Sounds Good is the weekly podcast that hosts hopeful conversations with optimists and world-changers about the headlines we can be hopeful about — and how you can get involved and make a difference.

Dr. Rick Hanson

Rick Hanson — The Neuroscience of Good and Bad News

About This Episode

Dr. Rick Hanson is a psychologist and New York Times best-selling author who creatively works at the intersection of three circles: psychology, neuroscience, and the contemplative wisdom that has been established around the world.

His work has been featured on the BBC, CBS, and NPR and has focused on helping people turn everyday experiences into a powerful sense of lasting well-being.

In this podcast conversation, Dr. Rick Hanson speaks to the empowerment that comes with using our inner resources for hardwiring happiness in relationship with pain.

“If people really want to be more resilient, happier, and more loving at the end of their life, they have to take in the good. They have to help their brains change for the better from the inside out.”

— Rick Hanson

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Transcript

This transcript was automatically generated:

Branden Harvey

A few years ago, I had this hunch that there is a reason that bad news sticks in our brains so strongly, and that good news just kind of we just kind of forget about it. And so I started Googling because that's what you do. When you want to prove a theory, you just start Googling. And I came across some work from some really smart guy that basically explains this idea. That the way that our brains work. Bad news is like Velcro for our brain. While good news is like Teflon, bad news just naturally sticks to our brain because it helps us if you look back evolutionarily, it helped us to survive.


Branden Harvey

Well, good news, on the other hand, we don't need it as much. At least we did it back in the day when we were cavemen running from Saber to the Tigers. It wasn't as important, so it just slips right off the brain. But today in modern society that has a much worse impact on us. It's the reason that we feel so much anxiety about the current political state of things. It's the reason why we feel so overwhelmed when we turn on the news. It's also the reason I decided to start this podcast because I wanted to celebrate the people who were pushing back against those natural instincts and leaning into a more hopeful way of living.


Branden Harvey

If you're new to this podcast, this sounds good with Brandon Harvey. I am Brandon, and every single week we host hopeful conversations with optimists and world changers about the unique experiences that drive them to use their influence for good. This week. I'm so excited because I got to have a conversation with Dr. Rick Hanson, a New York Times bestselling author and psychologist who creatively works at the intersection of three circles, psychology, neuroscience, and the contemplative wisdom that has been established around the world. Rick is also the person that I learned about these ideas of the neuroscience of happiness and how good news slides right off the brain.


Branden Harvey

While bad news seems to stick around. He was the person who I just happened to stumble across online, and I have been obsessing over his books Hardwiring Happiness, Buddhist Brain, and Just One Thing ever since, Rick's work has been featured by the BBC, CBS and NPR and is focused on gathering research, information, practices and other resources to help people turn everyday experiences into a powerful sense of lasting wellbeing in the conversation that we got to have. He speaks to the empowerment that comes with using our inner resources for hardwiring happiness in relationship with pain in a lot of ways.


Branden Harvey

I think of this episode as a behind the scenes in the science of every single one of our other guests we've had, and ultimately the science behind your brain and my brain. I love this conversation. Honestly, I've already listened to it twice before it's even come out. I'm going to keep on listening to it. It's so interesting. Please excuse me if I sound like an idiot while he's talking about science and stuff because Rick is way smarter than me, but oh, my gosh, this is such a fun conversation without any further Ado.


Branden Harvey

Let's just jump right into it. Here's my conversation with Dr. Rick Hanson. So, Rick, you have a PhD after your name. And honestly, I don't get to talk with that many people with a PhD after their name. So I just got to ask, who are you and what do you do? Like, what do you do to earn this PhD?


Dr. Rick Hanson

Well, they may not be so special anymore, but I have a doctorate in clinical psychology, and I'm a licensed psychologist. And on the basis of that, I've gotten very interested in the combination of psychology, mindfulness and neuroscience. So that's what I do for a living.


Branden Harvey

Would you say that that's a pretty unique spot to be at the intersection between things like mindfulness and the neuroscience side of things? Because as far as I know, you're the only person that does that.


Dr. Rick Hanson

I think that there are not many people that are working like I am at the center of three circles. You could say the intersection really of three circles, psychology, brain, science, and the contemplative wisdom that's been established around the world. I won't say that I'm unique, but I find that it's pretty unusual to be able to go back and forth from cool stuff about practical psychology for happiness, love and wisdom. And then we also bring in how you're changing your brain along the way.


Branden Harvey

If I remember right. You said that you learned how to take in the good while you were still back in College and that it totally changed your life. Can you tell me about that time when you first kind of stumbled into this area?


Dr. Rick Hanson

Sure. That's a great example of what later I've understood is self directed neuroplasticity ways that people are actually changing their brains. The quick summary of my personal story is that I grew up in a very ordinary, decent Southern California situation, intact family. But first, both my parents were bad at empathy. They were loving decent people, but it was really hard for them to understand what was happening inside of the people, including their kids and understand their effect on other people. The other thing that happened was that I have a late birthday and I skipped a grade, so I was very, very young, going through school year or two younger than most everybody else.


Dr. Rick Hanson

And that plus my kind of dorky temperament led to lots of experiences of being excluded, pushed aside, unwanted, et cetera. It wasn't horrible. I'm not making my childhood as bad as that really of many people, but it was a C minus on a good day and that resulted in me developing what I called a hole in my heart. This lack really of the normal. Technically, they're called social supplies of being included and seen and recognized and liked and loved. For me. That was like a thin soup coming into me and like breathing through a straw.


Dr. Rick Hanson

You can survive, but it's not really optimal. So when I got to College, age 16, I stumbled on this for me, an amazing thing, which was when I first noticed good facts of a girl would smile at me. Two girls would smile at me. That was an amazing. Some guys on my floor would say, hey, let's go eat some pizza, Rick, or some steadily quarterback on my intra mural football team would say, Hanson, you're good. I'm going to throw to you more. Wow, that was great.


Dr. Rick Hanson

Good fact. Most of them are pretty small, pretty ordinary things, just inclusion people waving me over to stay with them in the cafeteria. I've noticed a good fact. And second, really important, I'd let myself feel something as a result. Very often we do notice good facts around us, but we kind of shrug and move on.


Dr. Rick Hanson

We don't feel anything.


Dr. Rick Hanson

And then third step, most important of all, after I noticed the good fact and felt something good, I slowed down 510, 20, 30 seconds to really register and marinate in the experience, and I could feel that it was sinking into me somehow, like the old line, stick to your ribs, right? It was going into me and becoming a part of me and bit by bit a few times every day, most of them pretty quick. A dozen or two dozen seconds at a time. I really felt that I was filling that hole in my heart.


Dr. Rick Hanson

So I became, as a result, a lot happier and a lot more kind of self confident and self reliant and a lot less vulnerable to feeling excluded or criticized or put down by other people and then to finish 20 years later. Still back in my rear view mirror at this point in my thirtys and fortys, I began to understand what was happening in my brain that, in the words of the Canadian psychologist Donald Habit from his work, neurons that fire together, wire together. I was both firing the neurons that were underneath, if you will, the experiences I was having.


Dr. Rick Hanson

But in the process of staying with the experience, keeping those neurons firing, not just changing the channel, not just moving on to the next thing, not letting anybody ran in my parade for the 1020, 30 seconds I was marinating in the experience because I kept my neurons firing in that way. I was gradually hardwiring confidence and calm and happiness into my own nervous system as a result. And I've been developing those ideas and applying them in really practical ways ever since.


Branden Harvey

That's so fascinating. And I love the fact that you in many ways, just stumbled across this early on. You just kind of started doing something. It worked. You kept on doing it. And it wasn't until later that you came up with the explanation for how that was happening.


Dr. Rick Hanson

I think that happens a lot. And one of the cool things about it Branden, it's weird. We live in a culture where it seems like we can have anything we want. Pretty much ordinary people today eat better, sleep better, live better, have better medical care. And Kings and Queens of 100 years ago. Truly. And yet why is it that so many people feel like they're kind of running on empty inside or if things don't keep on going great. Suddenly, there's not a lot inside themselves they can draw upon.


Dr. Rick Hanson

And I've gotten very interested in why that is and how people in our go go, go culture can just slow down a little bit inside their own minds to allow the more ancient parts of the brain. The brain's been evolving for 600 million years and those more ancient parts of the brain that are involved in developing resilience and happiness and feeling that other people love you and care about you. And you're a worthy person deep inside the parts of the brain. Rain that are involved in that started emerging 200 plus million years ago.


Dr. Rick Hanson

They're slower. They need more time to really register beneficial experiences and then convert them into some kind of lasting inner strengths inside in your book.


Branden Harvey

You kind of use this metaphor of our minds as a garden. And specifically, you say that there's kind of three ways to live within this garden. One is you can just be with it without judging it or changing anything. Two, you can pull weeds and spend your time doing that or three, you can plant flowers, your book. And in many ways, your expertise lies in that third option of focusing on planting flowers and focusing on the good. Tell me a little bit more about this metaphor.


Dr. Rick Hanson

Well, thanks for reading the book carefully, too.


Branden Harvey

Honestly, I love the book.


Dr. Rick Hanson

Yeah, I'm a super practical guy, and I really am interested in what's going to help people in the trenches, in the streets of their everyday life. And if you think about all the methods in psychology or even in the world spiritual traditions, because I have a lot of background there as well, they really fall into three buckets, three groups, just like you said, the first category of ways to engage the mind skillfully for our own benefit and that of other people. The first way is to just be with what's there, hopefully with mindful awareness, hopefully with acceptance and self compassion, hopefully with some curiosity and some sort of resilience.


Dr. Rick Hanson

So you're not overwhelmed by what you're feeling, but you're just observing it. You're just being with it. That's the most fundamental mode of practice, but it's not the only mode we also need to, as you point out, let go of or reduce or prevent what's negative, what's upsetting, stressful, unpleasant or harmful to ourselves or perhaps others. And third, we need to grow the good we need to grow, whatever we want to grow, skills in our relationships, confidence, to speak up at work or to speak in public.


Dr. Rick Hanson

We need to grow happiness. We need to grow the commitment to social justice, in my view, empathy and compassion for people who are not like us. These are all strengths. These are all psychological resources to grow. We need to develop those as well. And of course, it all works together. For example, to be able to just be with your experience, open to your feelings. People would say to me when I was younger, I thought they were crazy because my feelings hurt. Why would I want to open to what hurt, right?


Dr. Rick Hanson

You need to be resourced. You need to engage a third mode of practice growing resources to be able to do the first mode of practice, which is to simply witness your own stream of consciousness, so they all work together and to simplify it, as you point out, I do use that method, or rather the metaphor of the garden. There are three great modes of practice. You can witness the garden or pull weeds or plant flowers, and all are important. I especially focus on the planting flowers part, the cultivation of inner strength, psychological resources, wholesome qualities of mind and heart.


Dr. Rick Hanson

Because first, it's the part of practice that I think most people overlook. And second, it's critically important because if you don't, as it were, plant flowers in the garden of your mind, even if you've pulled some weeds, those weeds will come back.


Branden Harvey

And it seems to me that that third one planting flowers may be the most difficult because as I learned from you, neurologically bad is stronger than good. And so it's easier for weeds to grow than for flowers to grow and continuing the metaphor. At least you have to work a lot harder to get those flowers to grow. But that's kind of what you've laid out. Tell me a little bit more about why, on a neurological level, bad is stronger than good.


Dr. Rick Hanson

That's very interesting. Yeah. You're nailing it. Well, technically, the brain is what's called a negativity bias. Whereas I put it, we've got a brain that's like Velcro for bad, the Teflon for good. And the reason is that over the 600 million years of evolution of the nervous system, our ancestors needed to both get carrots, as were food, mating opportunities and so forth. And they needed to avoid sticks, quote, unquote, such as predators or aggression inside their band or between bands. All right. Both are important. But the difference is if you fail to get a carrot today, you'll have a chance of the carrot tomorrow.


Dr. Rick Hanson

But if you fail to avoid that stick today, that sabertoothed Tiger or that big baboon Alpha male, it's mad at what you just did. Whatever. If you fail to avoid that stick today, whack no more carrots forever. As a result, we have this negativity bias, so we scan for bad news. We over, focus on it, we overreact to it. And then whoosh fast track that whole package into emotional memory? If you have, like, ten things happening a day in your relationship, let's say your personal romantic relationship or maybe at work.


Dr. Rick Hanson

Ten things happen in a day. Nine are positive and one is negative. What's the one you think about all night long, right? It's usually the negative one.


Branden Harvey

I think about that with social media, and I just ran this Kickstarter campaign. I got thousands of positive comments, but I can still think about the one mean one. The good should outweigh the bad. But it doesn't like I could quote it verbatim if I wanted to.


Dr. Rick Hanson

Right now, you got it. It's exactly true. For example, there's a lot of research on this, too, like you can train humans and dogs and other mammals into feeling helpless really quickly. Just one or two or three painful experiences of entrapment and defeat. Now you feel helpless, and it takes many, many times as many, like, ten or 100 total counter experiences before people start feeling more like a hammer in life and less like a nail you think about in everyday life, you roll through your day. One good thing is happening after another, you just blow right by it.


Dr. Rick Hanson

That's the dirty little secret in selfhelp mindfulness and psychotherapy. Most experiences have no lasting value. They don't change people in any far reaching way. And if people really want at the end of the day or the week or the year or the life, if they really want to be more resilient, to be happier, to be more loving, to feel more loved, they have to take in the good, they have to help their brains change for the better from the inside out. Otherwise, those positive experiences will just wash right through you while negative ones get caught every time.


Branden Harvey

Break that down a little bit more with you've got this fantastic metaphor that I think opened up the way that I see how this works. Teflon and Velcro.


Dr. Rick Hanson

Oh, sure. Well, you go through your day. You just think about the day. If you're listening to this, think about the day you've had so far or a typical day. Right? And think about all the little I'm going to use the word good. I don't mean morally. I mean, it pragmatically. Think about all the pleasant, enjoyable say or valuable useful experiences you have over the course of the day. You accomplish something. You finish an email, you look out the window and you see a tree blowing in the wind.


Dr. Rick Hanson

You drink some coffee, it tastes good. You hang out with a friend. Your friend is friendly. Somebody texts you, and it's funny you laugh. It's a joke. Or maybe you're worried about something. And then it turned out not to be a big issue. Okay. Think about how often we have those little experiences and we move on to the next thing. It's like reading Twitter. You know, you just read one tweet after another and then you go back and you try to remember what did I read?


Dr. Rick Hanson

What was doing the last 510 minutes. It just sort of washes through you. It doesn't have any really lasting value. On the other hand, if something negative happens, you're stuck in traffic. Your boss said something kind of critical. Somebody you post on your page, your Facebook page said it's like sort of a snarky thing, or they take issue with something innocent. You thought it was a joke and they get mad at you about it. Damn, that's what you really think about, isn't it? It really sinks in.


Dr. Rick Hanson

And those are examples. And so for me, Mother Nature, that's what we're talking about here. We're talking about a Stone Age brain in the 21st century, mother Nature is tilted towards survival. But as a result, she's tilted against or away from quality of life. That means if you deliberately tilt toward ordinary, enjoyable, beneficial experiences in the flow of your day, you're just leveling the playing field. We're talking here about a tenancy that you can see in lizards or mosquitoes, whatever who share very ancient, primitive and fundamental parts of our own brain.


Dr. Rick Hanson

And you can definitely see those tenants that we're talking about here. Velcro and Teflon in the brains of mice and monkeys and dogs and cats. There's not just one part of the brain. It's not like there's the Velcro part of the brain and the Teflon part of the brain. We're talking here about a global tendency that's been hardwired into the brain altogether because animals back in the day, they were super chill. Frankly, they were reading the Goodnewspaper. Let's say back in the Serenade. Oh, man. Good news, right?


Dr. Rick Hanson

They got eaten because they were not nervous and irritable and cranky and aggressive. And the ones who lived to see the sunrise were the ones who are constantly looking over their shoulder worried about the next thing, and the ones who learned really fast from bad events because they may not get a second chance to learn that lesson. Right. So that's why we have this negativity bias, and it's hardwired into the whole brain and the whole nervous system altogether. We're not totally screwed in the sense that we can do things about it.


Dr. Rick Hanson

But one thing I really learned from my own deep dive into brain science Branden is that if we don't take charge of the brain, it's going to take charge of us. And if we don't take charge of it, other people are going to take charge of it. Think about how often we get manipulated with appeals to fear or greed of one kind or another. Fear or greed. And, you know, other people media politicians, they're playing on fear. They're playing on greed, or they're playing on us versus them, tribalistic rivalries and conflicts.


Dr. Rick Hanson

And if we don't see that, and if we don't take charge of the Stone Age brain ourselves, a, we're going to be a lot unhappier and B. There's a lot of risks here for the human tribe altogether in the 21st century.


Branden Harvey

Yeah, it's really interesting. I was actually about to bring that up because the thing is, we don't live in a world anymore, or at least for the most part, if you're listening to this podcast on an iphone or something, you, for the most part, don't have to worry about a gorilla jumping out and attacking you. That's not necessarily going to happen. A lion is not going to eat you while you're napping. And so we don't necessarily need to be fearing things on that same level anymore. But fear is still, of course, important.


Branden Harvey

Fear is what makes us work harder at our jobs. Fear is what makes us when you get up on stage when you're about to make a speech, it's what makes you actually care what you're doing because you're afraid. So you're going to do a better job. But fear mongering is a different story. Fear mongering is basically fear of things that are not actual threats to you, but somebody wants to make you afraid of it. I feel like that's maybe one of the biggest aspects of fear in our lives, outside of like a car rushes by, and it's this close from you.


Branden Harvey

Stepping back is natural. But outside of actual moments of danger, fear mongering is probably the part that activates the brain the most. What is the antidote for Fear mongering in 2017?


Dr. Rick Hanson

Oh, yeah. I think you're so right. Calm strength is the way I think of it. In other words, like, for example, I've done a lot of rock climbing, and I've been in extremely dangerous, objectively, hazardous situations, standing on little edges, half or a quarter of the width of a pencil holding on to them with my little tips of my fingers, things like that. And at the same time, even though I was very aware of the threats, and my heart was beating faster, and there was some anxiety kind of floating around the edges of my mind.


Dr. Rick Hanson

In my core, I was one happy camper I was having the time of my life. I felt confident. I felt in control. I was confident I could deal with this. So just because there are threats and I don't believe in positive thinking, I believe in realistic thinking with a brain that's designed actually for negative thinking. So if you tilt toward the positive, then you end up realistic. But anyway, it's really important to see real issues, whether it's somebody coming at you at work who is being sort of snarky or hostile or aggressive at you, or there's some sort of barrier you need to push through, like a glass ceiling of some kind, or you want to push through or you're living in a tough neighborhood or there's a health issue you have to deal with, or you need to start saving some money.


Dr. Rick Hanson

Otherwise, you're going to be in deep trouble when you edge into old age. So whatever it is, we've got to deal with the threat. The question is, are we dealing with the threat that might prompt some fear? Are we dealing with it from the stress response, fight or flight system, or are we dealing with it as I dealt with threats when I was rock climbing from a place of calm strike. And so to me, that's part of the answer. The other part of the answer is to not succumb to what I call paper Tiger paranoia, not succumb to thinking that threats are worse than they really are, and that resources to deal with threats are less than what they really are.


Dr. Rick Hanson

And that little bit. That's another example of the negativity bias that we're prone to. So back in the day when there is signs thread level Orange, whatever going through an airport, I just knew that the odds of a bad event on my plane on that day were green. There was almost no likelihood whatsoever. It was more dangerous to drive to the airport than it was to get on my flight that day. And I just refused to succumb to the manipulation of the threat level Orange warning.


Dr. Rick Hanson

I just kept internally relaxing and standing up to it and saying no, obviously, I want to be aware of terrorists, and obviously I want to be aware of muggers on the street. But that doesn't mean that I need to live in fear and to finish. How do you develop that core, that muscle inside of confidence, strength. And the way to do it is to do what I've said earlier, taking the good. That's what my books are about. That's what my programs are about. Really look for opportunities over the flow of your day to experience various psychological resources that are relevant to being afraid or feeling threatened, such as relaxing as you exhale.


Dr. Rick Hanson

We naturally relax as we exhale recognize protections, we usually take them for granted. But to just look around the road, go, all right, strong walls, big building, or bring to mind other people who have your back, who will support you or your friends or your allies. They're going to come through for you. It need not be a perfect relationship, but they have your interests at heart. They're on your side. Feel that. And when you're having these experiences, slow it down 510, 20 seconds at a time to really internalize them.


Dr. Rick Hanson

Also, if you're experiencing determination or grit or fortitude any one aspect or another resilience, hey, take that in as well. I've been in many situations where people are arguing with me or coming at me in a weird way, and I'll just pull up the body memory of being in wilderness or dealing with serious life and death situation. And so then I activate that body memory and I call upon it's like getting a good song playing in your inner ipod in the back of your head. Right.


Dr. Rick Hanson

And then you get that song going, and I cannot deal with this asshole who's coming at me here at work or wherever. So that's where I'll finish. The point is recognize that we're scared monkeys.


Dr. Rick Hanson

And I believe in God.


Dr. Rick Hanson

I believe in the divine and all the rest of that. But that still is really clear that there's biological evolution. It's just a Crystal clear fact. There's no way around it just to take away from God. And as big monkeys we're bred, we're evolved to be scared little critters. And when you really appreciate that about yourself, how vulnerable we are to fear, for one, it helps you treat other people better because you realize they're vulnerable to fear, too, doesn't mean walking on eggshells, but it does mean giving them no cause to fear.


Dr. Rick Hanson

You in the negative sense of that. And also, when you realize that to finish, you're a kind of big, scared monkey, you get much more interested in not ruminating or obsessing about anxiety because you're changing your brain along the way. And you also get more focused on when you do feel that core of confident strength to really flag those moments as high value moments for internalizing that experience of home strike and making it a part of yourself beautiful.


Branden Harvey

I knew that I was going to have this conversation with you. I mentally thought, oh, my gosh, Rick, can totally help me understand what is going on here, because when I reach out to you about having this conversation, I told you a little bit about the Goodnewspaper and you said you went and checked it out and I'm going to send you a copy of it. But when we first started working on it, the concept was simple, like, let's make a newspaper that is full of good news, and we weren't trying to air towards positivity.


Branden Harvey

But like you said earlier, we were trying to air towards being realistic with the belief that most news is really negative, focused or is really negatively focused. We wanted to focus on what's actually happening in the world with the belief that the world is actually better than all of us think. And so we decided that we're going to pay attention to good things happening in difficult situations and during the whole process, honestly, we didn't know how well it would do. I certainly didn't know how well it would do.


Branden Harvey

And I was super nervous when I hit the launch button on Kickstarter, but then it actually blew up way faster than we imagined. And while it's not like we've got millions and millions and millions of people who subscribed, we had far more than we were expecting. Do you feel like in 2017, something about our brains on a neurological level is primed and ready for good news? Did we just tap into a certain kind of person with a certain type of brain? Did something neurological happen that made all of these people who are amazing and incredible show up for this, or did we just get lucky?


Branden Harvey

I don't know. You can tell me.


Dr. Rick Hanson

I sometimes think of the news as really the olds what I mean by that, it's like, listen to traffic reporters. It's the same story accident here, jam, there Lane closure down the road. And I think, wow, it's the same story every day. Yeah, sometimes the names are different, but it's the same fundamental story. And I think that people really long for information about what is going on in the world and how they can help. Right. And you're right, because you may know the saying from journalism. If it bleeds, it leads.


Dr. Rick Hanson

In other words, that's what people because of the negativity bias, they jump to murder today and ship the mall, or the President did something crazy and bang or North Korea fired another missile. You better pay for that. It's very salient. It's very compelling and Branden. A lot of what interests me is self reliance and autonomy. In other words, if you really want to be self reliant, you have to take charge of the structure building processes in your own brain because advertisers other people shooting messages at us.


Dr. Rick Hanson

We're learning more and more about how various forces that are not our friends around the world have manipulated social media to very individualized targets, to kind of trick people into thinking things that are really, really not true. And that's just one example of the many efforts that are being made to kind of invade us and manipulate and control us. And so if a person wants to be more independent and doesn't want to be pushed around by that sort of thing, a fundamental source of getting more independent and not being pushed around is to take charge of your own brain and to really think about what am I resting my attention on?


Dr. Rick Hanson

Because that's the beginning of changing your brain. What you rest your attention is like a spotlight and vacuum cleaner. It illuminates what it rests upon and then sucks it into your brain. And so, number one, you get more aware of what you're putting your attention on. And two, if your attention is resting on something that's not good for you.


Dr. Rick Hanson

Like some resentment, you're going over and over and over again.


Dr. Rick Hanson

Or you're criticizing yourself over and over.


Dr. Rick Hanson

Or you're worried about the extra £10 you're carrying and you wish you could learn.


Dr. Rick Hanson

You pull your attention away from that, because guess what? Neurons that fire together, wire together, you rest your attention on that, you're wiring it into you. And then also, when you do have a chance, as I was saying earlier, to experience just ordinary wellbeing of one kind or another. Slow down for wellbeing, slow down for accomplishments, slow down for gratitude, slow down for feeling loved and cared about and really take it into yourself. When life puts a nice little bowl in front of you.


Dr. Rick Hanson

Bring a big spoon.


Dr. Rick Hanson

So that's why I think people are really interested in your good newspaper because they recognize somehow that when even though their attention is compelled to the latest negative headline or some kind of weird thing in their social media feed. Just because those are compelling, like a fire alarm going off or a car alarm going off. When you're done with it, do you feel any happier? Do you feel any more peaceful or hopeful or confident or wiser? No. So I think people are recognizing increasingly that offerings like yours is a good newspaper.


Dr. Rick Hanson

When you're done reading it, when it comes out in May, I guess when you're done reading it, you end up feeling a lot better and a lot happier. And after watching half an hour of typical mainstream media news, there we go.


Branden Harvey

Problem solved. Thanks, Rick.


Dr. Rick Hanson

Hey, anytime. Just call me up.


Branden Harvey

I'll be like Rick. So why did this thing sell?


Dr. Rick Hanson

No, I'm going to subscribe to your paper. Other people, I tell also, thank you.


Branden Harvey

That means a lot. I wanted to dive into another idea really quick right now. We're talking about external fears, external things that might happen to us. But maybe not. It's kind of like our brains looking forward. But I wanted to kind of look a little bit backward and talk about this idea of inner strengths and how the things that have happened to us in our past create who we are today because in many ways, it feels very opposite of what we've been talking about so far. But I loved what you talked about in the book about inner strengths.


Branden Harvey

Can you give me some examples of inner strengths? Maybe tell me a little bit about what they are and how to grow them. Yeah.


Dr. Rick Hanson

So let's kind of work backwards. Let's say that a person wants to fill in the blank. They want to be less worried or irritable, maybe or nervous, let's say or maybe they want to feel more entitled to love and good treatment in their relationships. Or maybe they want to feel braver about speaking from the heart or dreaming big dreams, swinging out much as you've done. Or maybe a person just wants to feel more patient over time or happier altogether. All right. So we work backwards or they want to be more effective or successful at work.


Dr. Rick Hanson

So you work backwards. How do you do that? Well, the main way to do that is to develop what are called psychological resources, like confidence, gratitude, what's called secure attachment. So you feel kind of trusting and stable in your relationships, not always waiting for the other shoe to drop. Resilience executive functions, mindfulness vitality, the capacity to tolerate real depth in intimacy while at the same time being able to assert your own needs and to feel entitled in a healthy sense to get your own needs met in that relationship.


Dr. Rick Hanson

These are psychological resources kind of like muscles inside us that we draw upon to be happier and more peaceful inside and to feel more loved and loving. So that's the idea. So then the question becomes, if psychological resources are really good, I think about this guy's gone out in wilderness a lot. What's in my backpack or what's in your wallet? Right. We want to get more stuff inside ourselves in terms of these good qualities inside us virtues as well. We want to grow the good inside ourselves.


Dr. Rick Hanson

Then the question becomes, how do you actually do it? And the way to do it is a really fundamental two step process. And you need to do both steps. Number one, you need to experience whatever you want to grow inside. You have to experience it. We don't have a technology like Neo in the Matrix, where you do jacket cable into the back of the head and suddenly you can fly a helicopter Dukung Fu. First, you experience what you want to grow, and then second, critically important, you have to install that experience into your nervous system.


Dr. Rick Hanson

Otherwise, there's no lasting value. And it's very simple process. It's not hard to remember. It's easy. Have it, enjoy it, have the experience and then enjoy it. Stay with it. But the problem is, most people and I've seen this an awful lot. Most people, they're having beneficial experiences, but they're not doing the installation phase, the critical second step. They're not interesting. Yeah, they're not enjoying it.


Branden Harvey

They're just moving past it.


Dr. Rick Hanson

Yeah. They're leaving all that money.


Branden Harvey

I think that's my default move in many ways. I think that I forget to stay present because I'm looking forward to that next big thing.


Dr. Rick Hanson

Yeah, that's exactly right. And also we live in an add culture, right. Where we're being constantly bombarded by one distraction after another. And it might be a nice thing coming in, but it keeps coming in, and it dislodges the current good thing. And because the current good thing is not held in technically, the neural substrates of working memory. Short term memory buffers long enough for it to begin to be consolidated in long term storage. Because the current good experience. Your boyfriend loves you, your girlfriend loves you.


Dr. Rick Hanson

Your friend likes you. Whatever it might be, your boss said a good thing. You got something done, you dodged a bullet. You made it to work on time. You're hanging with friends. This beer is wonderful. I remember this guy once said the worst beer I ever had was wonderful. So whatever it is, I'm not suggesting go get hammered. You know what I'm saying here? All right. When you're having that experience, why not turn on the inner recorder? You worked hard. You got that song playing inside your head.


Dr. Rick Hanson

You know that experience of accomplishment, let's say, at work or a sense of being included by other people, or that today, at least unlike those assholes you grew up with, or you went to school, your buddies like you. When you're having that experience, the song is playing in your mind. You earned it. Turn on the recorder.


Branden Harvey

That's really good. And then kind of along those lines right there. You're talking about taking the positive things and actually acknowledging them, remembering them, holding on to them, absorbing them. But what about the negative things that happened in our lives? How can we make those things actually have an impact on us in the future? In a positive way? Not in a way that's scarring, though. It will leave a scar. How do you take something good from something that was not good?


Dr. Rick Hanson

Right? That's a deep question. So first point, there are lessons we learn only from painful stressful experiences. That's the truth. On the other hand, those painful stressful experiences always have collateral damage. They always have costs in the moment they're unpleasant. And as they add up in our lives, they wear down long term physical health and mental health. And they wear down relationships. So even when there's a unique benefit from a particular experience, there are costs that go with it. And then second, if we tell the truth, isn't it true?


Dr. Rick Hanson

Most pain has no gain. And also the question is, could we have gotten the gain without the pain? Could we have acquired that, let's say, perspective or gratitude or understanding of other people? Or could we have acquired that softening of our heart due to loss or trauma? Could we have acquired that same game through the much more direct path than I'm talking about here, which is one experience, what you want to grow inside and two turn on the recorder, take it into yourself. And I offer a variety of ways for doing that.


Dr. Rick Hanson

But the essence is really simple. Stay with it for a breath or two or three while really opening to it in your body. Get as many neurons firing together and as long as possible and as intensely as possible so that they maximally hardwire. That beneficial experience into you as a lasting psychological resource. So that's the first part. Second part. If you want to clear old pain, I'll tell you a way to do it all right, and it has to do with how the brain works. So the trick is, be aware of two things at once.


Dr. Rick Hanson

In the foreground of awareness, be focus on whatever the positive experiences, and then in the background of awareness off to the side, be aware of that old pain or whatever the issue was off to the side. And because neurons that fire together wire together, the positive will start to associate with the negative. Isn't that cool and gradually ease it, contextualize it, soothe it and even eventually replace it. And as an example of that, my own story when I was in College and young adulthood and beyond, when I was experiencing the social supplies that were missing in my childhood, I was feeling included, feeling seen, feeling like, feeling wanted and so forth, feeling valued, feeling respected, feeling appreciated when I was experiencing that often.


Dr. Rick Hanson

I would also be aware of the little Ricky inside me who felt like the runs of the litter, who was left out and excluded and felt like damaged goods. And so because I was aware of both at the same time, I could feel that the current positive experience was going into those wounded longing, hurt places inside, sifting down into them, sinking down into them kind of like a golden soothing balm, easing them, filling Apollo places inside and gradually helping the younger layers in me receive what they had always needed and longed for.


Dr. Rick Hanson

Any single time you do that usually will not be a complete release. Usually won't be a breakthrough. The gradual accumulation of what I call linking. I use this acronym Heal from reading my book have Enrich Absorb Link. The fourth step link is what I'm talking about right now. It's the optional step where you're aware of both positive and negative at once rather than just a positive. And that linking step, though, is extremely powerful. If you get sucked into the negative stuff, drop it just marinate only in the positive, saver only the positive.


Dr. Rick Hanson

But if you're able to keep the negative small and off to the side of your mind while in the foreground focusing on what's a natural antidote to that negative or compensation for it. As in my example. In other words, my issues had to do with feeling rejected and unwanted. So partying with my friends was nice, but it did not address the whole my heart feeling tough and Manly and all that that was good or whatever it was in its own right, but it did not address the whole of my heart.


Dr. Rick Hanson

I needed to internalize experiences that were matched to or targeted at the particular issue I had, which was social I had to do with feelings of inadequacy. So to finish, if a person does this, if you know what your own wound is. Then look for experiences that are natural antidotes. I call them your vitamin C, right? If you have scurvy, you need vitamin C, B, vitamins or iron or protein shakes are not going to do it for you. You need vitamin C. If you've got scurvy what's matched to your issue.


Dr. Rick Hanson

So if you know what your issue is and then you can see the match to it, then when you go through your day, look for opportunities to experience that matched vitamin C antidote experience. And when you do have those antidote experiences, then if you can do it without getting sucked into the negative, be aware of the antidote experience in the front of your mind with the negative material that old crud off to the side. And if you do that again and again and again, you will notice a major difference in yourself.


Branden Harvey

That is absolutely interesting. Rick, man, I feel this is just so good. I'm loving learning from you.


Dr. Rick Hanson

It's great to talk to you.


Branden Harvey

I just want to ask one final question as we go on our way out. I mean, the truth is that one of the things that you are most strong at is taking these complex ideas and making them really actionable. And you provided a lot of action steps throughout this conversation. But if there was one more practical action step that you could offer people a daily practice that people could implement to help them live life with more happiness and hope and optimism, what would you recommend?


Dr. Rick Hanson

That's great. I'll say first, I'll just repeat what I've said. So far as you go through your day, there are all these little ordinary jewels right in front of you. Usually we step right over them. Somebody smiles at us. The hot dog tastes good. We finally get to bed. At the end of a long, weary day, our dog jumps up and is excited to see us when we get home. Whatever it might be, all these little ordinary jewels instead of walking over them all day long, bring a vacuum cleaner, look for them.


Dr. Rick Hanson

And then when you see them, slow it down. Be grateful. Open to the goodness. Just like you teach yourself, Branden open to the goodness that's actual, that's authentic, genuine and true and receive it into yourself. So that's my first general suggestion. But if you allow me, I'll add a very specific one that has to do with the evolution of your brain. Okay, to cut to the chase. The brain evolved in three stages. Reptile, mammal and primate. Okay, in effect, each of us is walking around with a little lizard, mouse and monkey inside.


Dr. Rick Hanson

That corresponds to the reptilian brain stem, mammalian sub cortex and primate, human cortex. Okay, lizard mouse, monkey. It's a dorky way to put it, but it's so memorable. And those layers of the brain, the three floors of the house of the brain built from the bottom up, starting with the brainstem back in the reptilian and even more ancient times periods, those layers are related to our three basic needs. If you think about it, we all need safety, satisfaction, and connection, which are related to the inner lizard, mouse and monkey.


Dr. Rick Hanson

So cutting to the chase. I do this practice myself. Most days take a few moments when you first wake up or just before going to bed, or if you do any kind of little meditative practice or a long one, you can do this for a minute or two or three. Take a moment to register the experience broadly, to find of peace or safety rather than fear, anger or helplessness kind of register. What is it like to have calm strength, to feel protected, to feel in your core, even if you're being challenged, you're strong enough, Hardy enough to deal with it so that deep in your being, you can locate a sense of safety and peace in your core.


Dr. Rick Hanson

And then second, contentment rather than frustration in terms of the little inner mouse in the song, instead of feeling driven or addicted or frustrated, disappointed or full of grief instead of that in terms of our needs for satisfaction, look for opportunities to feel grateful or glad or goal accomplished. Like you got lots of little things done or just a fundamental sense of enoughness with things as they are. They may not be perfect. Sure, it'd be nice to have a second car or a shinier car, but it's good enough.


Dr. Rick Hanson

It's okay when you have that marinate in the sense of contentment. So now peace, contentment. And then third, love the little inner monkey. Our needs for connection. When you do feel connected, when you feel cared about or caring, even in a really difficult life, whatever is authentically true for you, kind of slow it down to rest in that experience. And so if a person wants to, they can just take a minute or two or three, like a minute for each of these or 20 seconds for each of these and just go, okay, peace.


Dr. Rick Hanson

Got it. Contentment enoughness enjoyment, happiness. Okay, got it. And then love right. People care about me. I care about them. My heart is open, my heart is warm, love and what that does. And I'll details right now because I know we're running out of time. It takes your brain to its default position in the green zone, our home base, where we feel fundamentally in our core, safe, satisfied and connected needs met rather than unsafe, dissatisfied and disconnected. And so when we marinate in that green zone place, we gradually hard wire a green zone brain and then to finish.


Dr. Rick Hanson

When we go through life and their challenges to safety or challenges to satisfaction or challenges to connection, and they will come when those challenges come at us, we are able to say in a green zone place rather than getting pushed in a fight, flight, freeze war, red zone place, we're able to stay in a green Zone place as we deal with those real challenges, and we do it. We're able to stay in that green zone place. We build up that inner that core inside ourselves of unconditional wellbeing and resilience a resilient happiness.


Dr. Rick Hanson

We build up that core of resilient happiness hardwired into our nervous system by repeatedly internalizing authentic experiences of needs met, especially related to peace and contentment and love.


Branden Harvey

Absolutely beautiful man. Rick, I love this so much. It has been so fun having you on the show this week. This is so helpful for me, and I have no doubt that it's going to be helpful for our listeners. So thank you.


Dr. Rick Hanson

I really hope it is. And the bigger picture, too Branden to finish, is for a green zone planet. I mean, green not specifically related to environmentalism, although I'm Super for that. But I mean, it's like you can just sell even in affluent countries like America right now is kind of crazy, even though we're the richest, most powerful nation on Earth, people are running around, scared, angry, and greedy, and kind of freaked out. Not everybody. But it's obvious that affluence is not enough. It's important, but it's not enough.


Dr. Rick Hanson

If people don't feel deep in their bones, a fundamental quality of inner peace, contentment and love. We're going to go through the 21st century like humans have gone through the previous centuries, squabbling with each other greedily, chasing $1 after another. Meanwhile, heating up the planet permanent for future generations and so forth. And my own vision is to get a critical mass of human beings zoned in in the green Zone dropped into the green zone as they go through their day. And I think that'll change the course of human history.


Branden Harvey

I completely agree. I like that mission and I am on your team to make that happen. Rick, thank you seriously so much. I appreciate you so much.


Dr. Rick Hanson

Thanks a lot, Branden.


Branden Harvey

I really love the way that Rick is able to communicate these really complex ideas of how our brains are actually working through metaphors that actually can move the needle on how we experience happiness and really how we categorize our experiences. I just keep on thinking about his garden analogy of our brain being a garden, and we have the opportunity to just sit back and witness the garden, or we have the opportunity to pull the weeds, or we have the opportunity to plant flowers sitting back and observing it just runs amok.


Branden Harvey

If you just pull out weeds, they're going to grow back at some point. But if you plant flowers, that's where the real success can come from. And ultimately, this pushes back on the negativity bias that's built into our brains, and it allows us to live more hopeful, happy lives. If you want to learn more about Rick outside of this episode, you can check them out at Rickhandson. Net, where he's got videos, blog posts, courses, a newsletter. It's fantastic. I have learned a lot from Rick, so definitely check them out in this episode.


Branden Harvey

We actually talked a lot about the Goodnewspaper in this issue. And if you haven't heard about the newspaper we launched on Kickstarter a few months back, we ended up reaching 200% of our goal, which is incredible. Thanks a huge part to the incredible podcast community around. Sounds good. Now the newspaper is actually real. We have brought it to life and you can order your own. You can go to Goodnewspaper. Org and pick up just one issue or a subscription or maybe a few subscriptions if you want to give it to a friend.


Branden Harvey

But ultimately, we just wanted to create something that helps people fight back against the negativity that they experience every day, not in a way that runs from it, but in a way that really engages and reminds people of the fact that there are always difference makers in every situation. There are always helpers. So again, that's Goodnewspaper. Org on top of that, if you want to learn more about the podcast, if you want to learn more about what we do here, check out goodgoodgoodco. We're also on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook.


Branden Harvey

We've got a private Facebook group at Goodgoodgoodco. You can search it, you'll find it. It's on the website. I won't bore you. Go check it out. We've got some really fun stuff that we love sharing throughout the week. And with that, I think that that's a wrap for this week's episode. Go out and do some good this week. And we'll back next week with another inspiring conversation with an incredible person. Sounds good.


Episode Details

June 12, 2017
Newspaper That Says Good News !

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Sounds Good is the weekly podcast that hosts hopeful conversations with optimists and world-changers about the headlines we can be hopeful about — and how you can get involved and make a difference.

Every week, Good Good Good founder Branden Harvey sits down with the people driving positive change against the world's greatest problems. Each episode will leave you with a sense of hope about the good in the world — and a sense of direction on how we can all be a part of that good. Episodes are released every Monday.

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