Neuroscience is changing the way we understand most things in education. One of the many interesting developments is an understanding about neuroplasticity. In simple terms – that means our brains are designed to change. So, does neuroplasticity have anything to do with Fast Happiness?
Yes, imagine your brain being made of fireworks-infused play-dough. Between 80 and 100 billion neurons produce the most spectacular fireworks display each second as they signal one another in a network of about half a quadrillion connections called synapses. This activity actually changes the structure of the ‘play-dough’. The more you think about something specific, the more dominant that pathway of explosions become, demanding more blood to get oxygen and glucose to produce the impressive display.
Now, imagine if we focused on something positive. This takes effort in a world designed to highlight the negative, bad and anxiety causing moments. But the effort is worthwhile. Just FOCUS. Look around and find something positive. Driving through the Silvermine Reserve on Table Mountain this morning, on my way to the office, I FOCUSED on the plethora of fynbos on each side of the road. It was stunningly beautiful. 60% of the fynbos can be found in spring and the hot dry weather and strong winds this summer have faded the many beautiful colours. But I could not but notice the clump of red disas and the salmon-pink watsonia on the side of the slow moving traffic.
But noticing is not good enough. FAST happiness means that I have to lay a neural pathway by allowing the moment to last. So after FOCUS, I need to ADORN in the same way as we adorn a Christmas tree. This simply means looking closer, taking note of the grasses alongside the fynbos, the birds and butterflies. I noticed that someone had parked their car in the carpark and was taking photos. I longed to be deep in the midst of that beauty. In my mind, fynbos fireworks was taking place. I had FOCUSED and I had ADORNED.
Neural plasticity will not allow hardwiring by just the first two steps. It requires us to FOCUS, ADORN and SATURATE ourself in it. This afternoon I am going to stop to take a photograph too. The longer you spend allowing the fireworks between the neurons to spark the more hardwired the pathway will become. FAST happiness requires us to FOCUS, ADORN, SATURATE and TREASURE.
Writing this blog is my way of treasuring the experience this morning. This is exactly what we have to do with our children and student in our classes. If we want to hardwire our children for happiness, we have to make them focus on gratitude, kindness and hope. Peacefulness, contentment, love, confidence and insight have to be adorned and saturate them in these experience before treasuring the experience.
And it is the treasuring that often serves to neutralise the negative.
Let’s hardwire our children for positive experiences.