Expressing gratitude and appreciation for life may seem as though it is easy, however, the process of experiencing these feelings within your body-mind system are often underestimated for their beneficial effects for naturally creating health, more pleasant relationships and greater learning. So when it comes to Thanksgiving and appreciation, start by making it food for thought including your body-mind system with your brain and your heart.
Buddha’s Brain, a book written by Rick Hanson, PhD, D and Richard Mendius, MD, details the practical neuroscience of happiness, love and wisdom. The evolution of the brain’s need for fight or flight in the face of danger over thousands of years of reinforcement is an important reason for the brain’s tendency to suspect the worst and remember difficulties long after the danger or situation has occurred. This pattern affects internal self-talk, relationship patterns, learning capacity and even world politics.The book continues to build upon the research that, indeed, the opportunity to transform the patterns of negative thinking is within each person’s reach today. The shift in consciousness to benefiting more from positive experiences leads to greater inner peace, self-esteem, heart health and resilience on a day-to-day basis. By doing so, it is like building an emotional bank account that helps you through days that are more challenging personally and in your relationships. In order to build the capacity to experience more beauty, joy, grace and ease within, it’s important to appreciate all the aspects of yourself as they come up. When you feel as though you’ve made an error, or fixate on a problem in your life, take the opportunity to notice something around you that you that is fortunate, happy or supportive in your life. This allows the brain to associate more than just the issue or problem in your awareness. It starts to build new neural pathways with less stress attached. This is self-compassion in action, and this also does your heart good. When the heart is in a state of appreciation, gratitude, love or joy it functions better expanding the electromagnetic field surrounding it, and this then expands the function of the brain. This helps the brain’s capacity to work with not just the survival or feeling brain. It activates the thinking and problem-solving brain that takes intention into action based on heart wisdom.
To see the world in a grain of sand, and to see heaven in a wild flower, hold infinity in the palm of your hands, and eternity in an hour. ~William Blake In Just One Thing , Rick Hanson, PhD suggests that one simple practice at a time builds new neural pathways with neurotransmitters that support better memory, sense of happiness, and outlook on life based on truly experiencing what is positive in your life. Here are a few ideas from the book, as well as some from my own practices. 1) Begin with Intention: Start the day with the intention to notice what is different about your experience or day. This can be done for a short amount of time, perhaps during a meal or in a transition time. 2) Change Your Awareness: Start by simply focusing on something that draws your attention visually to a sense of awe, pleasure, or beauty. This can also be done by closing your eyes by focusing on one sound, and then changing your focus with intention to a different sound in your environment you experience. Notice what is different. Choose sounds and sights that bring calm and joy to your heart. By doing so, you create the opportunity for new awareness and create more optimal flow of energy in your body-mind system to filter your choices.
3) Dine on Gratitude: Bring Thanksgiving into a meal each day, savor the colors and tastes of what you eat. Appreciate what has gone into creating the food you are eating including the sun, the earth, water, people and cook who has prepared this nourishing energy for your body-mind system. 4) Appreciation is In Your Hands: Look at your hands. They are the sub-chakras of your heart. Appreciate all the things you do with them throughout the day and through the years that have been beneficial to you and to others in the world. 5) Drizzle with Honey: To gain the full effect of these practices, allow the experience to stay with you and fully saturate your experience. Visualize or feel this experience as if honey were being poured through you. Take your time. Make the space for this to stay in your heart by imagining that you are breathing the feeling directly into your heart space.
6) More than Just “Thank you:” Share what you appreciate specifically when you speak to another person and yourself. For example, “ I appreciated the fact that you did all the shopping for the party. It really helped me feel like I’d have more time to get ready and to relax.” OR “ I did my best on that test, and I give myself credit for giving myself positive feedback while I kept working.”
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for bad experiences but Teflon for positive ones.
~Rick Hanson, PhD`