“If you are like me and many people, you go through each day zipping from one thing to another. But along the way, when’s the last time you stopped for ten seconds to feel and take in one of the positive moments that happen in even the most hectic day? If you don’t take those extra seconds to enjoy and stay with the experience, it passes through you like wind through the trees, momentarily pleasant but with no lasting value.”
~ Hardwiring Happiness “The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm and Confidence” by Dr. Rick Hanson
“Mindfulness” is a current buzz word in the media. It can cause many of us to roll our eyes and move right past it. But mindfulness is simply about staying present moment by moment. In a world where we are blasted by social media and addicted to our devices, there are seldom moments where we are truly present and not being distracted or interrupted by another demand. The neuro science behind mindfulness is life changing. The truth is you are constantly growing new neural circuits in your brain, in essence, you are hardwiring your brain to think a certain way which leads your body to feel a certain way. You have the ability to “Hardwire Happiness.” The brain takes its shape from that which it rests upon. If you are resting your mind in self-criticism, worries, grumbling about others, hurts, stress, then your brain will be shaped into greater reactivity, vulnerability to anxiety and depressed mood, a narrow focus on threats and losses, and inclination toward anger; sadness and guilt. On the other hand, if you keep resting your mind on good events and conditions, pleasant feelings, the things you did get done, physical pleasures, and your good intentions, and qualities then over time your brain will take a different shape, one with strength and resilience hardwired into it, a positive mood and a sense of worth.
Since neurons that “fire” together, “wire” together, staying with negative experience past the point that’s useful is like running laps in Hell, you dig the track a little deeper in your brain each time you go around it. The brain was created with a negativity bias. Dr Hanson explains it as “velcro” for bad experiences and “teflon” for good ones. This is a survival mechanism, if the brain remembers the bad, then it can keep the body safe by avoiding the bad experience. The brain is the most important organ in your body, and what happens in it determines what you think and feel, say and do. This is why I always begin trauma work with “mindfulness” techniques. We have to be connected to our bodies and aware of what we are thinking and feeling in order to regulate ourselves and heal.
The brain’s amazing capacity to change and adapt is called neuroplasticity. And neuroplasticity begins with awareness. Awareness requires “mindfulness”… the art of being present, recognizing what is happening with your thoughts, feelings and behaviors and intentionally making a shift. Curiosity is the conduit for mindfulness… and it is also the antidote for judgment. When we can allow ourselves room for curiosity while having connectedness to our body we can truly learn to be present.