind of chronic inner homelessness.” The alternative is “the deliberate internalization of positive experiences in implicit memory.” His HEAL Method has four steps:

1. Have a positive experience.
2. Enrich it.
3. Absorb it.
4. Link positive and negative material.

How Brain Harmony Can Help

“We use sound, vibration, and alpha waves to provide the needed sensory input through sound to enhance vagal tone, and to bring about a sense of safety and security to the nervous system.”

Stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline can raise levels of dopamine in the brain, which causes us to experience an increased sense of reward. At Brain Harmony, we train your nervous system to reach a state of inner peace. We start with your vagus nerve to stimulate it so that it reaches its full capacity. There are many types of tools that use sound, vibration, and alpha waves to stimulate the nervous system, bringing about a sense of safety and security.

Bringing our friends together creates a space of peace and calm, allowing us to introduce other tools that help to reorganize the brain and improve our cognitive function, attention, memory, motivation, creativity, and more. Many people who come through our first phase of the program get very skeptical when we explain how the human brain works. Once they complete the first stage of our program, however, they find their skepticism fading and instead see a much brighter future. At this place of inner peace, we dive even further into the inner workings of the mind and brain, where a deeper understanding of neurological optimization takes us.

“Sensory input from your body to your brain is very important to how you feel emotionally. For example, sound, vibration, and alpha waves help to improve the vagal tone in your nervous system.”

The Takeaway:

The best thing to do is to control your environment. You’ll always be battling to control your environment so you can keep your inner peace. Stress can sneak up on you at any time, so you need to be prepared to handle it. The way to build your tool kit for dealing with stressors is through developing a habit of inner stillness and calm, and that starts by understanding how stress happens in your life.

How to Attain Happiness

First off, we should be clear about a happy state of being. Happiness is a deeply personal experience and it means different and feels different to you and me. There are many types of emotions, such as anger, sadness, and joy. Most of the time, we\’re not aware of what type of emotion we’re experiencing. We all know that money does not buy happiness. Some people try to buy happiness with things, some with other people, but most of the time, it just does not work out as planned. Happiness isn’t something you buy, it’s something you find through good times and hard times, a job you love, or your relationship with God. Happiness is a state of mind. It comes and goes as your mood and situation change.

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It’s true: even after achieving a level of financial status, winning over your loved one, or achieving the next promotion in your career, the feeling of success and happiness is often fleeting. Some people are happy when they make progress, but as soon as they reach their goal, it’s off to the races to see how far they can go. It’s possible that the next time you walk out of your front door, it will be as if nothing has changed since the last time you walked out the door, but in reality, you’re already closer to your goal. Most people are unhappy and don’t stop until they’ve accomplished what they want in life.

When we define happiness as wanting to be satisfied, it seems that we’re being selfish, wanting to experience pleasure or enjoy ourselves more than anyone else. Some people are just born happy and live life on their own terms; others are not so lucky to have it easy, and they need to learn how to tap into the power of happiness. It’s something that we all have in common. We crave a pleasurable experience, and when we get it, we crave even more. Many people are searching for pleasure or accomplishments in a distracting way that is unhealthy, done in excess, or without any meaningful goals.

Is Contentment a Better State to Strive For?

Financial success is a great thing, but it’s not all about money. You should enjoy your life and have fun, too. It is interesting to see how many people, even with a lot of experience, seem to think that they will be able to be happy with the limited resources they have. Many people are struggling to obtain a sense of happiness, but they’re falling short. They are striving for happiness but not being successful. Happiness is a short-term feeling and is something we are always searching for. If you are content with your life, you don’t need to look for what more you want in your life. You are already content with what you have. Happiness and contentment don’t have to be synonymous, even though that’s what most people assume.

You can see happiness as a long-term investment that you will continue to pursue, chase, and crave. Contentment is a state of mind and being in the present to be happy with what you have, who you are, who you are with or without, and your place in life. It’s looking back on the past and seeing what’s made you who you are today.

Inner peace is the condition of mind and emotional well-being that comes from being free from worry and anxiety. This is a feeling that allows us to be present at the moment and enjoy life to the fullest. It’s a great thing to strive for. But while it might seem like an elusive goal, cultivating inner peace is something that we can actively cultivate through certain practices and techniques. Brain Harmony explores how to rewire your brain for inner peace and introduces the concept of brain harmony as a way to achieve lasting inner calm.

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