Mindfully focusing on the good is necessary to overcome our negative default.
Have you ever noticed how often your conversations go to commiserating over obstacles and disappointments? I sit here raising my hand in acknowledgment. We use negative experiences to connect with others. ~ The boss expects unrealistic results. My husband tossed his dirty clothes beside the hamper again. My two active young boys drain all my energy.
Why is this? The answer is not solely attributed to social conditioning. Did you know that it is five times easier to notice or remember the negative over the positive? Our brain’s default wiring is geared toward surviving in prehistoric conditions by avoiding and escaping dangerous situations. No wonder negative experiences stick with us! Our brain continually seeks to warn us against future potential catastrophes. Unfortunately, this default condition becomes more damaging than helpful in our modern world leading to depression, anxiety and fear.
Mental exercise re-wires your brain.
However, escaping this negative thinking tendency is possible (although not easy). Neuroscience shows you really can train your brain through mental exercise. In fact, the structure of the brain changes in just 1.5 hours of mindfulness practice. Mindfulness increases gray matter concentration in the hippocampus, the memory and learning powerhouse portion of the brain, and decreases cell volume in the amygdala, the emotional behavior captain of the brain. The result = reduced fear, anxiety and stress. The more you practice mindfulness, the more you benefit. It’s hard to disagree that mindfulness is a habit worth cultivating!
Mindfully absorb happy moments.
We have to consciously decide to make our positive experiences stick – to absorb those happy moments and weave them into new neural pathways. How do we accomplish this? Practice mindfulness when you experience joy or gratitude in the moment. Absorb the experience and use your mind to explore all aspects so it really syncs in. As you notice the small details of those moments, extend the time you appreciate feelings of happiness for a full 20-30 seconds. Don’t just experience joy and gratitude, rather enjoy and savor. Additionally, consider keeping a gratitude journal and nurture your positive mindfulness practice later in the day. Continually exercising the mindfulness practice is how we hardwire happiness in our brains and in our lives.
Wishing you love and light, Jennifer
*If you are interested in learning more, I put together a practical mindfulness guide that you can sign up for on my website here.
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