COR’s theme for the month of July is another important aspect of the transformational journey: Letting in the Good! So what does this even mean? Essentially, letting in the good is the ability to recognize when something positive or good is happening and to actually take time to let this in, rather than immediately move on to the next thing. While this makes sense in theory and we may think, “Yeah, yeah, of course it’s important to do that,” the practice of letting in the good can be really challenging in reality.
Why is this so hard? Our brains are wired to have a negativity bias. This means that our brain is designed to easily go to the negative in order to help us survive. And our brain is very good at this. In fact, negative stimuli are perceived more rapidly and easily than positive stimuli. I remember my high school teacher did an activity with us to model this point. He gave me 3 compliments/ acknowledgments and then gave me one (fake) criticism. Guess which one I focused on and I still remember to this day? I still remember his criticism that my shoes were ugly.
This negativity bias makes sense. In order to survive and pass on their genes, our ancestors had to be on the lookout for danger. So basically, our brains are wired to constantly scan and be ready for potential dangers, disappointments, and interpersonal issues, even if we are happy and relaxed at that moment.
Now, unfortunately, this negativity bias can lead our brain into a vicious cycle where it actually increases the negative and decreases the positive. Meaning, when our brain focuses on the negative, it actually gradually changes your brain so that you progressively become more sensitive to stress and the negative in the future. Also, it makes it so we just skip by past our positive experiences so we can be ready for the next negative one. Whoopie!
This really rings true for me. If I’m not careful, my brain so easily goes to what I should be doing, what I could be doing better, or a fear around not having enough time or money. It’s always on the lookout to try and prevent something negative. But then I move past all of the beautiful and positive moments in my life, barely letting them sink in, like an amazing talk with a friend or the breeze on my face, the comfiness of my couch, or even the gift of my breath.
So all of this isn’t about bypassing the negative things in your life, just looking on the bright side, or negating negative emotions (which is how I was raised). This is about learning to recognize the good and actually let it in so that we can balance out our brain. By staying with positive experiences rather than just letting them pass by, we actually help this goodness and these beautiful moments stick in our brain and our long-term memory.
Building your own muscle of letting in the good can have a huge impact on your life. Letting in the good can actually increase your resilience to deal with negative events since your brain has an underlying reserve of positive experiences to pull from. It can also increase your state of happiness, peace, and ease which actually helps your mind think more clearly. Perhaps most importantly, it can make it so your brain is then re-wired to recognize even more positive experiences (like when you feel like you belong or are loved) and let them in, let them stick more easily.
That’s why this is so important on the transformational journey. Sometimes the personal growth path can focus on what went wrong, what pain is there. And that is needed and valid. However, it’s important to also let in the good so that we can heal. Letting in the good helps us keep going on this intense journey. It’s certainly helped me!
Want to learn more? Check out Hardwiring Happiness by Rick Hanson, Ph.D. Also, look out for a newsletter later this month with an awesome, easy, even daily tool that will help you wire your brain to let in the good more!
So as you complete this newsletter, I invite you to take 15 seconds to close your eyes and imagine someone who loves you. This could be a partner, family member, child, friend, mentor, or pet. As you think of them and their love, notice how that feels in your body. Does your heart warm? Does your stomach relax? And then take a moment to envision that sensation and that love growing just a little bit bigger with each inhale and exhale. Finally, with your next breathe, envision soaking all that goodness, all that positivity, and all that love into every cell and fiber of your body. Finally, take one last moment to linger there, one last breath in and out. And there you go!
So be on the lookout for the good moments this week. You don’t want to miss it—trust me!