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.

Why Hypnosis?

Recently a friend asked me why, with all the cutting-edge modalities available nowadays, I decided to get trained in something so old as hypnotherapy.

Well, the major reason is because it works! My starting with my undergraduate studies in psychology, I have explored and experienced many types of traditional therapy from a clinical psychologist, an MSW, a pastoral counselor, and a psychoanalyst and all of it was helpful, but my greatest, most immediate breakthroughs came from a few sessions of hypnosis. Friends and family had similar results.

Besides seeing its effectiveness in creating life changes, more information is coming out about why it works, some of it written by “cutting edge” authors. Molecular biologist Bruce Lipton, PhD, in the Biology of Belief, explains that “if an energy vibration in the environment resonates with a receptor’s antenna, it will alter the protein’s charge, causing the receptor to change shape”. . . so “biological behavior can be controlled by invisible forces, including thought, as well as it can be controlled by physical molecules, like penicillin. . .” We are not locked into our DNA, change at the core, cellular level is possible.

A study published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Science, “. . . that energetic signaling mechanisms, such as electromagnetic frequencies are a hundred times more efficient in relaying environmental information than physical signals such as hormones, neurotransmitters, growth factors, etc.” (81)

In addition to our genetic makeup and how it is affected by the environment through energy fields, much of how we live our day to day lives is simply due to programming that was instilled in us as children. Lipton points out that young children’s brains are operating at the same low frequencies (theta and alpha) utilized in hypnosis to create deep suggestible states. So, we all have taken in, “downloaded”, thousands of messages whether they were appropriate for us or even accurate. All of that programming was absorbed without being filtered through the critical mind, which develops later.

It makes sense, then, that to release some of those old messages and patterns that keep us in a rut, returning to the deeper levels of consciousness would facilitate the change we (our higher level of consciousness) desire. He states, “The biggest impediments to realizing the success of which we dream are the limitations programmed into the subconscious. These limitations not only influence our behavior, they can also play a major role in determining our physiology and health. (xiv)” he goes on to say that “positive thoughts have a profound effect on behavior and genes, but only when they are in harmony with subconscious programming” (xxviii).  We, hypnotherapists, could actually term ourselves as “subconscious behavioral therapists.”

Lipton provides this quote of Gandhi-

Your beliefs become your thoughts
Your thoughts become your words
Your words become your actions
Your actions become your habits
Your habits become your values
Your values become your destiny.

Positive thinking can help, prayer and meditation can help, willpower can help, but for those of us who could use even more help, hypnotherapy can provide an extra lift out of the old rut, into a new direction and destiny.

Kierkegaard and the Pursuit of Happiness

There is an excellent article in the New York Times right now discussing the melancholy spirituality of Soren Kierkegaard, and how no one today “believes that a person can be of troubled mind and healthy spirit.”

One of the hardest parts of developing spiritually is letting go of the dreams and illusions that allow us to hide from the misery and despair that often lurks within us at a deeper level.

There is abundant chatter today about “being spiritual” but scarcely anyone believes that a person can be of troubled mind and healthy spirit. Nor can we fathom the idea that the happy wanderer, who is all smiles and has accomplished everything on his or her self-fulfillment list, is, in fact, a case of despair. But while Kierkegaard would have agreed that happiness and melancholy are mutually exclusive, he warns, “Happiness is the greatest hiding place for despair.”

Happiness and Television

A recent study from the University of Maryland shows an inverse correlation between the amount of time one spends watching television and one’s personal sense of happiness.  In other words, one can detect how miserable a person is by measuring how much television they watch.

On the other hand, there is a positive correlation between church going, socializing, and reading and happiness.  Those who spend more time in these activities are more likely to claim to be happy.

Does this mean that television makes us miserable?

Not so fast.  Perhaps television does make us miserable, but it is equally likely that people use television as a means of escape from an unhappy or alienated life.

My guess is that television is one activity that holds no potential for making us less unhappy.  Retreating into the often repetitive lives of television characters contains none of the potential for growth and discovery that most other activities hold.  By distracting us, television may serve to relieve pain, but it only treats the symptoms, rarely offering us genuine hope for change.

Read a Washington Post article on the study here.