Pause . . . to Help Joy Stick

Find a place inside where there’s joy, and the joy will burn out the pain.”
– Joseph Campbell 

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Following on from my last post – What Makes You Happy?  – I decided to explore the concept of Joy.  Many people, including myself, tend to use the terms happiness and joy interchangeably, but one psychology website describes the difference as:
Joy and happiness are wonderful feelings to experience, but are very different. Joy is more consistent and is cultivated internally. It comes when you make peace with who you are, why you are and how you are, whereas happiness tends to be externally triggered and is often based on other people, things, places, thoughts and events.

 

Tara Brach describes joy as the aliveness and openness that occurs when we let ourselves be available to the whole play of existence. It’s a natural capacity, in our wiring, and it can be cultivated.

Joy comes from a habit of thinking and can be a contributor to our bio chemistry. We sustain a joy set point, as it were, based on what we think about and focus on.

Deepak Chopra explains that when you activate a positive belief, your cells get the message.

 

One way to cultivate joy, is through gratitude. Studies have shown that gratitude changes the body/mind chemistry. So when you have an experience and you feel good because of that experience, take time and allow yourself to feel good; PAUSE and let it sink in — ‘install it.’

Rick Hanson suggests that we try to take in the good and make it stick. He explains that in order to create the trait — make it ‘stickier.’ Taking that time to pause gives it this stickiness.
“Scientists believe that your brain has a built-in “negativity bias.” In other words, as we evolved over millions of years, dodging sticks and chasing carrots, it was a lot more important to notice, react to, and remember sticks than it was for carrots.

That’s because — in the tough environments in which our ancestors lived — if they missed out on a carrot, they usually had a shot at another one later on. But if they failed to avoid a stick — a predator, a natural hazard, or aggression from others of their species — WHAM, no more chances to pass on their genes.

The negativity bias shows up in lots of ways. For example, studies have found that:

1. In a relationship, it typically takes five good interactions to make up for a single bad one.

2. People will work much harder to avoid losing $100 than they will work to gain the same amount of money.

3. Painful experiences are much more memorable than pleasurable ones.

In effect, the brain is like Velcro for negative experiences, but Teflon for positive ones. That shades “implicit memory” — your underlying expectations, beliefs, action strategies, and mood — in an increasingly negative direction.”

So with that negative bias in mind, we have to work a bit harder to push positivity into our implicit memory. But it is absolutely possible.

Some people quote Buddha as saying: “I wouldn’t be teaching this if genuine joy and happiness were not possible” I’m not sure if Buddha actually said that, but in the Karaniya Metta Sutta, Buddha did say

“Whatever living beings there may be — feeble or strong, long, stout, or of medium size, short, small, large —

may all beings have happy minds.”

So today, let’s work toward that happy mind, let’s choose joy and make it stickier.

I’ll close this post with a wonderful talk and meditation about Joy by Tara Brach. It’s a longer video, almost an hour, but well worth the time.  If you don’t have time to listen now, at least listen to her opening joke in the first couple of minutes.  It made me laugh.

 

I’d love to hear what brings you joy, and how you differentiate between happiness and joy.
And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

Neuroplasticity – Retraining our brain to get rid of bad habits

“What were once vices are now habits.”

It is strange to be known so universally and yet to be so lonely.
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/alberteins133182.html#cRzVZOHjpM8tGpjB.99

The Doobie Brothers


Habits are hard to break, but understanding how they are created in our brain is the first step in breaking them.

No one likes having bad habits – smoking, over-eating, drinking too much – they are often expensive and usually bad for our health.

*I know there is a lot more to smoking  than just the habitual behaviors. Cigarettes are filled with chemicals that serve no other purpose than to addict the smoker. And I’m well aware of the fact that alcoholism is not a habitual behavior. But I’m talking about habits here, not addiction.

In terms of habits, think of it like walking in a virgin rainforest. The first time something is done, it’s like cutting through the rainforest with a machete. The more you perform this act, the more you are clearing the path. And after awhile, the neural pathway you’ve forged becomes easier to navigate, more like an open road. The more often it is traveled, the better the pathway. And this is great news when you are learning a new language or a new skill, the more often it is practiced, the better it gets.

What’s not so great is when this big neural pathway is associated with a habit you want to break, and the repetition of this bad habit keeps making it more entrenched. If each time you turn the key to start the car, you also light up a cigarette, the brain associates these actions together, and they become part of the same neural pathway. The bad news is that the longer you have done this, the more entrenched is this habit.

But the good news is that our brains are not static. Research about neuroplasticity is showing us that our brains can definitely change. We can rewire our brains and get rid of bad habits forever. We can all learn new behaviors and attitudes and transform our lives.

I’m not saying it’s easy to get rid of bad habits. But I am saying that it is possible. There are powerful ways that we can retrain our brain, and with practice rid ourselves of entrenched habits that we want to change.

Marilyn Gordon wrote a good article about training your brain to get rid of bad habits.  Each of the 10 steps deserves to be explored on it’s own, so I plan to dwell on each point individually in my next few posts.

She outlines the 10 steps as:

1. Identify the habit you’d like to transform and set the intention.

2. Observe what the old habit or pathway is doing in your life.

3. Shift your focus.

4. Use your imagination.

5. Interrupt your thoughts and patterns when they arise.

6. Use aversion therapy.

7.  Create a specific plan and choose what to do instead.

8. Transform the obstacles.

9. Connect with your Higher Source for inspiration and support.

10. Transform and make the shift.

I’ll close with a great talk, held at the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, by Rick Hanson about Neuroplasticity.

 

I’d love to hear about any bad habits you’ve broken, and how you changed the behavior.  And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.