Sometimes it can feel as if we will always feel depressed, anxious, unhappy, discontent; especially if we have a pattern of this in our life. However, there is good news. We can actually change the way our brain is wired; the pathways of neurons that sends signals from one region of the nervous system to the other. When we have a patterned way of thinking and feeling, our neuropathways become well worn. It’s like a footpath in nature. If we walk a path over and over, the grass and leaves get worn away, leaving a clearing for us to walk without difficulty. Our neuropathways are similar. If we tend to think anxious and depressing thoughts over and over, those neuropathways become well-worn, which makes it that much easier to have those thoughts and feelings. It takes time and perseverance to change this, but it is certainly possible. It is a matter of creating new neuropathways that foster feelings of wellbeing, joy, and confidence to name a few. Staying with the metaphor of the footpath, as you create new pathways, the old ones become “overgrown” and less accessible.

Rick Hanson, in his book Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence, discusses the importance of our attention when it comes to our neuropathways.  Whatever a person “rests their mind on” or pays attention to is creating and reinforcing neuropathways in their brain. If they focus on the problems in their life, how they aren’t measuring up, mistakes they’ve made, etc., they are reinforcing those neuropathways that lead to feelings of discontentment and unhappiness.  This also means that if a person focuses their attention on the positive experiences in life, such as a positive interaction with someone or success on a project at work, they are building neuropathways that foster the more positive feelings.

Our brain’s ability to change, adapt, and grow throughout life is exciting news. It means that we have the power to change the way we think, feel, and walk in the world. In the next few blog posts, I will explore a bit more about ways that you can begin to create new neuropathways that lead to a happier life.


Photo credit: Andraz Lazic on Unsplash