Savoring the positive

Wall Street stock plunges. Rancorous politics. Famine in the Sudan. High unemployment. We can’t run away from our problems; they need our attention. But, personally, I need a break.

Of late, I’ve found myself unusually pessimistic–even about things that normally wouldn’t concern me. Free-floating anxiety. Mild paranoia. Over-thinking. What’s going on?

Thoughts do matter. If we allow life events, even painful ones, to lead to suffering, our brains are literally rewired. The good news is that we can reverse this pattern, not by suppressing the negative, but by internalizing the positive.

This is the message of “Buddha’s Brain: the practical neuroscience of happiness, love & wisdom” by Rick Hanson, Ph.D. Dr. Hanson describes brain function in detail while offering easy-to-follow steps for creating more happiness in your life.

1.”Turn positive facts into positive experiences.”¬†If you see something beautiful, admirable or happy, stop to notice it. Bring your full awareness to it. Let it affect you.

2. ¬†”Savor the experience.” Stay with your experience for 5, 10, even 20 seconds. Focus on your emotions and body sensations. Pay attention to the rewarding aspects of this experience.

3. ¬†”Imagine or feel that the experience is entering deeply into your mind and body.” Relax and absorb the emotions, sensations and thoughts of the experience.

On my morning walk around Grey’s lake today, I resolved to follow Dr. Hanson’s suggestions. Lingering at trees I had admired but strolled by so many times, I recognized the species–cottonwoods. Towering trees with large canopies, they frame the lake dramatically. The bark is rough and stone grey. The leaves are triangular in shape.

Studying these trees took me back to childhood, when my sister Susie and I would sit on our front porch during thunderstorms and watch the cottonwoods across the street. Swaying and bending, they appeared capable of falling and landing at our feet–or even on our heads. We had no fear, though, simply love for these larger than life friends.

Taking in this experience today, I feel better already. I’m going to continue this practice–and in the meantime, turn off the TV, scan the newspaper more quickly, and ignore financial reports on my IRA.

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