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Taking in the Good: Dr. Rick Hanson on Countering the Negativity Bias

Did you know that the human brain tends to act like teflon to positive experiences and like velcro to negative experiences? This is a wonderful metaphor Dr. Rick Hanson uses in the video below to describe the brain’s negativity bias, in essence, its tendency to absorb and remember readily negative experiences and potential threats combined with its tendency to not so readily absorb and remember positive experiences.

Importantly, these velcro/teflon tendencies of your brain are not your fault.

Also importantly, you and I and everyone can counteract these negative bias tendencies deliberately, and by doing so can actually affect our brains, positively counteracting the stress associated with the negativity bias.

We can use the mind to change the brain for the better—and that’s the power (essentially) of self-directed neuroplasticity. And we need to use that power to change our own brains for the better. —Dr. Rick Hanson (quote from video below)

So how might we do this? One practice Dr. Hanson describes is that of taking in the good. As he describes in the video, the process entails the following three steps:

  1. Look for good facts and let them become good experiences.
  2. Savour the good experience for 10 seconds or more. (This will give your brain a chance to process and absorb this good experience — to act more like velcro toward the good experience instead of like teflon.)
  3. Sense the experience sinking into you.

Perhaps you might like to pause and take 15 seconds or so to try that now? The good can be anything: the appreciation of a cup of coffee or tea, dry/warm shelter, the beauty of a song, the friendliness of someone or kind gesture… .

Over the months since a colleague introduced me to this video, I have directed many people to it. There are usually a few elements of the video that people tell me really spoke to them. One of the elements is a story/metaphor Dr. Hanson tells near the end. I won’t share it here so as not to spoil the surprise—but a hint is that it involves the concept of “feeding”.

My hope is that Dr. Hanson’s presentation will offer you a gift of inspiration and of hope.



(Signing off from Gift Two… )