Managing Depression and Anxiety:The Velcro and Teflon Brain

YOU HAVE THE POWER to rewire your brain.  What is required is our attention and intention. It’s that simple. And that hard.

We now know from neuroscience that our brains are wired to “allow” negative thoughtsVelcro-Dart-Board to instantly cling like Velcro while positive thoughts often bounce off UNLESS we bring our attention and intention to them.

Try it yourself. Think of a positive thought for no less than 15 seconds and it will then become a part of you, a part of your day, a part of your thinking.  This simple exercise can be transformative and it is something I teach students when they come to see me.

Bottom Line: The next time right after you read this that you feel something negative about yourself or about life: 1) see the thought as just a thought–recognize that it is there; 2) do not be angry at the thought or guilt and shameful; 3) instead, forgive it for its negativity and for trying to hurt you; 4) think of a positive thought for 15 seconds; 5) see yourself choosing happiness and joy.

positiveThis is very powerful and can help rewire the brain to allow for a more positive outlook on life.  Please read below an excerpt from an interview with Dr. Rick Hanson, Ph.D. The full interview can be found here:

https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/the_neuroscience_of_happiness/

 

Dr. Rick Hanson, Ph.D.: The brain is like Velcro for negative experiences but Teflon for positive experiences.

For most of us, as we go through the day, most of the moments in life are either neutral or positive. The problem is that neutral or positive moments get remembered with standard memory systems, which is to say they’re mostly in-and-out. But negative experiences are instantly registered and intensely focused on, based on the negativity bias of the brain. Then they get stored in what’s called “implicit memory”—not so much memory for events, like what I did on my summer vacation, but rather the feeling of being alive. And that implicit memory bank gets shaded in a darker and darker way by the slowly accumulating residue of negative experiences.

To counteract that, we need to actively build up positive implicit memories to balance this unfair accumulation of negative implicit memories. And the way to do that is three steps…

  1. The first step is to turn positive events into positive experiences. All kinds of good things happen in our daily life that we hardly notice at all, and if we do, we don’t feel it. Someone pays us a compliment, we hardly pay attention to it, or we deflect it. So instead of that you turn positive events into positive experiences.
  2. Second, really savor it. In other words, the way to remember something is to make it intense, felt in the body, and lasting. That’s how we give those neurons lots and lots time to fire together so they start wiring together. So rather than noticing it and feeling good for a couple of seconds, stay with it. Relish it, enjoy it, for 10, 20, or 30 seconds, so it really starts developing neural structure.
  3. The third step is to sense and intend that this positive experience is sinking into you and becoming a part of you. In other words, it’s becoming woven into the fabric of your brain and yourself.

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