Savour the good!

I recently concluded a career development programme with female academics and researchers and on our last workshop we took some time to celebrate the successes that they were achieving.  There was lots to note, small wins and big and we explored how easy it is for any of us to miss all that is going well.

You’ve heard me mention many times the importance of celebrating the small wins and not just waiting for crescendo moments.  In this week’s blog, I was to share with you a little exercise that allows you to really experience the joy in small wins and in the many simple pleasant moments and experiences that pepper our days, every day.

The reason this is SO important is that our brains automatically and preferentially scan for, register, store, recall and react to unpleasant experiences. 

As Rick Hanson says, in his book Buddha’s Brain, your brain is

“Like Velcro for the negative and Teflon to the positive!”

Rick Hanson, Buddha’s Brain

As a result, no matter how many positive experiences we have, the background music or wallpaper of what it feels like to be you can become overly “glum and pessimistic”.

We have to systematically counterbalance that.  We don’t deny that negative things happen nor do we suppress those experiences.  We can feel the disappointments or upsets and take the learning from them. 

AND we foster positive experiences, allow them in, so that they become a permanent part of who we are.  The goal therefore, is to turn positive facts into positive experiences. 

As Hanson says,

Good things keep happening all around us, but much of the time we don’t notice them and even when we do, we often hardly feel them – someone is kind to you, you see an admirable quality in yourself, you finish a difficult project and it all just rolls by.  Instead, you want to actively look for good news, especially in the little stuff of daily life, the faces of children, a memory of a happy vacation, a minor success.  Whatever positive facts you find bring a mindful awareness to them.  Open up to them and let them affect you.  It’s like sitting down to a banquet, you want to dig in!”

Rick Hanson

Let’s take a moment now to experience that banquet of goodness.  Here are the steps adapted from Hanson’s work to guide you through the process

  1. Identify something positive you’ve experienced and bring it to mind.
  2. Now savour the experience.  Feel the pleasure and enjoyment.  Make it last by staying with it now –savouring it for 5, 10, 20 seconds.  Don’t let your attention waver just yet. Focus on your emotions and body sensations, let the experience fill your body and be as intense as possible.  For example, if someone complimented you or expressed care for you, let that feeling of being valued or cared for bring warmth to your whole chest.  Notice how good it feels. 
  3. You can intensify this by deliberately enriching it, bringing to mind other pleasant experiences.  For example, you could strengthen your feelings of satisfaction after completing a demanding project or submitting a paper or filing your tax return (for all you entrepreneurs out there!) by recalling some other challenges you have overcome.
  4. Imagine or feel that the experience is entering deeply into your mind and body, like rain soaking into the earth.  Keep relaxing your body and absorbing the emotions, sensations and thoughts of the experience.

The longer you can hold the experience/s in your awareness and the more emotionally stimulating it is the more neurons that fire and wire together and the stronger the trace memory you’re creating. 

When you carry all this positive feeling inside you, you don’t need to reach for it in the outer world.  You are more at peace and confident in yourself.  And in the context of living the life you love, you realise it as it’s happening and are more daring about taking steps to experience more of it.

Try this out for a week and see the difference it makes!  Let me know how you get on.

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