A standard therapeutic technique to improve feelings of well-being and one that is to be found in many self-help books, is to focus on our happy and successful experiences to re-train the brain. Clients are asked to do this regularly so that over time the practice changes the balance of their thoughts.
It has been known for a long time that brain structure constantly changes as a result of the information flowing through it. Neuropsychologist, Rick Hanson explains that, “underlying neural activity is present in every single mental activity…….. the brain takes its shape from whatever your mind rests upon.” It appears that the repeating of happy, joyous experiences gradually sensitises the amygdala (an almond shaped structure in our brains which plays an important role in the expression of emotions and the learning of new emotional responses) to positive experiences and desensitises it to negative ones. This happens incrementally if the good feelings are held on to for 10 – 20 seconds.
The converse is also true. If you constantly focus on the negative, your brain’s development will reinforce the neural structures to support fear, pain and dread. This has been demonstrated by research into the brains of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) sufferers. When the condition is at its worst, the amygdala can grow as it becomes sensitised to feelings of fear and panic etc. However, once PTSD symptoms reduce the amygdala shrinks back to normal size.
So having good experiences and dwelling on them matters both for how it feels in the moment and for the development of the brain. Anything joyous, happy or gratifying is worth actively milking by enlarging, enhancing and exaggerating and then holding on the good feelings created for 10 – 20 seconds so that your brain can record the experience through neural activity which will, in turn, help to creative more positive and lasting emotion. And who wouldn’t want that?
Jocelyn and Kristina at Trance-Formed