To heal, learn, or grow, you must be able to take positive short-term experiences (states) and translate them into longer-term character traits or habits. Mindfulness can help you do this by cultivating positive states of being – whether that’s happiness, joy, compassion, courage, gratitude or any other feeling you’d like to experience more in your life.
Ever wonder why good experiences pass by so quickly while negative ones seem never-ending? It all has to do with the way your brain stores information. Dr. Hanson compares negative states of mind to velcro; they tend to stick with us more easily because of our brain’s negativity bias.
The more you experience negative states, the more likely you’ll cultivate negative traits where you become more reactive, irritated, or anxious unless you consciously choose to override these mental states. Positive states like joy and happiness, on the other hand, are more like teflon. They tend to slide off your neural networks easily – that is unless we continually practice feeling them.
To override your brain’s negativity bias, you have to continually train your brain to nurture these positive states by paying attention to them and consciously activating them.
Let’s say you wish to feel compassion more of the time. In your mind, you may conceptually understand what it may look like to be more compassionate. Maybe you can even imagine a scenario where you’re being compassionate to someone whom you may consider an enemy.
Yet it’s one thing to visualize this ideal and to embody it on a consistent basis. By exhibiting compassion in real life, you get to wire this state of being into your brain so it becomes a more natural way of being for you. This is also where neuro-learning and mindfulness can help you speed up the process of becoming the kind of person you want to be more consistently.
Through relating to each present moment in a non-judgmental manner, you can set the intention to bring forth feelings of compassion that are already present within you. The more you access the feeling of compassion or joy in your meditation, the more you’re solidifying the neural networks in your brain related to these states. Then it’s easier for you to embody compassion or joy in the midst of daily life because you’ve laid the ground for these neural pathways ahead of time.