When the Going Gets Good

We are so caught up in noticing our downfalls, that when asked to describe our experience of ease, we oftentimes get stumped. Why do we have so much trouble remembering the good times? It seems that we get fixated on what’s missing or what’s going wrong or what needs to be done that we zone out when things are going well. Western culture is always moving to the next item before the current moment is complete. We rob ourselves of the pleasures in our life by skipping over the highlights of our day.

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During a recent dharma talk at Insight Meditation Center, the speaker asked when we feel at ease. Many participants expressed difficulty with the exercise, listing troubles and what prevents moments of relaxation. After digging deeper, some participants mentioned times of day as when they felt relaxed, like early morning or during dinner time. Reflections also included activities, such as yoga, painting, being in nature, and taking walks. Others mentioned they noticed a sense of ease during massages (makes me want to schedule one right now just thinking about it!).

A particularly interesting notation was finding peacefulness during moments of gratitude. When you are in full appreciation, there is no room for uncomfortable feelings or thoughts. Noticing what is going well is an effective antidote to pulling you out of the dumps. Yet, soaking up the good things in life, like compliments, doesn’t come easy for many of us.

Rick Hanson, psychologist and author of Hardwiring Happiness, is a big proponent for positive neuroplasticity — that our brains can change based on our experiences. To help reprogram your brain to be open to relaxing thoughts more often, sit with a positive experience for a solid 10 seconds and really let yourself feel good about it. Try using the 10 second rule next time something good happens to you while also increasing your brains’ chances of recognizing these peaceful moments more frequently.

Spend some time pondering when you are at ease. As you look at these times, identify what is causing your non-suffering. What do you notice about yourself? How do you know when things are good? Use this blueprint to help remind you take a moment, 10 seconds even, to soak up and absorb these precious moments of bliss. All it takes is one experience and then another to begin a string of happy moments.

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