chris kresser rick hanson happiness revolution health radio

How to Hardwire Happiness – Dr. Rick Hanson on Revolution Health Radio, Hosted by Chris Kresser

Check out the Episode Page & Show Notes

Key Takeaways

  • Positive neuroplastic change happens following a good experience
    • One of the fundamental ways to cement this change is to slow down for a breath or two, or longer, to allow the good experience to really sink in
  • “Stress today makes us just a little more vulnerable to stress tomorrow, which increases the stress tomorrow, which then makes us even more vulnerable for the day after that.” Dr. Rick Hanson
    • In a natural environment where things were trying to kill us, constantly scanning the periphery was important for survival, but in our modern environment, it’s a prescription for depression and anxiety
  • The three foundational practices of acceptance
    • 1) When you’re feeling anxious or experiencing physical pain, be with it; then, let it go
      • Rick recalls a quote: “Let the sadness, let the anger, let the thoughts come into your mind, but don’t offer them tea” – Suzuki Roshi
    • 2) As soon as you notice your mind getting caught up in resentment or rehashing conversations, pull out – don’t feed or follow it
    • 3) “When you have a beneficial experience, stay with it for a breath or longer. Feel it in your body and focus on what’s rewarding about it. And in that way, bit by bit, synapse by synapse, you’ll be growing the good inside yourself.”Dr. Rick Hanson

Intro

Balancing Resources and Vulnerability

  • A person’s life course is a function of three factors:
    • Challenges
    • Vulnerabilities
    • Resources
  • We don’t always have control over our challenges and vulnerabilities, but we do over developing resources
  • The greater the vulnerability – physically, psychologically, or environmentally – the more important it is to grow resources inside the body (especially inside the mind):
    • Grit
    • Gratitude
    • Self-compassion
    • Self-confidence
    • Mindfulness

Neuroplasticity Explained

  • Neuroplasticity is the capacity of the nervous system to be changed by experience
    • “We’ve all experienced neuroplasticity from the experiences we’ve had of healing, growing, learning, developing, and changing for the better in any way. What’s breaking news, though, is the vast number of mechanisms whereby those neuroplastic changes occur.” – Dr. Rick Hanson
  • Neurons that fire together, wire together (AKA they form new connections between each other)
    • Repeated and sustained patterns of neural mental activation leave lasting physical changes behind in neural structure and function
  • Positive neuroplastic change happens following a good experience
    • One of the fundamental ways to cement this change is to slow down for a breath or two, or longer, to allow the good experience to really sink in

The Negativity Bias

  • Our ancestors had basically two missions: Get carrots and avoid sticks (gather food and avoid predators/aggression – the latter more immediately serious)
    • Negative experiences, from a survival standpoint over the 600-million-year evolution of the nervous system, typically have more urgency and impact than positive experiences
  • The modern brain does five things automatically:
    • It looks for bad news out in the world (and within the body/mind)
    • When the brain finds that bad news, it over-focuses on it
    • The brain then overreacts to the bad news
    • That news is then fast-tracked into memory
    • Finally, the stress hormone, cortisol, is released
  • This creates a vicious cycle. Stress today makes us just a little more vulnerable to stress tomorrow, which increases the stress tomorrow, which then makes us even more vulnerable for the day after that.” – Dr. Rick Hanson
    • In a natural environment where things were trying to kill us, constantly scanning the periphery was important for survival, but in our modern environment, it’s a prescription for depression and anxiety

The Power of Acceptance

  • Three foundational practices:
    • 1) When you’re feeling anxious or experiencing physical pain, be with it; then, let it go
      • Rick recalls a quote: “Let the sadness, let the anger, let the thoughts come into your mind, but don’t offer them tea” – Suzuki Roshi
    • 2) As soon as you notice your mind getting caught up in resentment or rehashing conversations, pull out – don’t feed or follow it
    • 3) “When you have a beneficial experience, stay with it for a breath or longer. Feel it in your body and focus on what’s rewarding about it. And in that way, bit by bit, synapse by synapse, you’ll be growing the good inside yourself.”Dr. Rick Hanson
  • Acceptance is not the same as submission
    • Acceptance is a necessary precondition to responding in an appropriate way
    • You need to think: Okay, this is happening. I don’t like it. I would prefer not to have this negative experience. I would prefer to be living my life as I thought it would unfold, but this is actually happening now, and I’m accepting it.”
  • Appreciating moments of pleasure, even small ones – the sun on your skin or the first sip of tea in the morning – is a life-enhancing approach

The Mind-Body Connection

  • When someone feels anxious or irritable, it produces an alarm response that causes more physiological symptoms (or exacerbates the anxiety/irritability itself)
  • Rest your state of being repeatedly and authentically over the day in ways that are both calming and soothing
    • This exerts influence over internal physiological systems in far-reaching ways
  • When you’re relaxed, at ease, and more accepting of what’s happening in the parasympathetic state, this causes a cascade of changes in the gut:
    • A more hospitable environment for healthy bacteria is created
    • Peristalsis, the cleansing action wave of the gut, is improved
    • Stomach acid and enzymes are released to aid digestion
  • “Just because a health issue is physical doesn’t mean only physical interventions could help. And just because something is mental, like anxiety or depression, doesn’t mean only mental factors can address it.” – Dr. Rick Hanson

Seven Practices to Awake Your Consciousness, from Dr. Rick Hanson’s online course: Neurodharma, The Deepest Roots of the Highest Happiness

  1. Steady your mind
  2. Warm your heart
  3. Rest in fullness
  4. Be wholeness
  5. Receive nowness
  6. Open into allness
  7. Find timelessness

More Notes on these topics