I’ve been out weeding the flower beds. In certain spots dandelions are threatening a take-over. They haven’t wasted any time gaining a strong foothold. It’s early in the season and they’ve established an impressive root system.
This battle for real estate in my garden, between weeds and high-value flowers, reminds me of what goes on in our minds as our thoughts and experiences change and sculpt our brains.
As Rick Hanson, neuropsychologist and author of Hardwiring Happiness, points out, what we repeatedly sense and feel and what and think is slowly but surely forming neural pathways in our brain. Our experiences “don’t just grow new synapses, remarkable as that is by itself, but also somehow reach down into your genes…and change how they operate.”
The Garden of Our Mind:
Naturally then, the questions become:
What do we want growing then in the fertile soil of our brain?
How can we direct the flow of thoughts, emotions, and sensations through our minds so as to cultivate the most positive and fruitful harvest for ourselves?
As Hanson points out, there are several ways to go about managing the fertile grounds.
- We can be simply be with what is in our mind, looking at its weeds and flowers without judging or changing anything, (meditation and mindfulness practices) or
- We can pull weeds by decreasing the negative thoughts which roam around in our minds, or
- We can actively choose to grow flowers by increasing the positive thoughts in our minds.
Sowing Seeds: Plant Happiness Habits
We can sow seeds of discontent through frequent ruminations, spinning-worry thoughts, or telling well-worn stories of anger and outrage, or we can invest a little effort into consciously planting seeds – Happiness Habits – which will produce peace-of-mind, contentment, and harmony.
Happiness Habits are those practices we do consistently so they can take root and establish well-traveled pathways, becoming the habits of our mind – the powerful, positive habits empowering us in creating a thriving, joyful life.
Two of my favorite Happiness Habits to practice are Gratitude and Forgiveness and because their power is demonstrated not only in our minds, but also in our bodies.
According to Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley, active practices like gratitude and forgiveness have the following benefits:
- Stronger immune systems and lower blood pressure;
- Higher levels of positive emotions;
- More joy, optimism, and happiness;
- Acting with more generosity and compassion;
- Feeling less lonely and isolated.
The more we implement practices like gratitude and forgiveness, the greater their presence in the fertile soil of our minds. Eventually, they win the battle for the precious real estate in the garden of our minds.
What will you sow in your garden this spring?
Perhaps a daily or weekly Gratitude list or journal will cultivate greater levels of joy?
Perhaps you will weed out or let go, of someone or something, through Forgiveness?
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