3 Steps to a Happier Brain

Did you know that our brains have a preferential bias for the negative? Rick Hanson, Neuropsychologist, Rick Hanson, Ph.D., says that our brains are like teflon for positive experiences, but toBrimming Brain ensure our survival and keep alert for signs of danger, they are constantly scanning for the negative out there and then latching onto it like Velcro. No wonder we get depressed and anxious!

Thank goodness Hanson suggests three steps to overcome our negativity bias-

  1. Turn positive events into positive experiences. When someone compliments us or something good happens, we need to pay attention and not deflect it like teflon like we habitually do.
  2. More than just noticing it, we need to fully experience the pleasure, savoring it and intensifying the good feelings. As we allow our bodies to feel the positive emotion it gives the neurons more time to fire together and actually change the structure hardwiring of our brains.
  3. Now sense and focus intention on bringing this emotion deeply inside of you to the extent that you experience it becoming a part of you, ” becom­ing woven into the fab­ric of your brain and yourself.”

Positive thinking doesn’t just make us feel better, it actually changes our brains in visible ways, changing how it scans the environment and allowing us to see the world around us as kinder, safer, friendlier and happier. Read his interview for his book, Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom, http://bit.ly/1w559ca.

Tis the Season to be Grateful, Next Month We’re Supposed to be Jolly

Saying GraceWhat’s the difference? If you’re jolly, aren’t you grateful? According to Dr. Robert Emmons, the author of THANKS! How the New Science of Gratitude can Make you Happier, while there are many things that we can be happy about, the uniqueness of gratitude is that we realize that we have received a gift that we don’t deserve. It’s “the acknowledgement of goodness in one’s life” and secondly “recognizing that the source(s) of this goodness lie at least partially outside the self.” We can only be grateful to others, not to ourselves, so it brings a sense of humility along with the gift (4-8).

Offering grace at the family table, Bart Simpson prayed,

“Dear God, we paid for all this stuff ourselves, so thanks for nothing.”

Donald Trump stated,

“All of the women on The Apprentice have flirted with me-consciously or unconsciously. That’s to be expected” (148).

Gratitude is knowing, at a deep level is an appreciation that what we have received was “freely bestowed out of compassion, generosity, or love” (7). The International Encyclopedia of Ethics defines it as “the heart’s internal indicator when the tally of gifts outweighs the exchanges” (6).

Emmons’s research found that when people took the time to write in a gratitude journal, not only did they feel more appreciative about things that they normally overlooked, but they reported–exercising more, sleeping better, experiencing few physical symptoms and feeling more optimistic about their lives. They were more likely to make progress toward their personal goals and to have offered emotional support to others.

Other important healing benefits are that-

Gratitude counters our natural adaption to pleasant events.

Gratitude mitigates toxic emotions and states like envy, resentment, and regret.

Gratitude strengthens social ties.

Gratitude increases one’s sense of personal worth.

Gratitude has a direct link to cardiovascular functioning.

In his intro to the workshop that I attended at Loma Linda Medical School, Emmons described it like this-

“You feel a deep sense of peace and internal balance-you are at harmony with yourself, with others and with your larger environment. You experience increased buoyancy vitality and flow. Your senses are enlivened—every aspect of your perceptual experience seems richer, more texture. Surprisingly, you fell invigorated at time when you would usually have felt tired and drained. Things that usually would have irked you just don’t “get to you” as much. Your body feels regenerated-your mind, at last, clear. . . At least for a period of time, decisions become obvious as priorities clarify and inner conflict dissolves. Intuitive insight suddenly provides convenient solution to problems. . Your creativity flows freely. In this state of inner harmony and deep fulfillment, you experience a sense of greater connectedness—to other people, to a larger whole, perhaps to God, or to a higher aspect of yourself. (From Gratitude as a Way of Life: Insights from the Science of Well-Being, Emmons, 2005)

Heading into the challenges of the holiday season, let’s remember to give ourselves a “gratitude intervention.” Positive results were observed with subjects who only journaled once a day, but here’s the perspective of GK Chesterton-

“You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play. . . and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, and swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing, and grace before I dip the pen in ink.”

The Science of Gratitude

Gratitude HeartResearch shows that people who learn to focus on gratitude not only are “flat-out happier”, but are-

More energetic

Are more determined

Get more sleep

Feel better about their lives

Are more likely to help others

Exercise more, and even–have fewer illnesses.

Heading into winter, during these challenging times, wouldn’t you like to learn how to give yourself a gratitude intervention?

2 Opportunities in Denver-a brief overview over lunch or a 2 hour workshop-

Thursday, November 11, 12-1 Lunch & Learn at the Nourished Health Wellness Center, West City Park, $10 (a healthy lunch prepared by Chef Katie Bauer is available for additional $5)

 

Saturday, November 13, 10am-noon at the People House, Highlands

Preregistration is necessary. Call 720-515-8411 or email Victoria@technologiesoftheself.org

Participants will-

  1. Gain an overview of the research conducted by Robert Emmons, PhD that shows the mental and physical benefits of a thankful attitude.

2. Take a Daily Gratitude Inventory (DGI).

3. Take home a list of 10 evidence-based prescriptions to increase one’s gratitude rating in order to experience more health benefits.

Victoria Bresee will share information from a training she attended with Dr. Emmons, at Loma Linda University, called “Gratitude as a Way of Life: Insights from the Science of Well-Being”. He is the author of Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier.