By Bhanu Joy Harrison, LCSW, SEP, UCLA Trained Mindfulness Facilitator
It’s hard to pay attention and ‘take in the good’ things in our lives. Dr. Rick Hanson, author and mindfulness teacher, coined this phrase, highlighting a simple mindfulness practice. We are ‘hard wired’ to pay attention to experiences that may harm us. It’s called the “negativity bias”. In order to pay attention to positive experiences, we must override this implicit default setting.
A gratitude practice confers many benefits: strengthening our immune system, protecting our cardiovascular system, encouraging motivation, optimism, resilience and happiness and decreasing anxiety, envy and depression. Many of us spend our lives working hard so we can feel good in the future. What about right now? Even if you have pain or life challenges, you can still practice taking in the good.
Try this practice:
- Sit or lie comfortably, taking a few deep breaths.
- Think of a goodness in your life – being able to see, having a good friend, hearing a
favorite song, noticing a flower, etc.
- As you savor this good thing, notice the sensations you feel in your body: expansion in your chest when seeing the blue sky, the heart felt connection with your friend, the bounce in your body moving with music…
- Stretch out these good sensations for at least 12-15 seconds, focusing not on the thoughts of the goodness, but on the positive body experience.
That’s it! Stretching out positive sensations helps your body grow new neural pathways that counteract the negativity bias. What a gift that is!
Focusing on good feelings of having a close friend opened and relaxed my chest and lungs, allowing me to breathe more easily, even with my asthma! S.P., ABQ