How to Rewire Our Brain for JOY in 2022

Happy New Year! Best wishes to everyone for a safe, healthy, abundant, and JOYFUL 2022.

Since my DIL is a neuroscientist, anything that relates to the brain and how it works is a topic of conversation around Casa de Enchanted Seashells.

According to Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Health, Happiness, and Wisdom, we can change our mind–to change our brain–to change our mind.

The beauty of self-directed neuroplasticity means we really can teach old dogs new tricks.

Author Rick Hanson’s premise is that if we intentionally choose positive thoughts, we can change our life for the better.

Here’s an excerpt about JOY:

Internalizing the Positive

1. Turn positive facts into positive experiences. Good things keep happening all around us, but much of the time we don’t notice them; even when we do, we often hardly feel them. Someone is nice to you, you see an admirable quality in yourself, a flower is blooming, you finish a difficult project — and it all just rolls by. Instead, actively look for good news, particularly the little stuff of daily life: the faces of children, the smell of an orange, a memory from a happy vacation, a minor success at work, and so on. Whatever positive facts you find, bring a mindful awareness to them — open up to them and let them affect you. It’s like sitting down to a banquet: don’t just look at it — dig in!

2. Savor the experience. It’s delicious! Make it last by staying with it for 5, 10, even 20 seconds; don’t let your attention skitter off to something else. The longer that something is held in awareness and the more emotionally stimulating it is, the more neurons that fire and thus wire together, and the stronger the trace in memory.

“Focus on your emotions and body sensations, since these are the essence of implicit memory. Let the experience fill your body and be as intense as possible. For example, if someone is good to you, let the feeling of being cared about bring warmth to your whole chest.

“Pay particular attention to the rewarding aspects of the experience — for example, how good it feels to get a great big hug from someone you love. Focusing on these rewards increases dopamine release, which makes it easier to keep giving the experience your attention, and strengthens its neural associations in implicit memory. You’re not doing this to cling to the rewards — which would eventually make you suffer — but rather to internalize them so that you carry them inside you and don’t need to reach for them in the outer world.

“You can also intensify an experience by deliberately enriching it. For example, if you are savoring a relationship experience, you could call up other feelings of being loved by others, which will help stimulate oxytocin — the ‘bonding hormone’ — and thus deepen your sense of connection. Or you could strengthen your feelings of satisfaction after completing a demanding project by thinking about some of the challenges you had to overcome.

3. Imagine or feel that the experience is entering deeply into your mind and body, like the sun’s warmth into a T-shirt, water into a sponge, or a jewel placed in a treasure chest in your heart. Keep relaxing your body and absorbing the emotions, sensations, and thoughts of the experience.”

Holding Sacred Space

Sacred / Scared

Switch one letter and not only is the word changed, but so is the meaning. That opens up a whole new conversation about fear; fear of the known and fear of the unknown. I can admit that I own all of it in every form.

Recently, I was chatting about sacred space and how to define that concept. I wasn’t quite sure I knew enough about it to offer an intelligent explanation that would make sense-I’m still not sure it makes sense for a lot of reasons, but I know that it accurately describes how I’m feeling.

When we hold space, we release control. Yup, that’s about right.

It’s another way to show unconditional love. It’s SCARY.

According to GoodTherapy.org, around the midpoint of life, we start picking up hints that we’re not going to live forever. In Once Upon a Midlife, Allan Chinen describes how shocking this realization can be, accompanied by anxiety and grief.

Especially at such a point, a sense of the sacred can act to ground us. As the fact of “me” begins to lose its apparent guarantee of continuance as well as its centrality (because how central to the universe can I be if I’m not going to be around?), the universe is less and less about me. But perhaps I become more and more about something else, something larger than me.

As above, so below…

Carl Jung notes that, in this way, the ego becomes relativized and the process of individualization—becoming wholly who we were meant to be—is accomplished. We begin to live in a system of meaning where the earth revolves around the sun, the sun rotates through the galaxy, and the galaxy itself follows its own great attractor. Our experience then seems to participate in larger movements, whether those are our family or a cause in which we believe or humanity in general, a spiritual pathway or the life of the universe.

Everyone has trauma.

The only way through trauma is to feel it. If a person doesn’t feel their pain, their anger, their fear—if they instead repress it—it grows and festers, like a sliver that doesn’t get pulled out. But feelings like pain, anger and fear are painful and scary!  Feeling them isn’t fun. It takes a great amount of courage and strength to do so.

Holding space means letting go of judgment, of opening your heart and lending your courage; your strength. It means being there or not being there but communicating a safe environment like a safety net for someone you care for to exorcise the hurt within them.

Allowing that person to cry, to scream, to shudder; witnessing their authentic experience and reacting with love and acceptance to the extent that you are able, is a powerful way to support them in this most important spiritual and emotional work, holding hands physically and/or emotionally to walk through their journey of self discovery.

For me, it’s a little different. It might not make sense to anyone else but I visualize holding space more like a drawer I’ve cleared out in my bedroom or a space I’ve left empty in my heart. Being that resolute and solitary lighthouse, that beacon of shining white light on a dark and stormy night, blinking through the fog.

For me, this is sacred — even though at times it scares me to death.

 

(Featured image by Google/Pinterest)

 

Gratitude + Joy

I don’t often post pictures of Angel Boy 2.0 because we are all protective of his image but every single time I look at this photo, it sets my world right again, so I thought I’d share it with my friends.

With hurricanes and floods and fires and murders and other toxic disasters that seem to engulf our consciousness lately, there’s the opposite and equally powerful tug of LOVE at our hearts and minds and souls and spirits.

He’s the reason why my sun rises every single day.

Pure in his magnificence, my heart softens and melts. And heals.

Just a boy and his Peppa the Pig plate full of a lentil burger, broccoli, hummus, and tomatoes.

Pure love. We all need a big dose it right about now.

theo peppa.JPG