Daily Grateful: Be Aware, Not Wary

March 30, 2014

Taking in the good is….good for you. You’ve heard the phrases, “Give me a moment,” or “Let me take a moment.” Moments are all we have. They’re gifts; little parcels of space-time that enable us to live more fully. By enabling/permitting ourselves to dwell in the moments of life more deeply, we’re actually helping shape our brain to do positive things. In today’s post, Rick Hanson explains how that helps–from a technical point of view, while increasingly well-known Buddhist Thich Nhat Hanh explains it as only he can. I love that modern science and ancient teachings have finally come together–even though the words they use to describe it are different, the results, the outcome, and the goals are the same.

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Noticing the little miracles of every day life isn’t just a good idea, it’s actually *good* for you!

Rick Hanson enjoins us to “take in the good” to wire our brains for happiness:

“Positive experiences, especially if they have a sense of freshness about them, increase the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine. While you are taking in the good [experiences], you typically prolong dopamine inputs to your amygdala.These sustained releases of dopamine make it react more intensely to good facts and experiences, with associated signals to your hippocampus saying essentially. ‘This is a keeper, remember this one.’ “

~ Rick Hanson

This is not a new concept, but one that has been fostered and promoted for thousands of years. As if channelling the “ancient neuroscientists,” the renowned Buddhist philosopher, author, and teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, agrees:

“Getting in touch with the beauty of nature makes life much more beautiful, much more real, and the more mindful and concentrated you are, the more deep the sunset will reveal itself to you. Your happiness is multiplied by ten, by twenty. Look at a leaf or a flower with mindfulness, listen to the song of a bird, and you will go much more deeply in touch with them. After a minute of this practice, your joy will increase; your breathing will become deeper and more gentle; and this gentleness and depth will influence your body.”

~ Thich Naht Hanh

Underneath these similar approaches to mindfulness lies a core  embracing of a child-like “wonderment”  of the natural world. In the last class of my first Buddhist course, when asked what he “got out of the class,” a fellow student explained that he was able to tap into the child-like wonder of the world again, and that things he’d so often taken for granted as a mature (he’s 70) adult were now a source of engagement and  joy. As far as I can tell, this is pretty much the opposite of fearfulness and anxiety, with a focus on aware-ness rather than wary-ness. Food for mindful thought…

Yours in Mental Hygiene,

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The Ancient Brain and Modern Mindfulness

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