It's easy to focus on the annoyances you're dealing with every day. That vendor who won't return your phone call. Your mom who won't stop calling. Your fiancé who's obsessed with the playlist — and the playlist only. But if you're focusing mainly on the pain-in-the-butt parts of wedding planning, you're actually shaping your brain to remember this time of your life negatively. "What you focus on becomes what your brain is made of," writes neuropsychologist Rick Hanson, Ph.D., in, Hardwiring Happiness: The New Science of Contentment, Calm and Confidence. "Negative mental states can easily become negative neural states," he explains.
You can change this pattern in just 12 seconds at a time. Here's how: Next time you're in a wedding-planning snit, stop and make yourself aware of a good fact in your life. Conjure up, for example, that excitement and joy you felt when you discovered that perfect wedding detail that means a lot to you. Let that private giddiness (that would be dorky to anybody else) wash over you for 12 seconds; really feel it, sink into it. Now, you've shifted yourself from a crappy mood and into a positive neural state.
This isn't just a lesson in the power of positive thinking. You're actually changing the structure of your brain. By feeling and focusing on the good for 12 seconds, you're moving the experience from short-term into long-term, or implicit, memory.
This technique helps you create new, positive neural pathways in your brain, and it works with just about everything. That surprisingly sexy goodbye kiss you had with your fiancé this morning? Revisit it in your imagination. 12 seconds later, you've moved that delicious kiss from a brief moment in time to a long-term memory that not only turned your mood around right now, but you can recall at later times.
What you're doing is "consistently and systematically [taking] the extra seconds to install these experiences in the brain," writes Hanson. You're making the good fact — the sexy kiss, — into a good experience, not just letting it just float away unnoticed in your busy flotsam and jetsom of wedding planning, work and life. Keep it up and watch how your overall mood and attitude — about wedding planning and even life — improves.
Allison Moir-Smith, MA, is the author of Emotionally Engaged: A Bride's Guide to Surviving the '"Happiest" Time of Her Life and has been helping brides feel happier, calmer and better prepared for marriage since 2002. She is a bridal counselor, an expert in engagement anxiety and cold feet, and the founder of Emotionally Engaged Counseling for Brides.