Our brains evolved with a “negativity bias”
So writes neuropsychologist Rick Hanson in Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm and Confidence. We are alert for negative information, often over-react, storing the experience in our brain. Unfortunately, we spend too much time in this more reactive state, which can lead to stress-induced physical ailments, anxiety, dissatisfaction and unhappiness. We are then less able to relate to others with patience, love and compassion.
“Taking in the Good” allows us to re-bias the brain, to use its ability to change (neuroplasticity) to more easily find and learn from positive experiences, and to develop the inner resources that allow us to cope with life’s challenges. The result is greater contentment, joy, gratitude, compassion and happiness.
How to “Take in the Good”
- notice a good experience or fact and allow yourself to consciously feel good about it for ten, twenty, even thirty seconds.
- really enjoy the experience, letting it fill your senses. Actively intending and sensing it sinking in furthers the impact in the brain.
These can be very ordinary and simple experiences:
- how good that cup of coffee tastes
- the beauty of some aspect of nature
- the warm feeling after talking with a friend
(Just One Thing: Developing a Buddha Brain One Simple Practice at a Time, Rick Hanson, Pd.D., 2001, pp 19-21)
Try it out for yourself…and keep at it. It’s like filling a big bucket one drop at a time. As one year ends and another begins, it’s a perfect time to reflect and grow the good, giving ourselves the gift of less stress in the process.