Activating Positive Mental States

Building on our post from yesterday about negative bias, today we look at Dr. Rick Hanson’s work in terms of activating positive mental states. By explaining short term versus long term memory capacity, Dr. Hanson states: “The takeaway point is that most positive experiences wash through the brain like water through a sieve, while negative ones are caught every time.” 

We can’t escape the negative bias; it is part of our evolutionary brain. But we can work towards activating positive mental states, what Dr. Hanson refers to as “taking in the good.” This can occur in three steps:

  1. When having a positive experience, notice it. It could be in the foreground or in the background of awareness, but either way, you want to begin by simply paying attention to how it feels to be in this positive experience.
  2. Enrich the experience. In order for the good to be taken in, it needs to be extended past the short term memory buffer. Making it last longer than 20 seconds gets you over the threshold. Drink in the moment, close your eyes, take some deep breaths; simply feel the positive emotions linked to the experience.
  3. Absorb the experience. This is through a conscious intention to focus on the positive experience as sifting down into you.

“Taking in the good” is a practice that instills growth; it’s focus is to accept, yet also challenge, our negative bias with the notion that we can also consciously choose an overall better state of mind.

To visit Dr. Rick Hanson’s website:

Photo credit: http://Photo by Hudson Hintze on Unsplash

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