The alarm goes off shortly before 7 a.m., startling you out of sleep and into consciousness.
What is your first thought — your very first thought?
I have asked this question many times of my corporate clients as a way of getting them to become more aware of the nature of the thinking that launches them into their day.
When asked, most respond with answers such as:
“When the alarm goes off, I think: this can’t be true. It can’t be time to wake up!”
“I think about all of the things I have to do for the day and I bolt out of bed feeling rushed and in a slight panic.”
“I find myself regretting something that happened the day before or planning for an unknown and uncertain future. This rattles me.”
And as more than one executive has shared,
“When the alarm goes off, I think: Oh, shit!”
This question is important because it helps us to create awareness around the thoughts that frame our day and the impact that they can have on the quality of our day.
Very few people with whom I've worked have answered this question in a way that holds any sense of positivity. Over the years, I began to get very curious about this.
Is there a reason so many of us lean toward the negative? Is there a reason that even in the midst of a really great experience, a wonderful period of success, or a moment of deep love and connection that many of us find ourselves thinking:
“Wait…I love what is happening here. It’s too good to be true — I just know it!”
“When will the other shoe drop?”
“Am I safe? Am I liked? Do I belong?
“Isn’t it better to be safe than sorry?"
It was not long after developing this curiosity about our lure toward the “negative” that I discovered the work of Dr. Rick Hanson.
As a neuropsychologist, prolific and award-winning author, revered speaker and innovative thinker, Dr. Hanson’s work lies at the intersection of psychology, neuroscience and contemplative practice. He has a compelling and user-friendly way of teaching us about the intricate connections between our individual psychology, our neurological functioning and the valuable role that mindfulness can play in leading us to what he calls “the highest happiness.”
It was through Dr. Hanson’s work that I learned about “the negativity bias.” We are evolutionarily hard-wired as human beings to “go negative.” The survivalist hardwiring of the human brain is always on the lookout for external threats. We wonder what and who is wrong, and what we might need to protect ourselves from.
Our “negativity bias” was quite useful during “cave person” times and is still useful when we are truly in danger. That said, far too many of us wake up each day on guard and ready to fight, flee, or freeze. Over time, the chronic nature of the “negativity bias” begins to deplete our systems. Just imagine the incredible amounts of energy we expend in fear, worry, and in anticipation of those threats around the next corner.
Dr. Hanson teaches us that there is so much hope. Our incredibly mysterious and beautiful brains have a strong capacity to be “rewired” to look for and to “call in the good.” This is another incredibly potent aspect of Rick Hanson’s work. Through easy, yet powerful mindfulness-based practices, we can re-train the brain so that positivity becomes our default.
Can you imagine how it would feel if, upon waking, your first thought was something such as:
“I wonder what new and interesting thing will unfold today?”
“I wonder how today will surprise me?”
“I wonder who and how I will love today?
“I wonder what I will be inspired to create today?”
Waking up and intentionally “calling in the good” is not only possible, but it is feasible to do so in ways that become part of who we are, how we relate, and how we live.
Negativity bias and “calling in the good” are just two ideas that Rick Hanson is well known for. In my interview with him this coming Friday, I plan to ask Rick about how we can “call in the good” through his protocol known as HEAL. We will also spend time discussing his latest book, Neurodharma: New Science, Ancient Wisdom and 7 Practices of the Highest Happiness. This book is a beautiful tapestry of his greatest ideas and truly reads like a “retreat” for the soul.
What I love most about Dr. Hanson is that he embodies all of the goodness of mindfulness and the practices that support a peaceful internal and external posture. Just listening to him evokes feelings of calm, steadiness, optimism and hope.
Come join me and the entire team at studio BE and meet Dr. Rick Hanson! Prepare to get inspired as we spend time together “taking in the good.”
Dr. Christine E. Kiesinger is Vice President of Development and Lead Trainer of Emotional Intelligence and Conscious Communication for studio BE.
Feature photo by Ben Neale