Rewiring Our Brains by Taking in the Good

 In Better Life, Focusing on the positive

I had the pleasure of attending a day long workshop by Rick Hanson last week.  If you haven’t heard of Rick, he is a neuropsychologist and author.  His books include Just One Thing, Buddha’s Brain, and his most recent, Hardwiring Happiness.  It was very interesting to hear Rick describe how our brain is changing all the time (neuroplasticity) and how studies demonstrate that we can intentionally guide these changes to modify our brain for the better.

Why is this important?  Because our brains are programmed to more quickly and easily remember the bad stuff than the good.  This programming is a remnant from evolution to keep us safe in prehistoric times.  Still today, we are constantly scanning for bad news and then we hyperfocus and overreact to it.  Rick’s analogy is that our brains are velcro for the negative and teflon for the positive.  But we have a choice.  We can choose to take in the good.  Rick’s recipe for changing our brains is,

  • Notice or create a good experience.
  • Savor the experience and focus on it to make it stronger.
  • Notice how you feel and let it sink in.

I think of different times when I’ve wanted to capture a particular situation or scene in my memory.  Last summer I was sitting in my kayak in the middle of a small lake towards dusk.  The shoreline and sunset were reflected in the calm lake.  I was alone.  It was quiet except for the call of a couple of loons.  I savored the sounds and sights and really soaked it all in.  If I close my eyes now, I can still recall the scene and the feelings of the moment.  Ahhhh!  The idea is to use this approach more often and with the everyday good that surrounds us so we can rewire our brains for a better balance of experiencing the negative AND positive in our life.

Do you have your own recipe for taking in the good?  What has made it easier or harder?  Share your thoughts below.


Tina Hallis, Ph.D., is a professional speaker and consultant for The Positive Edge, a company dedicated to helping people and organizations fulfill their true potential using strategies from the science of Positive Psychology.

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