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How to Hardwire Your Mind For Happiness

Here’s a simple practice to rewire your brain to be less negative and shift into having more confidence and a more positive view of life.

Imagine you do a presentation at work, and then everyone in your team has the chance to give you feedback. If five of those people compliment your work and one person criticizes it, which one will you remember later? Which one could keep you up at night ruminating about it? If you're like most people it's the criticism. And the criticism gets highlighted in our minds because of what is known as the negativity bias. Now, this bias towards the negative is completely normal. As we evolved over the last 150 to 200,000 years, it was vitally important to learn from negative experiences so that we could outwit predators and avoid dangers.

So the brain registers negative experiences very, very quickly and highlights them and stores them in memory. This helped us remember how to avoid potential future threats. On the other hand, positive experiences? They don't register in the same way. They need to be held in awareness for some time before they get stored in memory. Now, we don't live in a world where there's constant threats and dangers like, the hundreds of thousands of years gone by, but our brains still operate in the same way.

Now the problem with the negativity bias for us these days is that over the long-term we can develop a growing tendency to be pessimistic, stressed, and negative. We can become sensitive to upsets grievances and resentments, and it can knock out confidence and really cloud our ability to see things clearly. Neuro psychologist and author Rick Hanson often uses the metaphor that negative experiences are like Velcro for the mind. Whereas positive experiences of like Teflon. They slide right off.

This is a great metaphor for truly understanding how sticky negative experiences can be in the human mind. Now, on a personal note, I can vividly remember a potentially damaging experience that I had thanks to this negativity bias. It was just a couple of years ago when I ran the Mindfulness Summit. The summit was a not-for-profit project to get mindfulness out into the mainstream where we raised over a million dollars for charity and gave it all away to mindfulness-based charities around the world. Now, part of my job in this mission that we were on was to interview 30 people who were some of the world's most respected meditation teachers, spiritual teachers, researchers, and neuroscientists.

And we had 250,000 people sign up to watch this thing. So I was naturally nervous. I'd never interviewed anybody before. But to make matters worse, during the first two days of the summit, a lot of people got on the forums and they started doing what's called flaming. So they put out really nasty and hurtful comments.

Some people said, things like that they were finding me annoying. They didn't like me. And I'm putting this nicely. It wasn't written so nicely as that. And it was really, really hard for me to see those comments.

I have to be honest with you right now. I felt like I was publicly humiliating myself. I was so embarrassed. I was, I felt awful. And I was, you know, having one of those moments where I was just wishing the world would swallow me whole.

So it would have been quite easy to let those comments really damage my confidence. And they did put a dint in my confidence when I first read them. It put a dint in my confidence and my confidence in the ability that I had to complete their mission that I was on. So here's what happened though. Eventually, and luckily for me, I sobered up to the mental hole that I was going down and I realized that I had been affected by the negativity bias.

I had completely overlooked for these two days, the many, many positive comments that I was also receiving on the forums. In fact, I had overlooked it so completely that my business partner had to point it out to me. He pointed out to me that actually 95% of the comments were good and only 5% were negative. I couldn't see it. I was literally blind to that fact.

And as the summit went on, feedback became more, more positive overall. The people who were flaming sort of disappeared. And the overall feedback that we got from the summit was incredibly, incredibly positive. So from that day on, when I realized the negativity bias had a hold of me, I decided to make sure that I spent time each day reading the positive feedback, as well as taking in some of the more negative comments if they had something to teach me. Just to make sure that I was seeing things clearly.

That was an important realization for me that I wasn't seeing reality clearly before and had to really practice, at it. The negativity bias was making me not able to see reality as it truly was. So you can see how this negativity bias can stop us from being able to see clearly. It can create a lot of inner turmoil that can knock our confidence and create a lot of negativity and distress, actually. We can start to feel sometimes also like our partner, our lives, ourselves, we're not good enough when we ruminate on not going, what's not going well and what's negative.

So you can see how, you know, gradually we can become plagued by negativity, resentment, bitterness, low confidence, if we're not careful. So how do we work with this? How do we counter this negativity bias? How can we start to make sure that we can see life in a more balanced way? Well, here's the really great news. Over time, and with a little bit of practice, we can change the negativity bias. We can even it out. And we can actually totally rewire our brains to see things in a more clear and balanced way.

Now, as a neuroscientist might say, neurons that fire together wire together. So in other words, the more time you actually train your brain in taking in the good and seeing things clearly, the more it becomes an ingrained way of being, and seeing. Rick Hanson has this wonderful technique that I'd like to share with you that helps you reshape your brain's neural pathways so that you'll take in more good and positive experiences and balance out that negativity bias. So the technique has three basic stages. Very simple.

First stage, he advises us to deliberately seek out good experiences every day. Really, really simple. It could be something so simple as just appreciating the beauty in your garden, feeling the warm touch of sunlight on your skin, you know, the taste of a coffee. Just so what he's saying is you want to deliberately cultivate, seek out, create these moments of taking in the good in your life and then noticing the times when they happen organically. This helps you to activate your brain to start the process of taking in the good.

Secondly, you want to enrich the experience. So to enrich any good experience, what you need to do is just stay with the experience for at least five seconds and fully open up to what's happening. So open up to the body sensations, the emotions, everything that's happening in the present moment. Really drink in that good experience, fully letting it fill your mind and body and build in intensity. As you do this, you'll be able to move the experience from your short term memory into your long-term memory, which is important in rewiring your brain to take in and see more good.

This may take a little bit of time as you want to really connect with the feelings you're feeling in the moment. So really focusing on allowing that experience to sink into your being as you truly engage with it, feel the joy as you appreciate and savor that experience. The third step is to then absorb the experience. So this is really simple. Simply after you really allow that experience to sink in and be fully felt and known, you simply set an intention.

You just have a moment where you make an intention to feel that it's now a part of you and take it with you in memory. So really setting an intention to take this with you, to keep it with you. So this really, really simple technique can be used every day to help you truly appreciate and enjoy the positive moments of your life. The more we take in the good, the more we can see and experience life in a more balanced way. And it's ,of course, not that we're going to ignore negative experiences and we're not going to stop bad things from happening.

That's just a natural part of life. We have ups and we have downs. We have pain and we have pleasure. So that's fine, but we can take control of how we perceive life. We can seek out more good so that we don't become overwhelmed by the negativity bias.

And over time, with this practice, we'll be better able to connect with the present moment and the good experiences that we're having as we go through the day, because we won't be so worried all the time about the negatives or the past or future. So today and for the rest of this week, and further on than that, see if you can focus on taking in the good like this. Maybe even just right now consider what are some good aspects of your life that you don't normally notice that you could appreciate today, as you're going through your day, what's beautiful, enjoyable that you can appreciate and savor. Maybe making a little intention right now that when those moments come, whether it's the hot cup of tea or the sunlight on your skin, or a walk in nature, that when those moments come, you'll really take them in, take in the good. As you cultivate this capacity for taking in the good, you'll notice a shift in your perceptions towards a more positive view of life.

And you'll likely experience a lightness of heart and mind and a little bit more joy and wonder flowing into your days.

Talk

4.7

How to Hardwire Your Mind For Happiness

Here’s a simple practice to rewire your brain to be less negative and shift into having more confidence and a more positive view of life.

Duration

Your default time is based on your progress and is changed automatically as you practice.

Imagine you do a presentation at work, and then everyone in your team has the chance to give you feedback. If five of those people compliment your work and one person criticizes it, which one will you remember later? Which one could keep you up at night ruminating about it? If you're like most people it's the criticism. And the criticism gets highlighted in our minds because of what is known as the negativity bias. Now, this bias towards the negative is completely normal. As we evolved over the last 150 to 200,000 years, it was vitally important to learn from negative experiences so that we could outwit predators and avoid dangers.

So the brain registers negative experiences very, very quickly and highlights them and stores them in memory. This helped us remember how to avoid potential future threats. On the other hand, positive experiences? They don't register in the same way. They need to be held in awareness for some time before they get stored in memory. Now, we don't live in a world where there's constant threats and dangers like, the hundreds of thousands of years gone by, but our brains still operate in the same way.

Now the problem with the negativity bias for us these days is that over the long-term we can develop a growing tendency to be pessimistic, stressed, and negative. We can become sensitive to upsets grievances and resentments, and it can knock out confidence and really cloud our ability to see things clearly. Neuro psychologist and author Rick Hanson often uses the metaphor that negative experiences are like Velcro for the mind. Whereas positive experiences of like Teflon. They slide right off.

This is a great metaphor for truly understanding how sticky negative experiences can be in the human mind. Now, on a personal note, I can vividly remember a potentially damaging experience that I had thanks to this negativity bias. It was just a couple of years ago when I ran the Mindfulness Summit. The summit was a not-for-profit project to get mindfulness out into the mainstream where we raised over a million dollars for charity and gave it all away to mindfulness-based charities around the world. Now, part of my job in this mission that we were on was to interview 30 people who were some of the world's most respected meditation teachers, spiritual teachers, researchers, and neuroscientists.

And we had 250,000 people sign up to watch this thing. So I was naturally nervous. I'd never interviewed anybody before. But to make matters worse, during the first two days of the summit, a lot of people got on the forums and they started doing what's called flaming. So they put out really nasty and hurtful comments.

Some people said, things like that they were finding me annoying. They didn't like me. And I'm putting this nicely. It wasn't written so nicely as that. And it was really, really hard for me to see those comments.

I have to be honest with you right now. I felt like I was publicly humiliating myself. I was so embarrassed. I was, I felt awful. And I was, you know, having one of those moments where I was just wishing the world would swallow me whole.

So it would have been quite easy to let those comments really damage my confidence. And they did put a dint in my confidence when I first read them. It put a dint in my confidence and my confidence in the ability that I had to complete their mission that I was on. So here's what happened though. Eventually, and luckily for me, I sobered up to the mental hole that I was going down and I realized that I had been affected by the negativity bias.

I had completely overlooked for these two days, the many, many positive comments that I was also receiving on the forums. In fact, I had overlooked it so completely that my business partner had to point it out to me. He pointed out to me that actually 95% of the comments were good and only 5% were negative. I couldn't see it. I was literally blind to that fact.

And as the summit went on, feedback became more, more positive overall. The people who were flaming sort of disappeared. And the overall feedback that we got from the summit was incredibly, incredibly positive. So from that day on, when I realized the negativity bias had a hold of me, I decided to make sure that I spent time each day reading the positive feedback, as well as taking in some of the more negative comments if they had something to teach me. Just to make sure that I was seeing things clearly.

That was an important realization for me that I wasn't seeing reality clearly before and had to really practice, at it. The negativity bias was making me not able to see reality as it truly was. So you can see how this negativity bias can stop us from being able to see clearly. It can create a lot of inner turmoil that can knock our confidence and create a lot of negativity and distress, actually. We can start to feel sometimes also like our partner, our lives, ourselves, we're not good enough when we ruminate on not going, what's not going well and what's negative.

So you can see how, you know, gradually we can become plagued by negativity, resentment, bitterness, low confidence, if we're not careful. So how do we work with this? How do we counter this negativity bias? How can we start to make sure that we can see life in a more balanced way? Well, here's the really great news. Over time, and with a little bit of practice, we can change the negativity bias. We can even it out. And we can actually totally rewire our brains to see things in a more clear and balanced way.

Now, as a neuroscientist might say, neurons that fire together wire together. So in other words, the more time you actually train your brain in taking in the good and seeing things clearly, the more it becomes an ingrained way of being, and seeing. Rick Hanson has this wonderful technique that I'd like to share with you that helps you reshape your brain's neural pathways so that you'll take in more good and positive experiences and balance out that negativity bias. So the technique has three basic stages. Very simple.

First stage, he advises us to deliberately seek out good experiences every day. Really, really simple. It could be something so simple as just appreciating the beauty in your garden, feeling the warm touch of sunlight on your skin, you know, the taste of a coffee. Just so what he's saying is you want to deliberately cultivate, seek out, create these moments of taking in the good in your life and then noticing the times when they happen organically. This helps you to activate your brain to start the process of taking in the good.

Secondly, you want to enrich the experience. So to enrich any good experience, what you need to do is just stay with the experience for at least five seconds and fully open up to what's happening. So open up to the body sensations, the emotions, everything that's happening in the present moment. Really drink in that good experience, fully letting it fill your mind and body and build in intensity. As you do this, you'll be able to move the experience from your short term memory into your long-term memory, which is important in rewiring your brain to take in and see more good.

This may take a little bit of time as you want to really connect with the feelings you're feeling in the moment. So really focusing on allowing that experience to sink into your being as you truly engage with it, feel the joy as you appreciate and savor that experience. The third step is to then absorb the experience. So this is really simple. Simply after you really allow that experience to sink in and be fully felt and known, you simply set an intention.

You just have a moment where you make an intention to feel that it's now a part of you and take it with you in memory. So really setting an intention to take this with you, to keep it with you. So this really, really simple technique can be used every day to help you truly appreciate and enjoy the positive moments of your life. The more we take in the good, the more we can see and experience life in a more balanced way. And it's ,of course, not that we're going to ignore negative experiences and we're not going to stop bad things from happening.

That's just a natural part of life. We have ups and we have downs. We have pain and we have pleasure. So that's fine, but we can take control of how we perceive life. We can seek out more good so that we don't become overwhelmed by the negativity bias.

And over time, with this practice, we'll be better able to connect with the present moment and the good experiences that we're having as we go through the day, because we won't be so worried all the time about the negatives or the past or future. So today and for the rest of this week, and further on than that, see if you can focus on taking in the good like this. Maybe even just right now consider what are some good aspects of your life that you don't normally notice that you could appreciate today, as you're going through your day, what's beautiful, enjoyable that you can appreciate and savor. Maybe making a little intention right now that when those moments come, whether it's the hot cup of tea or the sunlight on your skin, or a walk in nature, that when those moments come, you'll really take them in, take in the good. As you cultivate this capacity for taking in the good, you'll notice a shift in your perceptions towards a more positive view of life.

And you'll likely experience a lightness of heart and mind and a little bit more joy and wonder flowing into your days.

Talk

4.7

Duration

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