What Gets In The Way
Feeling Good from the Inside Out: A Great Way to Change Your Brain and Your Life
Podcast 7: What Can Get in the Way
Last time I talked about some studies of London taxicab drivers and long term meditators. “Neurons that fire together, wire together.” Dr. Rick Hanson writes, “Repeated patterns of mental activity require repeated patterns of brain activity. Repeated patterns of brain activity change neural structure and function.” In other words, “You can use your mind to change your brain.”
We can grow our ability to choose what we focus on. As we notice more of the good things either in the present moment or in the past, our brains learn that we think this good thing is cool. We get some traction on the tendency to overlearn from negative experiences, to often make them bigger than they really are. We notice we can unhook from the pull of thinking that we can’t be effective or have more happiness.
Here’s a handful of pointers about how to navigate where we get stuck in Taking in the Good.
First we can start by observing what gets in our way then consider if it’s serving us or not. With a little effort we get good at bringing the good into our lives. It becomes second nature.
We can all benefit from little practices that make being present, being mindful, part of what we’re already doing instead of something else we need to do. Here’s some favorites:
At times our attention is everywhere except where we want it to be. Let’s say we’ve been spending way too much time on social media. Our minds get used to an instant connection. We can miss out though on connecting with the people we live with, with our dog, with our neighbor. If we’re pulled this way we can make choices without making ourselves wrong. We can give ourselves a limit of how long we’ll be on social media and then take a break and do something else. Use our other muscles of connection like greeting someone with a smile when we pass them on the street, even a stranger.
Another example of being mindful is taking a short pause before driving the car. It involves adding about two minutes onto the driving time. We remind ourselves there are other drivers on the road. We want them to be safe and we want that for ourselves too.
Paying attention to the transition after work. Maybe a full minute to stretch, breathe, and let the day settle. Let go of tensions that don’t need to be carried forward, as best we can.
For parents or caregivers it might be taking a shower, a quiet time that’s like a sanctuary. Or really listening to children when they talk about what happened in their day without needing to make something happen. Just moments of being together.
These moments of mindfulness can all be moments of bringing in the good. Transforming ordinary experiences in our day into opportunities to bring more good into our lives.
It’s natural for things to come up. We don’t follow through on things that would bring more happiness or more benefit into our lives or into the lives of others. We may have thoughts like, “Isn’t this selfish?” “Why should I spend time thinking about myself when others are experiencing such distress?”
Or similar thoughts, like thinking that our job is to take care of everybody else. Studies have shown that we have more to give others when our own cup runs over, when we’re filled up. Bringing more of the good into our own lives is about filling up our own cup, little by little, drop by drop.
Or we may think that we are comfortable enough. Why the effort to learn something new when we have the things we need? Even though we have the things we need we aren’t used to experiencing how it feels, the satisfaction that comes from having a place to call home. These are simple things, yes. They’re examples of everyday things that matter. Goals we’ve achieved.
We may think that we’re too old. Maybe we think that we should have learned this when we were young. But think about the wisdom that we’ve gained in our lifetime. What better time to start taking that in.
It’s super likely we’ll all have more challenges ahead. Dr. Rick Hanson writes that Taking in the Good helps our brains become more like Teflon for the negative and Velcro for the positive things in life. We can grow in our courage, bring ourselves forward, and pursue things that benefit ourselves and others.
Last, it might not be easy to connect with our body. Notice if this happens. Maybe we experienced not feeling safe at an earlier time. Our body is letting us know that it needs some extra care. If this is the case we often benefit from having support of a therapist or skilled practitioner. If we’ve had to experience difficult times alone, we haven’t had the resources we need to come through with a feeling that we’re intact.
The really good news is that we can grow inner support all through our lives. Bringing in more of the good is a way to live that will act like a buoy during the storms of life. It helps us wake up to the many gifts in our ordinary lives and take in more of the good resources that are all around us already.
Today bring awareness to anything that gets in the way of bringing more good into our lives.
Thanks for joining me in this podcast series. I’ll look forward to sharing the live session with you.