Bothered by negative thoughts? Just throw them away

November 29, 2012

If you want to get rid of unwanted, negative thoughts, try just ripping them up and tossing them in the trash. In a new study, researchers found that when people wrote down their thoughts on a piece of paper and then threw the paper away, they mentally discarded the thoughts as well. On the other hand, people were more likely to use their thoughts when making judgments if they first wrote them down on a piece of paper and tucked the paper in a pocket to protect it. “However you tag your thoughts — as trash or as worthy of protection — seems to make a difference in how you use those thoughts,” said Richard … Read more »

On thanks-giving

November 22, 2012

It’s Thanksgiving in the US, and so I thought it would be a good idea to highlight some of the articles we’ve published about gratitude: the science and spirituality of gratitude, how to cultivate it, and how cultivating it can benefit you. But before we do, I’d like to thank the many kind people who have contributed their talents to Wildmind’s website over the years, as well as all the readers (1.5 million of you this year!) who are what it’s really all about.

Rick Hanson PhD

Nov 05, 2012

Waking up to the positive

Waking up is like the sun rising. At first it’s mostly dark, as glimmers of consciousness begin to light the … Read more »

Waking up to the positive

November 5, 2012

Waking up is like the sun rising. At first it’s mostly dark, as glimmers of consciousness begin to light the shadows. Emerging into full wakefulness, the fogs and veils dissolve and the whole plain of your mind comes into view. It’s quiet: a restedness in the body, sleepy still, not yet much internal verbal chatter. There’s an intimacy with yourself, abiding as the core of your be-ing.

During these first few minutes, your mind and brain are very receptive to influence. If, hypothetically, a loud alarm suddenly began clanging, you’d probably feel rattled for hours; on the other hand, if someone you love suddenly began telling you how much he or she cared about you, … Read more »

Becoming a rock-solid regular meditator: an update

November 1, 2012
Photo courtesy of EverydayBalance
Six weeks ago I wrote a post about an attempt I was making to make my meditation practice into a “without fail” daily practice. I’ve tended to skip days here and there, and really wanted to become a rock-solid regular meditator.

The particular approach I was taking hinged on the key element of self-definition. We all carry views about ourselves. These views are often not consciously articulated, but they run very deep and shape our thoughts, our emotions, and our actions.

What I decided to do was to consciously take on the task of redefining myself as a daily (no exceptions!) meditator, by repeating to myself phrases like “I meditate every … Read more »

Learning to focus on the positive

October 3, 2012

There are always things that are getting worse. For example, over the past year, you probably know someone who has become unemployed or ill or both, and there’s more carbon in the atmosphere inexorably heating up the planet.

But if you don’t recognize what’s improving in your own life, then you feel stagnant, or declining. This breeds what researchers call “learned helplessness” – a dangerously slippery slope: in the original experiments on dogs, whose motivational neural systems are like our own in important ways, it was very easy to train them in helplessness but very, very hard to teach them later that they could actually walk a few steps to escape from painful electric shock.… Read more »

Becoming a rock-solid regular meditator

September 14, 2012

I really admire those few people I know who can honestly say they’ve been meditating for 10 or 20 years, and that they’ve never missed a day. I’ve been meditating for 30 years, but I’ve never been able to attain that kind of regularity. Sure, I’ve had periods of months at a time when I’ve never missed a day, but eventually I get tripped up and start missing days here and there. It doesn’t help that I have two young kids and that my sleep is often interrupted.

In some ways this irregularity might not matter. I’ve made progress. I’m kinder than I used to be. I’ve experienced all kinds of meditative states, including the … Read more »

Feed the mouse: using appreciation to generate inner nourishment

September 7, 2011

As the nervous system evolved, your brain developed in three stages:

  • Reptile – Brainstem, focused on avoiding harm
  • Mammal – Limbic system, focused on approaching rewards
  • Primate – Cortex, focused on attaching to “us”

Since the brain is integrated, avoiding, approaching, and attaching are accomplished by its parts working together. Nonetheless, each of these functions is particularly served and shaped by the region of the brain that first evolved to handle it.

Petting your inner lizard was about how to soothe and calm the most ancient structures of the brain, the ones that manage the first emotion of all: fear. This article continues the series by focusing on how to help the early mammalian parts … Read more »

How to live without causing fear

August 8, 2011

We evolved to be afraid.

The ancient ancestors that were casual and blithely hopeful, underestimating the risks around them – predators, loss of food, aggression from others of their kind – did not pass on their genes. But the ones that were nervous were very successful – and we are their great-grandchildren, sitting atop the food chain.

Consequently, multiple hair-trigger systems in your brain continually scan for threats. At the least whiff of danger – which these days comes mainly in the form of social hazards like indifference, criticism, rejection, or disrespect – alarm bells start ringing. See a frown across a dinner table, hear a cold tone from a supervisor, get interrupted repeatedly, receive … Read more »

Hug your inner monkey!

August 1, 2011

To simplify a complex process, your brain evolved in three stages:

  • Reptile – Brainstem, focused on avoiding harm
  • Mammal – Limbic system, focused on approaching rewards
  • Primate – Cortex, focused on attaching to “us”

This post is about weaving the sense of being included and loved into the primate cerebral cortex.

In ancient times, membership in a band was critical to survival: exile was a death sentence in the Serengeti. Today, feeling understood, valued, and cherished – whether as a child or an adult, and with regard to another person or to a group – may not be a life and death matter (though studies do show that survival rates for cancer and other major … Read more »

Into ‘the science of thriving’

July 23, 2011

Anndee Hochman (The Inquirer): Richard Davidson has seen people change their minds.

Davidson, a neuroscientist at the University of Wisconsin, has used high-tech imaging tools to peer into the brains of Buddhist monks, electrodes trailing like spaghetti from their scalps, as they practice meditation. And he has seen their brains light up in areas related to empathy, attention, and mind-body interaction.

Davidson’s conclusion: We can train our brains – and our selves – to be more attentive, more compassionate, and even happier. “The key point is that happiness and other positive characteristics are best regarded as skills,” he says. “We can . . . engage in intentional efforts to cultivate positive habits of mind.”

Davidson … Read more »