How to Train Your Brain to Be Happier

Even though nobody can be happy all of the time, there's something more important than that: feeling good about yourself. To do this, you need to understand and help your brain build a stronger self-esteem and have more flexible thoughts.
How to Train Your Brain to Be Happier
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 20 October, 2022

Is it possible to train your brain to be happier? Nowadays, there are countless miracle cures for happiness. Thus, you can help yourself by using a few strategies. However, is this as easy as it seems? Is there a formula to help you become happier and optimistic?

The short answer is no, as anything related to psychological wellness and authentic fullness isn’t easy nor fast.

For starters, you need to understand that your brain doesn’t care if you’re happy or not. It only needs you to survive. That’s why it always gives the spotlight to your worst fears and the processes that keep you in your comfort zone.

Now, just because your brain is change-resistant doesn’t mean it can’t change. Humans have notably evolved and learned how to adapt to complex environments. Likewise, in clinical practice, it’s possible to reach balance and healing. However, authentic and active commitment is required.

Train your brain to decrease anxious thoughts and stop biting your nails.

Can you train your brain to be happier in life?

Training your brain to be happier isn’t just about changing your diet. It’s not only about living a more active life, playing sports, or traveling once or twice a year. These changes can help you stay healthier and keep you satisfied for a day or two.

However, none of these strategies can help you deal better with stress. When life gets hard again, you won’t know how to get better and you’ll start feeling helpless, scared, and anxious.

As psychologist Mihály Csikszentmihályi exposes, there’s no easy recipe for a happier life. This is an individual process that requires creativity and originality. However, you can take a series of basic realities as a starting point.

A woman smiling to the camera.

Train your thoughts to reflect on things

Neuroscience has shown the world that thoughts are just a product of brain activity. The brain creates thoughts as a result of electrical connections. This is true, but your thoughts have some power over your brain because they can generate new connections and even change its shape.

  • Negative, repetitive, and obsessive thoughts can slow brain coordination. They make your brain feel tired and decrease the activity in the prefrontal area of the brain. This makes it harder to find solutions to problems.
  • A key to train your brain to be happier is to have more control over this type of mental process. It’s healthy to think carefully.
  • Everything you say and think matters. Therefore, try detecting negative thought patterns and stop them.
  • Now, it’s not about turning things around and start having shallow and excessively optimistic thoughts. It’s simply about reflecting more and being more flexible about your reality. You should be capable of thinking about ten solutions for a problem, broaden your perspectives, and stop being fatalistic.

Having a purpose can give your life meaning

There’s no point to live a life with no purpose. Scientifically speaking, it means living without dopamine, serotonin, and the thread that joins your fantasies with your everyday goals. If your reality means nothing to you, then you lack value as well.

This gives way to an overwhelming emptiness and leads to mood disorders such as anxiety or depression. As Viktor Frankl once said, a purpose gives your life meaning. Try remembering what’s important to you and what’s worth moving forward for.

Therefore, if you want to train your brain to be happier, you need to understand what’s your purpose in life. You should have a daily goal, a target to reach. Even something as simple as taking a break, hanging out with someone, reading a book, or going out for a walk.

A happy woman.

Happiness means feeling good about yourself

No one can be happy every day. It’s impossible to keep that state of mind forever. Now, there’s something more important than being happy: feeling good about yourself. Nowadays, the lack of self-esteem is a big problem for many people.

This is an essential part of wellness and a turning point to feel satisfied with life. John Rawls, one of the most renowned philosophers of the 20th century, used to say that if society wants to be happy, its citizens need to have self-respect.

For Rawls, you need to believe in yourself to be free and deserving of progress and wellness. According to Rawls, the opposite of self-respect is helplessness.

In short, can you train your brain to be happier? The answer is yes. However, this isn’t an easy task. You need to work on this every day. It’s a demanding, complex, and courageous task!

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Berridge, K. C., & Kringelbach, M. L. (2011). Building a neuroscience of pleasure and well-being. Psychology of Well-Being: Theory, Research and Practice1(1), 3.
  • Kringelbach, M. L., & Berridge, K. C. (2010). The functional neuroanatomy of pleasure and happiness. Discovery Medicine9(49), 579–587.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.