Hunt for the good this summer
This week we focus on taking in the good that already exists in your life. Taking in the Good is a powerful and simple practice and is one of my favorite practices, because it requires doing nothing except shifting attention. It is economical–you get more out of the experiences that you’ve already paid for.
On a recent two-week road trip to North Dakota for a family reunion on my mother’s childhood farm, I practiced turning to the positives. I set my intention to savor the sweet moments and to appreciate the gift of family, adventure, and seeing lives very different from mine in San Francisco.
Vacations offer ample moments to savor. As my uncle picked radishes from his garden for me, I paused to feel his pride, to receive his desire to share his life with me, and to taste the crisp sharpness of the juicy radish pulled straight from the earth. Uncle Tommy gave me a ride on his Harley Davidson. Cruising through the farmlands of rural North Dakota, I cherished the roar of the motorcycle engine, the wind pressing against my arms, the blue sky, the endless horizon of barley, wheat, and cornfields. I soaked in the sweetness of my brother and my niece laughing out loud as we stopped our RV to allow a herd of bison cross the road in Yellowstone National Park. Savoring these positive events invited the possibility that the landscape of my life could be altered just a touch more by deepening my experience in these moments.
Taking in the Good practices also helped me take control of my experience. In the moments when cabin fever set in during two weeks of road-tripping with family in an RV, I mentally ran through my Gift List for the time together. This practice almost magically transformed low level annoyance into gratitude.
Three Good Things Practice
Notice the small things that sometimes go unnoticed in a busy or less than perfect day. Do you notice the small good things that happened today? For example, did you pause to notice the extra service the waitperson gave you at lunch or perhaps the praise from a co-worker?
This practice can result in improved mood as well as finding opportunities where there initially seemed to be none. It is more than just “making lemonade out of lemons.” It helps turn fleeting events into experiences and fills the memory banks with positive memories. It also counters the negativity bias in neutral or challenging situations so that we are more able to see the whole picture. The effect of this practice is huge: In one study, people who recorded three good things that happened each day for one week had higher levels of happiness and lower levels of depression. These effects endured six months later.
The purpose of this exercise is to train your mind to hunt for the good stuff in life and to realize that you had a part in creating it.
1. List a Good Thing that happened today (or, what went well?).
2. Ask yourself what part you had in creating it.
This meditation is done after a sweet experience has passed. It can be particularly powerful when a positive experience is enjoyed in an area of your life where you feel unfulfilled or wounded.
1. FOCUS INWARD
· Feel Your Breath-Focus attention by feeling your breath enter and exit your body. Breathe deep into your abdomen. Place your hand on your abdomen to feel your diaphragm rise and fall. Slowly exhale and naturally inhale.
· Set your Intention—To direct your attention in this time, place, and to the objective of this meditation.
2. DIRECT ATTENTION: Savor a positive experience in your body.
· Make contact-with feelings of a positive experience. The positive experience might be in your Target Area but it does not need to be. It might be feelings of being cared for, valuable, proud, connection or love, strong, confident, accepted, or optimistic. Feel the positive sensations and feelings in your body.
· Expand the feelings of the positive experience- Invite the positive feeling to expand and increase in intensity throughout your entire body. Invite this feeling to expand. Imagine breathing in more of this positive feeling.
· Absorb the positive experience in your memory stores-Bathe in this positive feeling. Savor the good feelings. Imagine that this is soaking into your memory stores.
· Invite feeling to soothe your heart-Put your hand on your heart and imagine that the positive feelings are radiating into your heart center. Soothing the raw, vulnerable feelings.
· Allow the possibility that these feelings can carry forward into your experience in the world, to help the brain register these positive experiences, and become a fundamental and enduring part of yourself.