30 Seconds to Happiness

Now more than ever, patients are telling me that current events are stressing them out. If world events and politics are working you up or getting you down, then read on. By understanding some simple facts about how the brain deals with potentially negative versus positive situations you can tilt your emotional balance toward happiness.

Brain science expert, Rick Hanson, PhD explains that our brain has a built in “negativity bias.” He says “The brain is like Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive ones.” It pays more attention to situations with potentially bad consequences, because it was a matter of life or death, to the point where it takes five positive interactions to make up for one bad one. Today, most potentially negative circumstances aren’t life threatening, but our brain responds like it is.

Dr. Hanson suggests a technique I call the 30 second rule. Look for simple, good experiences already present your life like the clear blue sky, the taste of fresh asparagus, or the smile of a child. Then hold the image and the feelings in your awareness for 30 seconds. Let yourself feel good about it.

Do you notice any reluctance to feeling good? It’s a common attitude that we don’t deserve to feel pleasure, or that it’s selfish or vain. Some think it might bring bad luck. Acknowledge those feelings and let them go. Remember, we’re just practicing an antidote to some brain chemistry that working against us much of the time these days.

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