So how do you break the cycle? You can't do it with insight or knowledge—or by simply deciding to do it—because the wires that inform your actions and feelings are stored in your elusive emotional brain. It only changes when you walk the talk. The more moments of the day you spend in a brain state of joy—connected, present, compassionate—the more your brain becomes wired for joy and the easier it is to bounce back from stress and find your emotional home base in that state of connection.

A method I developed with my neuroscience colleagues over the past 30 years at the University of California, San Francisco gives you more control over your emotional brain so you can take charge of your emotions more easily. The method is based on sensing which of the five universal emotional brain states you are functioning in at any particular time and using a tool to either maintain your current brain state or move yourself into a better one. The brain states range from Brain State 1, feeling joyful and content, to Brain State 5, feeling overwhelmed, confused, lost and hungry! In Brain State 1, you are in spirit, and in Brain State 5, you're in survival mode—all about ego. You'll do whatever it takes to get what you want when you want it—without regard to others. The tools give you the power to switch your brain back to Brain State 1—regardless of your current circumstances—as easily and quickly as possible.

Each time you use these tools, you weaken the wires that promote stress and strengthen those that bring joy. The goal is to rewire your brain from stress to joy, to take your emotional life into your own hands! Once you master this, you can become your own beacon of light, with your joy finding its way into the wiring not only of people you know, but also those you don't know. It will even affect the brains of those who have yet to be born.

So when I get up in the morning, I remind myself that my job is to create more moments of joy in my day, and you should too! Make it your goal to lighten your emotional footprint on the planet and spread joy. Help others get to Brain State 1, and you can begin to create a world at 1.

Laurel Mellin is a New York Times best-selling author and an associate clinical professor of family and community medicine and pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco. She directs the national research coordinating center for emotional brain training (EBT) in UCSF's Center for Health and Community. Her most recent book, Wired for Joy, was released by Hay House in June 2010.

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