Everyday Resilience: Choose Joy
My cousin, Janice, might be 9 years younger than me but she's a wise soul nonetheless! Between having been a neonatal intensive care nurse, having walked alongside her mother through her lung cancer journey and finally having provided her mother's hospice care in their home, she's seen some suffering in her day. What's the insight she has gained from these experiences? That each day we can choose our mindset. And Janice chooses joy.
This resonates deeply with the work of psychologist, Rick Hanson, who is known for saying, "The mind is like Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon (think nonstick pans) for positive ones." As we evolved, fighting our way up the food chain, our brains developed a negativity bias, which means that our lower survival brains preferentially pay attention to, and store, negative information over positive information. A negative interaction with someone has 5 times the sticking power of a positive one! Think about how you mull over a negative experience - sometimes you replay it in your mind for years, whereas that compliment you received goes in one ear and out the other.
And yet - most of our experiences throughout the day are neutral, or positive. Even when you are practicing social distancing during a coronavirus pandemic. Right?
One of my favorite sayings in the trauma-informed community comes from the neuroscience field: "Neurons that fire together wire together". We can choose to sit with positive experiences longer, to let them sink in, and when we do this consistently, we literally shift our brain wiring. 😎 "So the takeaway point is to be very thoughtful about what you think about all day long," says Rick Hanson.
Get your thinking off autopilot negativity. Take in the good! Turn a positive moment into an actual experience by noticing where in your body you feel it, allowing yourself to savor it for 30 seconds or so, and imagining it being woven into the fabric of your life. If you aren't having many positive moments these days, intentionally create some - I'm baking like crazy because that gives me instant gratification, and then I'm giving it away because that feels good too. What works for you - a funny movie? Music and dancing? Being out in nature? Feeling pleasure, being happy isn't a nicety - it's a necessity. And it helps us to be resilient.