“By taking just a few extra seconds to stay with a positive experience—even the comfort in a single breath—you’ll help turn a passing mental state into lasting neural structure.” -Rick Hanson
Resilience, compassion, gratitude, courage and other inner strengths lower stress, enhance well-being and effectiveness, and help to heal symptoms of anxiety and depression. Inner strengths, like any other mental capability, are supported by structures in the brain.
“Experience-dependent neuroplasticity,” tells us that the main way to develop inner strengths is to have experiences of them; if you have repeated feelings of gratitude, you will be more grateful. Neuroscience has shown that positive neural traits are built from positive mental states.
Problem. The brain is awesome at learning from bad experiences and sucks at learning from good ones. All of our brains have a “negativity bias.” We look for negative information, over-react to it, and then store these reactions in brain structure.
So, most of the positive experiences you have in your day are not converted into neural structure: they feel good in the moment but don’t have lasting value.
What you practice get stronger. Practice anxiety, anger, frustration, fear, and you will be better at anxiety, anger, frustration and fear.
Practice gratitude, forgiveness, compassion, understanding, patience, and you will be more grateful forgiving, compassionate, understanding, and patient.
And because of the negativity bias, you need to be intentional about practicing more of what you want in your life.
What kinds of experiences are you giving your brain?