Thursday, September 26, 2013

Rick Hanson's "Taking in the Good"

"Best Things" collage by Lani, textures by FlyPaper.
In Buddha's Brain, Rick Hanson talks a lot about taking in the good.  He explains that our brains have a negativity bias which has helped us evolutionarily speaking, to get to the top of the food chain, and great in emergency situations, but that is perhaps now a bit detrimental in day to day life.   (He describes this as being Velcro for the bad and Teflon for the good.)  He sees it as detrimental because our resilience and strength is based on positive experiences, but if positive experiences are slipping away and out of our inner experience because of the negativity bias, then we, over time, become quite brittle and anxious, always on guard and vulnerable.  If we are interested in developing our inner strength and our resilience, we need to practice "taking in the good" for long enough to lay down some neural pathways.  This can be 5, 10, even 30 seconds (or longer of course).  Not so very long.

I was always curious why of all of Seligman's Positive Psychology tasks the "3 Good Things" task was the most successful for the longest period of time, and now I think I know why now.  When we get into the awareness mode for "the good" our brain starts to do good things.  When we actually sit with that mode for as long as it takes to come up with three good things we are building new positive neural pathways, inner resilience and strength.  If we repeat this practice daily, wow.  Good things happen and we start to notice more and more "good things" both externally and internally.

OK, so here's how Rick Hanson suggests we "take in the good". 
1. Let good facts become good experiences.  Notice positive events (like someone being nice, smiling at you, you finish the dishes, small but positive stuff), positive conditions (like flowers are blooming or chocolate tastes great), and positive qualities in yourself (like your ability to enjoy working with art materials or your basic fairness or your curiosity and love of learning) - and then let them affect you and become positive feelings, bodily sensations, and thoughts.  You can even place your hand over your heart or touch your cheek to further embody these good sensations.
2. Stay with the good experience 5, 10, 30 seconds in a row, maybe even a full minute (use your timer).  Let the experience fill your body and mind and be as intense as possible.
3. Sense and intend that this good experience is sinking into you, like water into a sponge, becoming and inner resource.  So you are focusing on and absorbing the experience and feelings rather than "just" remembering a specific situation.

Just reading this fills me with delight, and if you want to further develop those neural pathways, create an art piece based on Rick Hanson's idea of "Taking in the Good" and then spend some time enjoying the piece.  Perhaps you can keep it where you might see it from time to time, so that each time you see it the neural structure gets a little stronger and a little happier.

1 comment:

KAT ADL'S said...

This is great. I have been questioning people in my work place this week about what creates resilience and what they think(Mental health inpatient ward).Mostly the answers were well tough stuff happens and you get over it or learn you can deal with it..lots of people were puzzled.It is such a key concept for living well and it has me really curious.This article and your explanation is so very helpful.Thanks Lani KAT