What You Do with Your Mind Changes Your Brain
“The mind can change the brain to change the mind.”
I heard that on a TEDx Talk called “Hardwiring Happiness.”
Neuropsychologist Dr. Rick Hanson, who wrote Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain, says that our brains are biased to remember negative experiences over positive. When our ancestors survived serious danger, they had to remember it forever in order to survive the next threat.
But in our modern world, a negativity bias can interfere with our work, relationships, health, and capacity for enjoying the life we work so hard to have. If this becomes a problem, Dr. Hanson says to apply the steps in HEAL:
- Have a good experience.
- Enrich or install the experience–really feel it.
- Absorb the experience. Spend enough time recalling your sensory experience to transfer it from short-term to long-term memory.
- Link the experience to something negative. This optional step is for those ready to start soothing and replacing negative memories with positive associations.
Think about this the next time you have a massage. Come have the experience. Support your enjoyment of it by telling your massage therapist your preferred temperature, music, pressure, and whether you really do want her to spend twenty minutes working on your feet. Stay present to your massage experience by breathing, noticing your breathing, and tuning into the sensations you feel. After you leave, take a minute or two to let the sensations sink in. Notice how you’re feeling.
Does this kind of softening cause us to lose our edge? Actually, says Dr. Hanson, training our brains to fully absorb positive experiences actually allows us to better discern threats and consciously avoid them.
So fully enjoy your massage while it occurs. Then allow the massage you had to become part of you and enjoy it later, too. Your mind and brain will thank you.