Two of us (plus a dog named Jakob) walked a few blocks to watch bits of the parade: many American marching bands (they sure know how to do it well), interspersed with grown men on tiny scooters and big trucks blowing their horns. Standing in the sun amidst the happy crowd, many with lawn chairs and drink coolers, I inhaled the carefree atmosphere. Even cops driving their shiny motorcycles up and down the parade route, each earning double overtime and having fun waving at people, added to the festive mood. For split seconds, I felt none of the associations that crowds, busy streets, and police sirens usually convey.
“Good things keep happening all around us,” neuropsychologist Rick Hanson reminds me, “but much of the time we don’t notice them; even when we do, we often hardly feel them.” To counterbalance the built-in negativity bias, the brain’s tendency to scan for, register, and recall negative experiences, he suggests that we bring mindful awareness to positive facts, thus turning them into positive experiences. “Let the experience fill your body and be as intense as possible. …
“The rebuilding process gives you the opportunity, right down in the micro-circuitry of your brain, to gradually shift the emotional shading of your interior landscape. … Every time you do this … you build a little bit of neural structure. Over time, the accumulating impact of this positive material will literally, synapse by synapse, change your brain.”
All this requires effort: I have to remember to pay attention, to spot and internalize moments of happiness, and to bring awareness to the bodily experience of being free of stress. Old habits (and ancient wiring) resist all change, even if it’s for the better.
See also my previous post on re-wiring the brain. source: Hanson, R. (2009). Buddha’s brain: the practical neuroscience of happiness, love, and wisdom. New Harbinger, p. 68-71. image: victoriadailyphoto.blogspot.com