Part 1 – Be good to yourself
1. Be Good to Yourself
To take any steps toward your own well-being - you have got to be on your own side. Not against others, but FOR you. For many people, that’s harder than it sounds. Maybe you were raised to think you didn’t count as much as other people. Maybe when you’ve tried to stick up for yourself, you’ve been blocked or knocked down. Maybe deep down you feel you don’t deserve to be happy.
Think about what it’s like to be a good friend to someone -
Then ask: Am I that kind of friend to myself ?
If not, you could be too hard on yourself, too dismissive of what you get
done each day. Or too half-hearted about telling others what you really
2. Take in the Good
Scientists believe that your brain has a built-in negative bias. This is because, as our ancestors dodged sticks and chased carrots over millions of years of evolution, the sticks had the greater urgency and impact on survival. This negativity bias shows up in lots of ways. For example, studies have found that the brain generally reacts more to a negative stimulus than to an equally intense positive one
In your own mind, what do you usually think about at the end of the day? The fifty things that went right, or the one that went wrong? Such as the driver who cut you off in
traffic, or the one thing on your To Do list that didn’t get done . . .
In effect, the brain is like Velcro for negative experiences, but Teflon for positive ones
. That shades your underlying feelings, expectations, beliefs, inclinations, and mood—in an increasingly negative direction.
Which is not fair, since most of the facts in your life are probably positive or at least neutral.
But you don’t have to accept this bias! By tilting toward the good—toward that which brings more happiness and benefit to oneself and others—you can actually REWIRE
3. Have Compassion for Yourself
Life is full of wonderful experiences. But it has its hard parts as well, such as physical and mental discomfort, ranging from subtle to agonizing.
When someone you care about suffers, you naturally have compassion: the wish that a being not suffer, usually with a feeling of sympathetic concern.
You can also have compassion for yourself—which is not self-pity. You’re simply recognizing that and bringing the same warmhearted wish for suffering to lessen or end that you would bring to any dear friend grappling with the same pain, upset, or challenge as you.
It’s easy to feel stressed these days. Or worried, frustrated, or irritated about one thing or another, such as finances, work, the health of a family member, or a relationship.
When you get stressed or upset, your body tenses up to fight, flee, or freeze. That’s Mother Nature’s way, and its short-term benefits kept our ancestors alive to pass on
But today—when people can live seventy or eighty years or more, and when quality of life (not mere survival) is a priority—we pay a high, long-term price for daily tension. It leads to health problems like heart disease, poor digestion, backaches and headaches, and hormonal ups and downs. And to psychological problems, including anxiety, irritability, and depression.
The number one way to reduce tension is through relaxation. Besides its benefits for physical and mental health, relaxation feels great. Just recall how nice it feels to
soak in a tub, curl up in bed, or get a massage. Being able to relax your body and mind, making time to do so, is critically important.
5. See the Good in Yourself
There is good in every person—but it’s often easier to see in others than in yourself. For example, think about a friend: What do you like about him or her?
Including qualities such as sense of humor, fairness, honesty, intelligence, soul, patience, passion, helpfulness, curiosity, determination, talent, spunk, or a good heart.
Seeing these positive characteristics in your friend feels reassuring, comfortable, and hopeful. It’s good to recognize what’s good in someone.
Each of us is like a mosaic, with lots of lovely tiles, some that are basically neutral, and a few that could use a little—ah—work. It’s important to see the whole mosaic.
But because of the brain’s negativity bias, we tend to fixate on what’s wrong with ourselves instead of what’s right.
6. Slow Down
Most of us are running around way too much. Say you bump into a friend you haven’t seen for a while and ask, “How are you?” Twenty years ago, a typical answer
would be “fine.” But today the reply is more likely to be - “busy!”
We’re caught up in e-mails, phone calls, long hours working, schlepping kids from here to there, and trying to match velocities with everyone else who has speeded up.
Whatever the particular causes may be in your own life, it’s easy to feel like a short-order cook at the lunch rush.
There’s a place for revving up occasionally, but chronic speediness has many bad effects:
It activates the same general stress-response system that evolved in the brain to protect us from charging lions, which releases nerve-jangling hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, weakens your immune system, and wears down your mood.
It puts the alarm system of the brain on red alert, scanning for threats and often overreacting. Have you ever noticed that when you speed up,
you’re quicker to find things to worry or get irritated about?
It gives you less time to think clearly and make good decisions. Even though “the need for speed” may have become a way of life, it’s always possible to make a change. Start with little things. And then let them grow. Honestly, slowing down is one of those seemingly small actions that could really change your life.
7. Forgive Yourself
Everyone messes up.
Me, you, the neighbors, everybody. It’s important to acknowledge mistakes, learn
from them so they don’t happen again, and feel appropriate remorse. But most people keep beating themselves up way past the point of usefulness: they’re unfairly self-critical. Inside the mind are many subpersonalities.
There is an inner critic and an inner protector inside each of us.
For most people, that inner critic is continually yammering away, looking for something, anything, to find fault with. It magnifies small failings into big ones, punishes
you over and over for things long past, ignores the larger context, and doesn’t credit you for your efforts to make amends
That’s why you need your inner protector to stick up for you: to put your weaknesses and misdeeds in perspective, to highlight your many good qualities surrounding
your lapses, to encourage you to return to the high road and frankly to tell that inner critic to Hush Up Now.
8. Befriend Your Body
Imagine that your body is separate from you, and consider these questions:
How has your body taken care of you over the years? Such as keeping you alive, giving you pleasure, and taking you from place to place.
In return, how well do you take care of your body? Such as soothing, feeding, and exercising it. On the other hand, in what ways might you run it down, feed it junk
food, or intoxicate it?
In what ways are you critical of your body? For example, are you disappointed in it or embarrassed by it? Do you feel let down by it, or wish it were different?
If your body could talk to you, what might it say? Be Good to Yourself
If your body were a good friend, how would you treat it? Would that be different from how you treat it now?
It’s common to push the body hard, ignore its needs until they get intense, and tune out from its signals. And then drop the body into bed at the end of another long day like—as a rancher would say “a horse rid hard and put up wet.”
People can also get mad at the body, and even mean to it. Like it’s the body’s fault if it weighs too much or is getting old.
But if you do any of these things, you’ll end up paying a big price, since you are not separated from your body after all. Its needs and pleasures and pains are your own.
Its fate will be your own someday. On the other hand, if you treat your body well, like a
good friend, you’ll feel better, have more energy, be more resilient, and probably live longer.
excerpted from Buddha’s Brain, by Rick Hanson, Phd
I write about things that I myself need to be mindful of. ways in which I would like to improve. It is not from the perspective of preaching - but rather writing helps me work out what I myself need to do - we are all in this together.