Part 4                                                                          Edited

“Some of you say, Joy is greater than sorrow, and others say, Nay, sorrow is the greater. But I say unto you, they are inseparable..”  Kahlil Gibran

“Class position is by far the greatest determinant of our life chances and experiences, greater than race or disability or age or any other social grouping. It is greater because it mediates all other social groupings, reinforcing or reducing their impact on people’s lives. (p91)” Anne Kearny

This is the final part on joy and other positive emotions and states, and it’s informed by Rick Hanson’s book: Hardwiring Happiness.  In the third part I focused on the first part of the book, which discusses the ways we are wired as human mammals, the role our brains and autonomic nervous systems play in happiness, how we have evolved a negativity bias, which helped our cave ancestors survive, but can often become problematic in our contemporary societies. Today I’ll draw from the second part of the book that focuses on ways to train our brains, through neuroplasticity, to rest in the “green zone” more often rather than the reactive “red zone”, and how to turn positive states to more lasting traits through a process called HEAL I’m also, re-posting the previous drawings, plus a new one, and links to two recent episodes of the Being Well podcast on topics I haven’t written much about as an introduction to topics I may be writing about in the next few posts.

The first episode is how to combine pro-social values with principled insubordination, so we can speak up for others and ourselves, and maximize our chances of creating meaningful change even in the face of social pressure. The second episode broadly touches upon the ways we define failure and success in our culture, the deconstruction of old narratives, the ability to define our notion of success and failure via process instead of outcome, and also, reframing failure as an opportunity for learning. They look at how loss works in the brain and what makes us sensitive to losing, managing expectations of success, how some people cope with failure and loss with greater ease than others, how our attributional styles can serve us or not and ways to manage the pain of failure, while also, setting up feedback systems. Finally, they mention reasons behind experiences of lack of success like poorly informed decisions, lack of foresight, not knowing, naiveté, losing our nerve, not backing our play, infertile ground or hostile environments and betrayals by others. This last theme of the conversation is in some sense connected to(or maybe complemented by) the next post, in which I will discuss Counselling, Class and Politics written by Anne Kearney in 1996 and edited and commented on by Gillian Proctor and other authors in 2018.

A short extract from the book:

“With [Anne Kearny’s] background in sociology before she trained in counselling, Anne was clear about the dangers of the counselling profession acting as though politics were irrelevant or pretending that counselling or counsellors could be politically neutral. Way before the current focus on intersectionality in identity politics, Anne was reminding us that each of us simultaneously occupies many social positions and these cannot be treated in isolation. In fact, she [Kearny] states: … class position is by far the greatest determinant of our life chances and experiences, greater than race or disability or age or any other social grouping. It is greater because it mediates all other social groupings, reinforcing or reducing their impact on people’s lives. (p91)”








According to Rick Hanson’s work taking in the good is the deliberate internalization of positive experiences in implicit memory and it involves four steps: a) H-ave a positive experience b) E-nrich it c) A-bsorb it & d) L-ink positive and negative material. Summarily, the first step involves having a positive experience and noticing it. It could be physical pleasure, a sense of hope, achievement or determination, a feeling of closeness to someone, gratitude for something or someone, and so on. The second step involves staying with the experience for a little while, even a few seconds, and opening to the feelings in it, trying to sense it in our body; letting it fill our mind, relishing it. To make it more intense one could find something novel about it or recognize how it’s personally relevant, how it could nourish or help us. The aim is to get neurons firing together, so they’ll really wire together. Step three involves absorbing the experience and letting it sink into us and land in our mind. Rick Hanson writes: “Know that the experience is becoming part of you, a resource inside that you can take with you wherever you go.” Finally, step four, which is optional, involves linking positive and negative material. For instance, while having a vivid and stable sense of a positive experience in the foreground of awareness, also be aware of something negative in the background. However, if the negative material hijacks our attention or emotions overwhelm us it is better to return our attention on the positive until we feel re-centered in the positive. Then we let go of all negative material and rest only in the positive. In order to uproot the negative material /experience, we probably need to repeat the process. Also, it is suggested over the next hour to be aware of positive material while also bringing to mind neutral things (e.g., people, situations, ideas) that have become associated with the negative material, to disrupt unhelpful associations and to dismantle triggers.

It is suggested that although we tend to take in an experience as a whole, there is also value in learning to tune into the separate parts of our experience and becoming more aware of all aspects of our experience because this gives us a greater sense of integration, of inner wholeness, and also, allows us to “turn up the volume” on different parts when we need them. For example, this morning I went for a walk and the countryside, the sea in the distance, the familiar animals and houses, the sunny weather, kind of all blended together, but when I became conscious of the experience moment to moment I became more aware of more parts of my experience like all the thoughts passing through my mind, sense perceptions, various emotions rising and falling, movement. Rick Hanson says our experience has different parts to it, including thoughts, sense perceptions, emotions, desires, and actions.  Our thoughts include factual knowledge, ideas, beliefs, expectations, viewpoints, insights, images, and memories, and some of our thoughts are verbal (mental self-talk), and others consist of imagery or a blend of words and pictures. He suggests that it’s good to take in thoughts that are true and useful rather than untrue and harmful, seeing ourself, others, the past, and the future more accurately; understanding how our actions lead to different results; and putting things in perspective. Sense perceptions include sight, sound, taste, smell, touch, and interoception (the internal sensations of our body), and they are the pathway to experiences of relaxation, pleasure, vitality and strength. Experiences of pleasure and relaxation are important because they reduce stress, initiate the process of recovering from it, and are resources for physical and mental health. In terms of relaxation, Rick Hanson writes that it “involves the “rest and digest” parasympathetic wing of the nervous system, the natural counterbalance to the “fight or flight” sympathetic wing. Much like pleasure, relaxation dials down stress… and… strengthens the immune system, increases resilience, and lowers anxiety.”

Briefly, emotions consist of feelings and moods. Feelings are specific, often fairly brief, and caused by an inner or outer stimulus. Moods are more diffuse, enduring, and independent of stimuli. Sadness is a feeling, while depression is a mood. Feelings grow moods. For example, repeatedly taking in feelings of gladness and gratitude will tend to develop a mood of contentment. Moods grow feelings. A sense of contentment might foster feelings of joy and appreciation. Therefore, when we frequently take in positive feelings we can lift or shift our mood. Desires include hopes, wishes, longings, wants, and needs, motivations and inclinations, values, morals, aspirations, purposes, and goals, as well as aversion, drivenness and bad habits or addictions. It is suggested that they can be aimed at the outer world— wishing, for instance, that someone would not blow off your needs or undermine our efforts, let’s, or at the inner one, such as intending to stay strong when speaking up against mistreatment. Understandably, positive desires tend to lead to more happiness and benefit, while negative ones lead to more suffering and harm. Finally, as defined in the book  actions include both what we do outwardly like behaviors, facial expressions, gestures, posture, words we speak or write,  and the internal inclinations and skills that produce our actions.

There are many suggestions in the book on how to consciously create or look for positive experiences. Some ways to do this is by finding good facts in our current setting, in recent events, in ongoing conditions, in our personal qualities and in the past, and also, anticipating good facts in the future, sharing the good with others, maybe finding the good in the bad, caring about others, seeing good in the lives of others, imagining good facts, producing good facts and seeing life as opportunity. Specifically, creating a positive experience can involve  looking around in your environment to find a pleasant sight like an object in your house, a pet, a person, nature outside your window or simply thinking of something that makes you happy. Looking in our distant or near past to see the things, even the simple and ordinary positive things that have happened and that we can feel good about. Then we can move on to the many good things that are relatively stable and reliable that will probably still be there tomorrow like the sea in the distance, the ground we’re standing on, the sky above us, this planet. Rick Hanson suggest we look in widening circles, considering the imperfect but still positive aspects of our society; hopefully, including the rule of law, democracy and civil rights, especially when compared to the alternatives, both in history and still widespread today. He writes: “Think about culture and our easy access to music, ideas, art, entertainment, and wisdom teachings. Science and technology have advanced, offering things like refrigeration, air travel, flush toilets, aspirin, and the Internet. Wider still, you can count on nature’s gifts…”

Additionally, we can turn to our personality, good qualities in our character, our capabilities and various talents and skills even seemingly simple ones like cooking or using a computer. Rick Hanson says: “Standing up for the truth to yourself and to others that you are a basically good person— not a perfect person, but a good one— can feel taboo….. Observe virtues and strengths in yourself such as endurance, patience, determination, empathy, compassion, and integrity. Also notice abilities. These are facts, not fiction.” Another source of good experiences is the past. We can enhance our memory by looking through photos, and also, appreciate past experiences that have over time blended together like the hundreds of times we’ve been swimming or gone for a walk in nature or played with our child. Yet another source is imagining the very near future, like something positive that we could do in the evening, or what might happen in the more distant future. It is stated in the book that this mental time travel draws on midline networks in the cortex that were an important evolutionary development, enabling our ancestors to plan more effectively.

Also, talking about good things with others intensifies the experience and humans have highly developed neural networks for empathy and the ability to tune into others. Caring about others and taking pleasure in others’ well-being, which includes both inner experiences and outer behaviors is an evolving capacity that has likely promoted survival.  This is sometimes called altruistic joy.  Finally, we can reframe past negative events, and also, use experiences today to meet past early unmet needs. Through engaging with these practices we become more conscious of taking in the good, but also, of our blocks and difficulties in doing so, as well as, the areas of unmet needs. In other words, we try to “match some antidote experiences to past negative material”. We could start by asking the question:  What would have made all the difference when I was young? Deep down, what do I most long for?

Over the weekend I watched Belfast written and directed by Kenneth Branagh, which is based on his childhood in Ireland. His nine year old self is brought to life during a period of unrest in Ireland and major transition in his family’s life as they are forced to emigrate to England. We get a child’s view of conflict and loss, and how he tries to deal with the loss of the peaceful, safe town and neighbourhood he had known and then all that was familiar and dear to him.  I felt that the film among other things was a return and an offering of love to that curious, joyful, worried and scared boy. In an interview Branagh said: “You expect the world to turn upside down in a heartbeat. And really, I’ve understood that in my subsequent life, but prior to that, and I think it’s often the case for people experiencing their existence up to six, seven, eight, nine years old as, if you’re lucky, a glorious, maybe you would say innocent part of their lives, but something that you yearn to get back to. Not in a nostalgic way, you would just like to have that piece of mind. And this film was a search, I guess, for peace of mind.”

Taking in the good is something that we do every day, but we don’t usually do it consciously. It’s about learning to appreciate the little things in life. So, it could involve looking for chances to let good experiences sink into us throughout each day, like when we wake up, during meals, before bed time. Gratitude and wishing others well can be part of this process. Also, to take in the good we need to want to help ourself and to be on our side, which does not mean being against others or not wishing others well. Rick Hanson writes that “being on your own side is the foundation of all practices of health, well-being, and effectiveness. Without this stance, you wouldn’t be motivated to act on your own behalf. Unfortunately, for reasons such as being criticized a lot as a child, many people are a much better friend to others than they are to themselves.” Making this process a habit is necessary because the brain is a physical system, which like a muscle, gets stronger the more we exercise it. Practising will eventually make it automatic.

As stated throughout the book through engaging with this process over time we fill up our inner storehouse with the strengths we need, such as feeling at ease rather than irritable, loved rather than mistreated, and resourced rather than running on empty, and also, we foster more well-being, heal psychological issues, and support creativity and self-actualization. He writes: “Inherently, taking in the good is a way to be active rather than passive— a hammer rather than a nail— at a time when many people feel pushed and prodded by events and their reactions to them. It’s also a way to treat yourself like you matter, which is especially important if others haven’t. This practice brings you into the present moment and reduces rumination, that repetitive rehashing of things in your mind that fosters mental and physical health problems. It teaches you to have more control over your attention, so you can keep it on what’s good for you and others and pull it away from what’s bad. All the while, you’ll be sensitizing your brain to positive experiences.”



I haven’t finished writing the fourth part on happiness yet, so today I’m posting a few more ink drawings (I had them scanned, but the edges have not been included. I’ll have to go to town and have them re-done, so until then I’m posting these versions). I’m also sharing a short extract from Alain de Botton and John Armstrong’s book, Art as Therapy (not Art Therapy), that I’m reading, about how art finds its purpose and value as a tool, and offers us means of assistance in relation to some universal human frailties.


According to the authors of the book, art is:

1. A CORRECTIVE OF BAD MEMORY: Art makes memorable and renewable the fruits of experience. It is a mechanism to keep precious things, and our best insights, in good condition and makes them publicly accessible….

  1. A PURVEYOR OF HOPE: Art keeps pleasant and cheering things in view. It knows we despair too easily.
  2. A SOURCE OF DIGNIFIED SORROW: Art reminds us of the legitimate place of sorrow in a good life, so that we panic less about our difficulties and recognize them as parts of a noble existence.
  3. A BALANCING AGENT: Art encodes with unusual clarity the essence of our good qualities and holds them up before us, in a variety of media, to help rebalance our natures and direct us towards our best
  4. A GUIDE TO SELF-KNOWLEDGE: Art can help us identify what is central to ourselves, but hard to put into words. Much that is human is not readily available in language. We can hold up art objects and say, confusedly but importantly, ‘This is me.’
  5. A GUIDE TO THE EXTENSION OF EXPERIENCE: Art is an immensely sophisticated accumulation of the experiences of others, presented to us in well-shaped and well-organized forms. It can provide us with some of the most eloquent instances of the voices of other cultures, so that an engagement with artworks stretches our notions of ourselves and our world. At first, much of art seems merely ‘other’, but we discover that it can contain ideas and attitudes that we can make our own in ways that enrich us. Not everything we need to become better versions of ourselves is already to hand in the vicinity.
  6. A RE-SENSITIZATION TOOL: Art peels away our shell and saves us from our spoilt, habitual disregard for what is all around us. We recover our sensitivity…..

Joy, evolution and the negativity bias        

Part 3

“Research has shown that human beings have a survival-related negativity bias, which practically means more brain activity and energy are dedicated to registering and responding to negative experiences and anticipating what might go wrong than to the positive in our lives. And this is too often reinforced by an outer world, which constantly reminds us of the ways that we come up short, or all the reasons to feel threatened…”  (From previous post August 6th, 2020)

As I mentioned in the previous post, today’s piece will focus on Rick Hanson’s book, Hardwiring Happiness. I’ve also included a few photos of my walks in nature and links of animations by Dr Russ Harris. In particular I’ll be focusing on the first part of the book, which discusses the ways we are wired as human mammals, the role our brains and autonomic nervous systems play in happiness, how we have evolved a negativity bias, which helped our cave ancestors survive, but can often become problematic in our complex, contemporary societies. The second part of this book, which I will summarily present in the fourth part on happiness, focuses on ways to train our brains, through neuroplasticity, to rest in the “green zone” more often rather than the reactive “red zone”, and how to turn positive states to more lasting traits.

Most people would at least theoretically agree that how we feel and do in all areas of our life is basically determined by a) the socioeconomic and cultural contexts we find ourselves in and the challenges each one of us faces, b) our temperaments, vulnerabilities and weaknesses and the ways that these circumstances and challenges might grind on them, and c) the inner strengths we have that can help us meet our challenges and protect our vulnerabilities. These inner strengths are not fleeting mental states, but more stable traits and an enduring source of well-being, which we all need to navigate the difficulties of life. Some of the strengths mentioned in the book are a positive mood, common sense, integrity, inner peace, calm, contentment, determination, a warm heart, self-compassion, secure attachment, emotional intelligence, learned optimism, the relaxation response, self-esteem, distress tolerance, self-regulation, resilience, empathy, and other qualities. The book focuses on the third factor, our inner strengths and how we can enhance and develop these to facilitate our well-being. Dr Rick Hanson refers to research that suggests that on average, about a third of a person’s strengths are innate, built into his or her genetically based temperament, talents, mood, and personality, and the other two-thirds are developed over time, which means there is room for us to potentially enhance our strengths and develop new ones.

The first part of the book is informed by neuroscience and evolutionary psychology, both of which help us understand how we are designed and how we can learn to shape our brains for the best. Summarily, the human brain is designed to learn and change by our experiences. Whatever we repeatedly experience, sense, feel, desire and think slowly sculpts our neural structure for better or worse. Rick Hanson writes: “As we go about living and learning fast, complex, and dynamic neural activity is continually changing our brain. Active synapses become more sensitive, new synapses start growing within minutes, busy regions get more blood since they need more oxygen and glucose to do their work, and genes inside neurons turn on or off.” He explains that our experiences don’t just grow new synapses, but also reach down into our genes, into little strips of atoms in the twisted molecules of DNA inside the nuclei of neurons and change how they operate. For instance, if one routinely practices relaxation, this will increase the activity of genes that calm down stress reactions. Meanwhile, less active connections wither away in a process sometimes called neural Darwinism: the survival of the busiest. He writes: “All mental activity— sights and sounds, thoughts and feelings, conscious and unconscious processes— is based on underlying neural activity. Much mental and therefore neural activity flows through the brain like ripples on a river, with no lasting effects on its channel. But intense, prolonged, or repeated mental / neural activity— especially if it is conscious— will leave an enduring imprint in neural structure, like a surging current reshaping a riverbed.  As they say in neuroscience: Neurons that fire together wire together. Mental states become neural traits.”

This process of shaping our brain through experience is called experience-dependent neuroplasticity. Rick Hanson refers to a well known study involving London taxi drivers that demonstrated how certain learning experiences thickened neural layers in their hippocampus, and also, to research that has shown that mindfulness meditators have increased gray matter, which means a thicker cortex in three key regions: the prefrontal areas behind the forehead that control attention; the insula, which we use for tuning into ourselves and others; and the hippocampus.

I referred to these findings in an older post, Misconceptions and the Possibility of Change – 15/10/2021. An extract from that post:

“We also now know that neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s capacity to transform itself physically, continues throughout our lifespan and does not become fixed after adolescence as was previously thought. This allows for changes to take place throughout our lifespan. Paul Bach-y-Rita’s early research showed that in cases of brain injury or loss of capacities the brain has the potential to re-organise itself. It has since been found that the brain is capable of massive rewiring in response to trauma, disease and new learning.  Another well known study conducted by neuroscientist, Eleanor Mcguire, that measured the gray matter of London taxi drivers before and after their license exams found that their hippocampus had grown significantly after learning to navigate through the thousands of winding streets in London. Scientists have also found that we can cultivate desirable traits. Similarly, meditative practices have been found to create changes in the brain. Sara Lazar, psychiatry professor and researcher, measured the brain cell volume of the amygdala of people before and after a two-month mindfulness meditation course and found that it had decreased in size, which correlated with the participants’ reports of experiencing less stress (15/10/2021).”

The process of experience-dependent neuroplasticity is the mind’s ability to change brain function and alter brain structure in potentially beneficial ways and it shows that each one of us has some power to change our brain for the better through new learning, changing some of our beliefs and behaviours or habits, and working with our mind.  Rick Hanson says that if we don’t make use of this power ourself, other forces will shape our brain for us, including pressures at work and home, technology and media, pushy people, the lingering effects of painful past experiences…. He suggests we use the power of self-directed neuroplasticity to build up a lasting sense of ease, confidence, self-acceptance, kindness, feeling loved, contentment, and inner peace, and through the practices in his book we can turn everyday good experiences into good neural structure. In other words, we can learn to activate mental states and then install them as neural traits. We’ll be using our mind to change our brain to change our mind for the better. Bit by bit, synapse by synapse, we can build more happiness into our brain, overcoming its negativity bias.

The negativity bias:

Our brain acquired its structure, capabilities and tendencies over hundreds of millions of years, and all this shows up in our experience today. As humans we share common ancestors with the very first microorganisms all the way down to homo-sapiens. Rick Hanson writes: “Over the last 600 million years, solutions to survival problems faced by creatures ranging from jellyfish and clams to lizards, mice, monkeys, and early humans have gotten built into the evolving nervous system. The brain has roughly tripled in volume over the past several million years, while being carved by the intense pressures of natural selection.”  To pass on their genes, our reptilian, mammalian, primate, hominid, and human ancestors had to acquire things that were positive, such as shelter, food and sex, which we could call “carrots”, and stay away from things such as predators, starvation, and aggression from others of their species – “sticks”. From a survival standpoint, sticks have more urgency and impact than carrots. Over hundreds of millions of years, it was literally a matter of life and death to pay extra attention to sticks, react to them intensely, remember them well, and over time become even more sensitive to them. As a result, the brain evolved a built-in negativity bias. And while this bias emerged in harsh settings very different from our own, it continues to operate inside us today as we go about our lives, at home, at work, at school, in the street, online, and so on.

Consequently, our brain has evolved over a very long time to be good at learning from bad experiences, but not as good at learning from good ones. It is always on the lookout for potential dangers and losses, which Rick Hanson comments is why “news programs typically start their shows with the latest murder or disaster. As they say in journalism: If it bleeds, it leads.” Alain de Botton’s discussion and analysis of the News is very interesting with quite a few useful insights at an age where we are flooded by a plethora of news items while we often don’t have the time or background knowledge to digest, filter, evaluate and make meaning of. He writes: “Always remember that the news is always trying to make you scared. It’s bad for us, but very good for news organisations: the easiest way to get an audience is through frightening people….” and “Properly told, stories are able to operate on two levels. On the surface, they deal with particulars involving a range of facts related to a given time and place, a local culture and a social group–and it is these specifics that tend to bore us whenever they lie outside of our own experience. But then, a layer beneath the particulars, the universals are hidden: the psychological, social and political themes that transcend the stories’ temporal and geographical settings and are founded on unvarying fundamentals of human nature (The News: A User’s Manual).”

To come back to evolution, animals that were more on the lookout for dangers were more likely to pass on their genes, and these inclinations are now woven into our DNA. Rick Hanson writes that even “when you feel relaxed and happy and connected, your brain keeps scanning for potential dangers, disappointments, and interpersonal issues. Consequently, in the back of your mind, there’s usually a subtle but noticeable sense of unease, dissatisfaction, and separation to motivate this vigilance. Then when the least little thing goes wrong or could be trouble, the brain zooms in on it with a kind of tunnel vision that downplays everything else…… Negative stimuli are perceived more rapidly and easily than positive stimuli. Our brain responds more intensely to unpleasant things than to equally intense pleasant ones.  We recognize angry faces more quickly than happy ones; in fact, the brain will react even without your conscious awareness when another person’s face is angry.”  In the book there are references to research findings and other sources that suggest that we tend to do more to avert a loss than to acquire an equivalent gain; lasting intimate relationships usually need at least five positive interactions to balance every negative one and we begin to thrive when positive moments outnumber negative ones by at least a three-to-one ratio, and ideally higher; and finally, the negative contaminates positive more than the positive purifies negative.

This central circuit of over-reactivity has three parts: the amygdala, the hypothalamus, and the hippocampus.  Rick Hanson claims that although our amygdala responds to positive events and feelings, it is mostly activated by negative ones. Other people’s anger activates our amygdala somewhat like a charging lion would have a million years ago. The amygdala sends alarm signals to the hypothalamus and to the sympathetic nervous system control centers in the brain stem to begin a fight-or-flight response. The hypothalamus sends out an urgent call for adrenaline, cortisol, norepinephrine, and other stress hormones, the heart beats faster, thoughts speed up, and we begin to feel rattled or upset. Meanwhile the hippocampus has formed an initial neural trace of the experience and then guided its consolidation in cortical memory networks so we can learn from it later. Rick Hanson writes that over time, negative experiences make the amygdala even more sensitive to the negative because the cortisol that the amygdala signals the hypothalamus to call for enters the bloodstream and flows into your brain, where it stimulates and strengthens the amygdala. Additionally, there are even regions in the amygdala specifically designed to prevent the unlearning of fear, especially from childhood experiences.

As a result, Rick Hanson claims “we end up preoccupied by threats that are actually smaller or more manageable than we’d feared, while overlooking opportunities that are actually greater than we’d hoped for. In effect, we’ve got a brain that’s prone to “paper tiger paranoia.” And of course, these biologically based tendencies are intensified by factors, such as, our temperament, our personal histories, traumas and circumstances. He writes: “If you grew up in a dangerous neighborhood, had angry or unpredictable parents, or were bullied in school, it’s normal to still be watchful even if you now live in a safe place with nice people. Your current situations make a difference, too. Perhaps you live with someone who can fly off the handle without cause or you’re being harassed at work. The economy plays a role as well. Understandably, people feel unsettled or worse when money is tight and daily life is racing and pressured. And throughout history, political groups have played on fears to gain or hold on to power.”

The negativity bias also affects the structure-building processes of our brain because what flows through our mind changes our brain. The result is two kinds of learning, two kinds of memory: explicit and implicit. Briefly, explicit memory has all our personal recollections, which tend to be positively biased the farther back in time we go. Explicit memory also includes “declarative knowledge,” which is a kind of encyclopedia of information. Implicit memory includes “procedural knowledge,” which is how to do things, our assumptions and expectations, emotional residues of lived experience, models of relationships, values and inclinations, and the whole inner atmosphere of our mind. Rick Hanson writes: “It’s like a vast storehouse holding most of our inner strengths as well as most of our feelings of inadequacy, unfulfilled longings, defensiveness, and old pain. What gets put into this storehouse is the foundation of how you feel and function. Its contents usually have much more impact on your life than the contents of your explicit memory. Unfortunately, the formation of implicit memory is negatively biased.”

To conclude, the negativity bias is tilted toward immediate survival, but against quality of life, peaceful and fulfilling relationships, and lasting well-being. Tilting toward the positive simply levels the playing field. The best way to compensate for the negativity bias is to regularly take in the good because as Rick Hanson says taking in the good decreases negative feelings, thoughts, and actions and increases positive ones.

As I mentioned, the next post will focus on ways to take in the good and tilt our experience towards the positive.


A few photos of my walks in nature because nature often brings me a little joy and wonder










Αnimations by Dr Russ Harris that explore the observing self, that part of our mind that we use for awareness, attention and focus; the three happiness myths, the need to embrace all our emotions and the hyper-pathologising of life experiences; the evolution of the human mind; and a chessboard metaphor for the internal struggles we have with our feelings and thoughts