A number of clients tell me that, while they can put themselves into a good-feeling inner state through meditation, thinking new thoughts, spending time with friends, etc., they find that it doesn’t take much to knock them down again off their high. They wonder if they’re hopelessly depressive or pessimistic.
My first response is always to reassure them that they are not abnormal and that there is nothing wrong with them. Human beings, by nature, experience what’s called in psychological studies a strong “negativity bias,” in which things of a negative nature--thoughts, emotions, and events--garner our attention far more often and more profoundly than things of a positive nature. It’s a survival mechanism that the human brain has learned over the millennia. It seems we are programmed to troll for perceived dangers as a way of protecting ourselves.
Is it all hopeless then? Should we just give up and accept that we’re doomed to feel bad a lot of the time? Not so fast. I always reassure clients that they can retrain their brains to allow and hold onto good feelings more of the time. In Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence, Rick Hanson explains that enjoying better mental health is as easy as lingering for longer periods of time over good-feeling moments. Say someone compliments you: oftentimes, we deny the statement to ourselves or, if we allow it, we allow it only for a second or two and then move on to the next subject. What if instead you basked in the compliment for several minutes and allowed yourself to silently enjoy the feeling of the good that’s been associated with you. When you’re alone, you could even close your eyes and meditate on how nice it feels to be appreciated. You’ll retrain your brain to troll for good feelings, and in no time, you’ll be thinking, I love my ability to let in the good.
You're reading the Bad Thoughts Blog, which maintains that feeling good is as simple as thinking a better thought. I'm Debbie Covino, hypnotherapist, coach, speaker, author, and creator of the All Day Hypnosis© series, available at www.hypnotic-wellbeing.com
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