An Atlantic.com article recommended the book Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm and Confidence by Dr. Rick Hanson, a famous neuropsychologist and author of the best-selling Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom. Since I get upset with myself for such minor things like tennis or losing my keys, this promised nirvana.
“Many people today would report that they have a fundamental sense of feeling stressed and pressured and disconnected from other people, longing for closeness that they don’t have, frustrated, driven, etc.,” Hanson said. “Why is that? I think one reason is that we’re simply wasting the positive experiences that we’re having.”
“To solve this problem, I developed the four HEAL steps of taking in the good,” he said. “Have a positive experience; Enrich it; Absorb it; and if you like, Link it to negative thoughts and feelings to soothe and eventually replace them. It’s about transforming fleeting experiences into lasting improvements in your neural network.
I successfully used it on a fleeting tennis experience after someone said I’d played well. I remembered my weaknesses, winning only two of three sets.
Is he promising to physically improve my brain by thought?
“It usually takes less than half a minute,” he said. “Any single time you do this won’t change your life. But half a dozen times a day, day after day, you really can gradually change your brain from the inside out.”
HEAL worked when I had a positive experience of finding my key still in my car before I locked the doors. I enriched it by emphasizing how much time I avoided losing. I absorbed it as I smugly walked into the store. And I linked it to an embarrassing memory when Mission Ridge staff had to unlock my car. Never again!
Hanson recommends using on small and large events can “repeatedly internalize the sense of having our three core needs met: safety, satisfaction, and connection.”
Soon reality set in. I’ve used it six times in a week so I miniscule stress built from I’m not reaching six a day. Should I but it and concentrate more? I checked Amazon to see what readers think.
Sixteen snappy sentences praised the book’s magnificence by other authors followed by their name and title of their book on the same topic, primarily ‘mindfulness.’ Praising others earns free publicity.
I already enjoyed a book on mindfulness, but it didn’t make significantly improve contentment, calmness and confidence. Doubt grew about this book’s ability to transform me.
Critical reviewers raised more doubts. “Useful but Buddha’s Brain is much better,” said reviewer R. Denhardt.
I hadn’t bought Buddha’s Brain, suspecting Buddhas’ brains are hardwired more from a safe, satisfying, connected monastic life than living in my condo association where I’m hiring contractors to find a leak in our water main.
A more critical review came from Book Fanatic, an Amazon Top 500 reviewer whose dedication to writing reviews has earned him 6,249 helpful reviews out of 7,288 readers.
“The vast majority of the book is therapy practice sprinkled with many anecdotes from the author’s own evidently troubled life,” he said. “In any case after the beginning it becomes rather useless and boring unless you need extensive therapy yourself. I don’t.” Ten of 19 readers found this review helpful.
I don’t think I need extensive therapy even though I yearn for more contentment, calm and confidence.
During my life contentment, calmness, and confidence have been eroded by major economic and social forces. Middle to lower income families are struggling with stagnant incomes and paying for health care and student debt because of inequitable fiscal and economic policies that keep wages low and drive up tuition and healthcare costs.
Recommending HEAL six times a day seems to trivialize their concerns and I’d rather write about strengthening their resolve to understand and overturn those inequitable policies.
I won’t buy the book, even though I’ll use HEAL to help me along with exercise, connecting and writing as I continue my journey to contentment, calmness and confidence.