Embracing positive and negative experiences

Learn how to be more positive by paying attention to the positive and good in your environment.

There are many paraphrases out there designed to help people get through tough times or to ignore difficult times or emotions. Phases such as “it is what it is”, “this too shall pass”, “tough it out”, “no pain, no gain”. These phrases may help in that they reappear in your mind when those times come again. In the book “Buddha’s Brain – The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love and Wisdom” it states that the remedy is not to suppress experiences; when they happen, they happen. The remedy rather is to foster positive experiences and in particular, to take them in so they become a permanent part of you. The book provides three steps to internalizing the positive:

  1. Turn positive facts into positive experiences. There are positive or good things happening all around us that we don’t notice and when we do we hardly feel them. We let positive remarks, gestures, scenery all just roll by like if on auto-pilot letting something else drive us through the day. Having more positive experiences requires we first look for them. Once you start looking, having an experience will follow. Whenever positive facts you find, bring a mindful awareness or approach to them – open up to them and let them affect you. The authors say it is kike a banquet: don’t just look at it, dig in! This leads to the next step.
  2. Savor the experience - make the experience last by staying with the moment for 5, 10 even 20 seconds before drifting off to something else. When in this mindfulness awareness, pay attention to the rewarding aspects of the experience – how good does it feel, what senses are stimulated, did it radiate through the body? The goal is to intensify an experience by deliberately enriching it. An example would be to strengthen your feelings of satisfaction after completing a demanding project by thinking about some of the challenges you had to overcome.
  3. The third step is to follow that experience as it enters your body and mind. Visualizing the experience or following the path of sensation, helps to keep those positive experiences locked inside as a treasure to recall to counteract and eventually wipe out the default negativity wiring in our brains.

Michigan State University Extension has social-emotional health programming that can help in developing a positive outlook. “Stress Less with Mindfulness, Relax: Alternatives to Anger and Nurturing Families” are program series that can help. Peruse the website to locate a series in your county. 

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