Can you learn to be happier? According to scientists at the University of California at Berkeley, United States, it is possible to learn how to activate psychological resources to achieve full happiness.
The fundamental idea behind this method is based on the fact that by learning to enjoy positive experiences, and experiencing them in a conscious way, everyone can prolong their effect on well-being and, at the same time, develop a greater sense of resilience and self-esteem.
Central to this technique is the concept of self-directed neuroplasticity, a term coined by Rick Hanson, psychologist, senior fellow at the UC Berkeley Greater Good Science Center, and author of the book Hardwiring Happiness.
Self-directed neuroplasticity manifests when a person intentionally rewires their brain to create positive habits. To do this, you need to practice active reflection.
To refute the idea that people are born optimistic or they are not, the UC Berkeley research team proposes that it is possible to strengthen people’s ability to make the most of positive experiences through training.
Seeking to empower others to achieve and maintain happiness, Hanson described in his book the HEAL method, which consists of four stages to accept and enhance the good.
This approach systematically brings together individual engagement factors that already exist in many forms of psychotherapy and personal growth programs that can help people become active individuals and build lasting inner resources for happiness.
The method to accept the good
1 – Live the pleasant experience
This consists of actually going through the experience or mentally evoking it, such as thinking of someone who cares about you.
2 – Enrich the experience
To make the experience more enriching, follow these steps:
- Make the experience as long lasting as possible, this means keeping it active in consciousness once it is over
- Intensify the experience through the “up-regulation” of emotions or reliving the parts that make us feel good
- Resignify the experience and make it new by including a new thought
3 – Absorb the experience
- Make a voluntary effort to internalize the positive experience
- Direct attention towards the personal emotional state and become aware of it
- Highlight the value of the experience reward
4 – Link the positives and the negatives
It is necessary to focus on the positive aspect of situations, even if one is aware of the negative or traumatic aspects of each experience. This covers a long list: from difficulties at work, a romantic separation or the loss of a family member or close friend.
To examine the HEAL model through empirical testing, the UC Berkeley research team recruited 46 adults. The participants had an average age of 55 years and 84% were women.
The volunteers participated in a two-month course, the method consisted of a pre- and post-evaluation of the effect of the course through 21 self-report concepts, comparing the treatment group with a control treatment group on the waiting list. .
The term “paper tiger paranoia” is one of the tools Hanson used to demonstrate how people often use a “negativity bias” to assess the worst of a situation.
“To think that there is a real tiger when there is only a paper one, or a baby one, or one locked up safely, or one that you could easily deal with”, posed the training with the aim of teaching people to move from what negative to positive, a crucial piece of the HEAL method.
Regarding the findings, the course participants had significant results after two months. This included three cognitive resource scales: enjoyment beliefs, self-compassion, and emotional regulation through reappraisal. Within the positive emotion scales, the course had favorable effects on measures of joy and satisfaction.