Happiness: A scientific discovery that will change how you experience it

Happiness and how you focus your attention

One of your most valuable resources in any situation is the ability to focus your attention at will. This is a key to your happiness.

No doubt you are familiar with the metaphor of the ‘glass half empty or half full’. That is an example of how you might be focusing your attention, or what you are attending to at the time, although what you are about to read is somewhat more sophisticated.

How you feel about a situation is normally closely related to how you perceive it to be, not necessarily how ‘actually’ is. You take information from the outside world through your senses, and then, after processing it, you come up with an interpretation of it. i.e. you see a container with water up to the middle point between the bottom and the top of the container, and after taking a moment to process it (regardless of how much time it takes you), you come up with an interpretation like:

  1. The glass is half filled with water
  2. The glass is half empty
  3. Anything else you can think of

What is interesting about this type of expression, like ‘the glass is half empty or full,’ is that it is filled with presuppositions. The words used in this phrase are purposely (whether you are aware of it or not at the time of saying it) directing your attention to a limited set of options:

  1. It can only be half empty or half full, therefore limiting your perspective of the situation to only two options.
  2. You have to choose between one of these two options.

Interestingly, most people are not aware of how the structure of language can influence their focus of attention and, therefore, their choices in responding to external stimuli.

This is similar to saying that in life you can only be ‘happy or sad’, or ‘succeed or fail’. Another metaphoric description refers to ‘black and white thinking’, which also supports dualistic, right or wrong ideation with no other options.

The result of learning to track and identify both your own and others’ presupposed allusions is a type of awareness that provides you with more options in choosing your state in a given context and what to believe is possible. To put it simply, applying linguistic structures can help you choose how to feel about anything that happens in your life.

A scientific discovery

The article How to Control Your Feelings and Live Happily Ever After, by Steve Ayan, published in Scientific American Mind magazine reads:

In a series of studies, psychologist Gal Sheppes of Tel Aviv University asked participants to either reinterpret a sad photograph in way that made it less worrisome “…seeing tears of joy as opposed to grief, for example or think of something completely different”.

Attention training can help you in managing your state, and have more options in how you perceive a situation and thus, give you more flexibility of behaviour. Anyone who has had proper NLP training knows this. Please note the emphasis on the word proper.

Moreover, the author illustrates this point by referring to the following research:

In 2010 Philippe Goldin of Stanford found there are ways to help people with social anxiety disorder learn to attend to their breathing to refocus during an unpleasant experience.

Inevitably, after reading this, a foundational principle of NLP developed by Dr. John Grinder, co-creator of NLP, comes to mind:

Grinder’s Chain of Excellence, which involves being aware of how your respiration, physiology, state, and performance are all connected.

So you can have options about how you feel in any given moment. However, it all starts with awareness.

Now it is your turn! Now that you are aware of this, think about different, ways in which you can experience an ‘unpleasant’ situation and change it next time you come across it.

Edited by Jules Collingwood, NLP Trainer at INSPIRITIVE.

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