Have you ever noticed how quickly pleasure fades from your thoughts? How you can do ninety nine nice things for someone and all they will remember is the one thing you didn’t do! That no matter how many wonderful things happen to us, that we still end up disappointed and find new things to complain about! Why? It’s not because there is something wrong with us but because we are inherently negatively wired – what neuroscientist’s call the “negativity bias”.
Negative thinking is a great safety mechanism. It help us look out for threats and alerts us to immediately take action to deal with life threatening situations. We don’t want to loose that ability as it helps us stay alive (just like for our ancestors when they were being chased by sabre-tooth tigers.) But unfortunately when it’s over used it can lead to stress and anxiety, making it difficult to analyse facts and make simple decisions based on what is really going on. The good news is that the “negativity bias” isn’t fixed – anyone can change their brain for the better by changing their mental habits and taking advantage of the neuroplastic nature of the brain i.e. it’s amazing ability to adapt and form new connections and pathways according to our experiences. So how do we encourage and stimulate more positive connections, especially in challenging times?
Taking in the good
By practising taking in the good. Listen to the attached recording and let each of the things we talk about really soak into you one at a time, really savouring and enjoying the experience consciously. Once you have learnt this technique you can learn to really reflect on positive experiences – to take them in and fill yourself up on each experience – for at least 30 seconds if you can (which research shows is how long it takes to create a neuroplastic effect.)
They key when you use this technique by yourself is to sense and let each and every good experience deeply “sink in” to your body. When they appear take the time to really feel it, smell it, hear it, taste it, touch it – as if it is here now soaking though your whole body like the sun’s warmth into a T-shirt or water into a sponge. Keep relaxing your body and absorbing the emotions, sensations and thoughts of the experience.
For best results, practice this process morning and night with positive things from your day (eating a yummy meal, a hug, talking to a friend, taking a warm shower, feeling the sun on your skin, finally writing that email…) for around five minutes and see if you can hold onto the images, sounds, feelings, sensations, lightness for longer each time. You can do this by turning up the volume on them (each sense in turn) or perhaps by adding in a new memory / experience / person… building on the last. Please experiment and notice what works best for you to feel good. Like building any muscle this process takes time. Be patient, results will come.