Soak in the Joy

 

Soak in the joy.

 

Some days I find this a difficult concept. In the recent political season where the cry has been: Be Afraid, fear has been used as a rallying mantra on all sides.  Political smears stick with us even in the midst of truth. The avenues are different, but the destination is the same.  We carry this angst with us as engaged people in the culture.

 

Soak in the joy.

 

Our work load can be challenging and unrelenting. If we are in direct patient care, we feel surrounded by patient and family grief, sadness, and anger.  There are also moments of relief, the tenderness we see between family members, intimate conversations had with patients, and the cleansing tears that can follow.

 

Soak in the joy.

 

Most often, we are impacted more by the former, than the latter.  We remember the hard cases, the grief and sadness, as if it was the water we drink.  We may not dwell on these situations, however we are impacted by them nonetheless. So why is this so? Why do the “negative” experiences stay with us longer than those that bring joy?

 

Understanding how your brain became so vigilant and wary, and so easily hijacked by alarm, is the first step toward gaining more control over that ancient circuitry. Then, by bringing mindful awareness to how your brain reacts to feeling threatened, you can stimulate and therefore build up the neural substrates of a mind that has more calm, wisdom and sense of inner strength.”

~ Rick Hansen, Buddha Brain

 

Rick Hansen reveals to us: good and joyful experiences run through our system like water. Negative experiences stick to us like glue.  The situations and events in life that bring us joy, slip through our fingers.  The experiences that bring us pain stay, sometimes for a long time.  I have a dear friend who still ruminates about the catch he didn’t make in a Friday night football game in high school.  He is now in his 50’s.  That is an example, (and we all have them) of “negative bias.”  Our brain is wired to pay attention to the things that could bring us harm.  It is the ancient circuitry of our brains.  It is a survival technique – “pay attention to what can harm you!”  So, that part of our brain makes sure we are very aware of all the things that could bring pain.

 

Soak in the joy.

 

How do we move from the impact of negative bias, to one of “soaking in joy?”  Let’s explore two actions. First of all, it is helpful to realize this is how our brains operate.  Notice when your brain is reminding you to be fearful, or to recall an unpleasant event.  When we find ourselves ruminating about these events, the event (and its pain) stays IN us, rather than moving THROUGH us.  This increases stress and keeps us on guard. Secondly, pay attention to the outside forces that are feeding that part of your brain.  In general, I have created a pretty positive newsfeed on Facebook.  However, I have noticed lately, that I simply can’t get through my daily newsfeed without getting inundated with calls to be fearful.

 

Soak in the joy.

 

As you spend time with family, friends, (where the opportunity for our “negative bias” can easily kick in), consider this: Be mindful when this happens.  Watch when you get triggered by conversations, or events.  Notice.  Be aware of outside forces pressing in on you. Be gracious to yourself when this occurs – and it will.  Being mindful is the first action step to take toward soaking in the joy.

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