Practice of the Week
Rich Hanson on being glad:
Adapted from Rick Hanson, Just One Thing. [Order a copy for yourself: HERE.]
In order to keep our ancestors alive in harsh and often lethal settings, neural networks evolved that continually look for, react to, store, and recall bad news -- both "out there in your environment, and "in here," inside your own head.
As a consequence, we pay a lot of attention to threats, losses, and mistreatment in our environment -- and to our emotional reactions, such as worry, sadness, resentment, disappointment, and anger. We also focus on our own mistakes and flaws -- and on the feelings of guilt, shame, inadequacy, and even self-hatred that get stirred up.
There's a place for noticing and dealing with things that could harm you or others. And a place for improving your own mind and character.
But because of the negativity bias of the brain, most of us go way overboard.
Which is really unfair. It's not fair to zero in on a bit of bad news and ignore or downplay all the good news around it. The results of that unfairness include uncalled-for anxiety, pessimism, blue moods, and self-doubt. Emphasizing the bad news also primes us to be untrusting or cranky with others.
But if you compensate for the brain's bias by actively looking for good news -- especially the little things you are glad about -- then you will feel happier, more at peace with the world, more open to others, and more willing to stretch for your dreams. And as your growing gladness naturally lowers your stress, you'll likely get physical health benefits as well, such as a stronger immune system.
Now, that's good news . . . about good news!
- Bad things that never happened, or were not as bad as you feared
- Relief that hard or stressful times are over
- Good things that have happened to you in the past
- Good things in your life today, such as: friends, loved ones, children, pets, the health you have, stores stocked with food, public libraries, electricity, positive aspects of your work and finances, activities you enjoy, sunsets, sunrises . . . ice cream!
- Good things about yourself, such as positive character traits and intentions
- "Glad" means "pleased with" or "happy about." So notice what it feels like -- in your emotions, body, and thoughts -- to be pleased with something or happy about it. When you create a clear sense-memory of a positive mental state, you can find your way back to it again.
- Be aware of small, subtle, mild, or brief feelings of gladness.
- Stay with the good news. Don't change the channel so fast!
- Notice if your feelings of gladness get hijacked by doubt or worry. Also be honest with yourself, and consider if you are kind of attached to your resentments, grievances, or "case" about other people. It's okay if it's hard for you to stay with gladness; it's really common. Just try to name to yourself what has happened in your mind -- such as "hijacking" . . . "brooding" . . . "grumbling" -- and then freely decide if you want to spiral down into the bad news, or if you want to focus on good news instead. Make a conscious decision, acknowledge it to yourself, and then act upon it.
- Sometime every day, before going to bed, name to yourself at least three things you are glad about.
- Make a point of mentioning to others something that you are pleased or happy about (often the little stuff of everyday life).
- Look for opportunities to tell another person what you appreciate about him or her.
Above, under "look for things to be glad about," are five bullet points. Write in your journal a few examples in your life of each of the five.
* * *
Previous Practice of the Week: "Embrace Wonder"
For list of all weekly practices: "Practices of the Week"