Rick Hanson, Ph.D. is a psychologist, Senior Fellow of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, and New York Times best-selling author. His books are available in 26 languages and include Hardwiring Happiness, Buddha’s Brain, Just One Thing, and Mother Nurture.  A summa cum laude graduate of UCLA and founder of the Wellspring Institute for N...euroscience and Contemplative Wisdom, he’s been an invited speaker at NASA, Oxford, Stanford, Harvard, and other major universities, and taught in meditation centers worldwide.In 2016 he gave a keynote address at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association. His work has been featured on the BBC, CBS, NPR, and other major media. His free offerings include the Just One Thing newsletter (over 120,000 subscribers), Buddha’s Brain Facebook (over 650,000 likes), and Being Well podcast. His online Foundations of Well-Being program helps people use positive neuroplasticity to grow key inner strengths like resilience, self-worth, and compassion, and anyone with financial need can do it for free. Dr. Hanson has spent decades helping people turn everyday experiences into lasting happiness, love, and inner peace, hardwired into the brain. He enjoys wilderness, taking a break from emails, and time with his wife and two adult children.     More

Give None Cause to Fear You

rock-climbing-in-china-picture-id510616195 Give None Cause to Fear You
When others feel safe around you, you have less cause to fear them.

What puts people at ease?

The Practice:Give none cause to fear you.

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Do Not Put Yourself Or Others Out Of Your Heart

young-woman-in-heart-shape-cave-towards-the-idyllic-sunrise-picture-id873620504 Try to make a commitment to an open heart.

What is an open heart?

The Practice:
Put no one out of your heart.

Why?


We all know people who are, ah, . . . challenging. It could be a critical parent, a bossy supervisor, a relative who has you walking on eggshells, a nice but flaky friend, a co-worker who just doesn't like you, a partner who won't keep his or her agreements, or a politician you dislike. Right now I'm thinking of a neighbor who refused to pay his share of a fence between us.

As Jean-Paul Sartre put it: "Hell is other people."

Sure, that's overstated. But still, most of a person's hurts, disappointments, and irritations typically arise in reactions to other people.

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Speak With A Softer Tone

blurred-floral-background-in-grunge-style-with-poppies-picture-id589133320 Speak With A Softer Tone

How do you talk to people?

The Practice:
Try a softer tone.

Why?

When our kids were little, I’d come home from work wanting some peace after the daily roller-coaster and often walk into a living room full of stuff—toy trucks, tennis shoes, bags of chips, etc. At the time, the arrangement my wife and I had was that I’d be primarily responsible for income and she’d be primarily responsible for taking care of the kids, including getting them to pick up after themselves. When we were both home, we divided the housework and child-rearing evenly.

Sometimes I’d get irritated about all the clutter, and the first words out of my mouth to my wife would be: “How come there’s all this mess?!” After a day chasing children, Jan would feel criticized and sputter back at me. Then there’d be a quarrel or a chilly silence. Not good.

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Speak With Honesty and Sincerity

two-young-women-talking-and-laughing-on-urban-steps-picture-id937697796 Speak With Honesty and Sincerity

Speaking from an open heart can be the strongest move of all.

What's Your Heart Saying?

The Practice:
Speak with honesty and sincerity.

Why?

One Christmas I hiked down into the Grand Canyon, whose bottom lay a vertical mile below the rim. Its walls were layered like a cake, and a foot-high stripe of red or gray rock indicated a million-plus years of erosion by the Colorado river. Think of water - so soft and gentle - gradually carving through the hardest stone to reveal great beauty. Sometimes what seems weakest is actually most powerful.

In the same way, speaking from an open heart can seem so vulnerable yet be the strongest move of all. Naming the truth - in particular the facts of one's experience, which no one can disprove - with simplicity and sincerity, and without contentiousness or blame, has great moral force. You can see the effects writ small and large, from a child telling her parents "I feel bad when you fight" to the profound impact of people describing the atrocities they suffered in Kosovo or Rwanda.

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Is Feeling Cared About Important?

Is Feeling Cared About Important? Is Feeling Cared About Important?

Take a moment to call to mind the sense of being cared about.

Who Has Cared About You?

The Practice:
Is Feeling Cared About Important. 

Why?

Everyone knows what it’s like to care about someone. Remember being with a friend, a mate, a pet: you feel warmly connected, and want him or her not to suffer and to be happy.

On the other hand, you’ve probably had the sense, one time or another, of not being cared about. That you didn’t matter to another person, or to a group of people. Maybe they weren’t actively against you, but they sure weren’t for you.

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Reduce Painful Experiences

Reduce Painful Experiences Reduce Painful Experiences

Are you feeling unneeded pain?

The Practice:
Reduce painful experiences.

Why?

Painful experiences range from subtle discomfort to extreme anguish - and there is a place for them. Sorrow can open the heart, anger can highlight injustices, fear can alert you to real threats, and remorse can help you take the high road next time.

But is there really any shortage of suffering in this world? Look at the faces of others - including mine - or your own in the mirror, and see the marks of weariness, irritation, stress, disappointment, longing, and worry. There's plenty of challenge in life already - including unavoidable illness, loss of loved ones, old age, and death - without needing a bias in your brain to give you an extra dose of pain each day.

Yet as on a prior JOT explored, your brain evolved exactly such a “negativity bias” in order to help your ancestors pass on their genes – a bias that produces lots of collateral damage today.

Painful experiences are more than passing discomforts. They produce lasting harms to your physical and mental health. When you’re feeling frazzled, pressured, down, hard on yourself, or simply frustrated, that:

  • Weakens your immune system
  • Impairs nutrient absorption in your gastrointestinal system
  • Increases vulnerabilities in your cardiovascular system
  • Decreases your reproductive hormones; exacerbates PMS
  • Disturbs your nervous system

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Are You Friendly?

two-young-girls-with-dog-at-bus-stop-picture-id464598295 Are You Friendly?

Friendliness is a down-to-earth approach that is welcoming and positive.

Friend or Foe?

The Practice:
Be friendly.

Why?

 

Friendliness is a down-to-earth approach to others that is welcoming and positive.

 

Think about a time when someone was friendly to you — maybe drawing you into a gathering, saying hello on the sidewalk, or smiling from across the room. How did that make you feel? Probably more included, comfortable, and at ease; safer; more open and warm-hearted.

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The Natural Flow of Compassion

The Natural Flow of Compassion The Natural Flow of Compassion

Compassion is natural — moments of compassion come in the flow of life.

Do You Care?

The Practice:
Have compassion.

Why?

Compassion is essentially the wish that beings not suffer — from subtle physical and emotional discomfort to agony and anguish — combined with feelings of sympathetic concern.

 

You could have compassion for an individual (a friend in the hospital, a co-worker passed over for a promotion), groups of people (victims of crime, those displaced by a hurricane, refugee children), animals (your pet, livestock heading for the slaughterhouse), and yourself.

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See the Person

Who is behind the mask? See the Person

Who is behind the mask?

The Practice:See the person behind the eyes.

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Recognize Suffering

Recognize Suffering Recognize Suffering

News and pictures of disasters bombarding us each day can numb us to suffering.

Where Does It Hurt?

The Practice:
Recognize suffering.

Why?

We're usually aware of our own suffering, which - broadly defined - includes the whole range of physical and mental discomfort, from mild headache or anxiety to the agony of bone cancer or the anguish of losing a child. (Certainly, there is more to life than suffering, including great joy and fulfillment; that said, we'll sustain a single focus here.)

 

But seeing the suffering in others: that's not so common. All the news and pictures of disaster, murder, and grief that bombard us each day can ironically numb us to suffering in our own country and across the planet. Close to home, it's easy to tune out or simply miss the stress and strain, unease and anger, in the people we work, live - even sleep - with.

 

This creates problems for others, of course. Often what matters most to another person is that someone bears witness to his or her suffering, that someone just really gets it; it's a wound and a sorrow when this doesn't happen. And at the practical level, if their suffering goes unnoticed, they're unlikely to get help.

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Ask More Questions

ask-2341784_1280 Ask questions — it's one of the best ways to listen well.

What are you learning?

The Practice:Ask more questions.

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See the Big Picture

See The Big Picture The brain’s negativity bias can make us lose sight of the whole.


The tree or the forest?

The Practice:

See the big picture.

Why?

I once went to the movies when it was raining and brought my umbrella. Arriving early, I sat down on a bench to read, then headed to the theater. Suddenly I heard, “Uh, mister!”—and turned to see a teenage boy with a friendly smile running toward me with my umbrella. He didn’t know me but went out of his way to help a stranger.

As a small frog in a huge pond, I once gave a talk at the World GovernmentSummit in Dubai, and had a similar experience. Political news can sometimes be alarming. Yes, whatever is truly bad is truly bad. But meanwhile, what I saw in Dubai was a thousand or so people, each one representing thousands if not millions of others in the United Nations, nonprofits, government agencies, media, religious organizations, and businesses that are working hard to nudge our world to a better place.

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In the Neighborhood?

Kindness to others is enlightened self-interest Kindness to others is enlightened self-interest


In the neighborhood?

The Practice:


Love your neighbor.

Why?

This practice might sound extreme or pushy, and I want to tell you what I mean by it.

Everyone has lots of neighbors, and they come in many shapes and sizes. Obviously the people living across the street are neighbors, but in some sense so are the people you live with. Friends, relatives, co-workers, all the people you know are neighbors. So are the people at the market or walking past on the street. Other living things are neighbors as well, such as cats and dogs, birds and bees, ants on the kitchen counter, and plants and trees.

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Have You Been Wronged? Beware Anger

Have You Been Wronged? Beware Anger Have You Been Wronged? Beware Anger
Anger can alert you to threats, but also harm your health and relationships.

Have you been wronged?

The Practice:Beware anger.

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Kindness to Others is Enlightened Self-interest

Kindness to Others is Enlightened Self-interest Kindness to Others is Enlightened Self-interest
In the Neighborhood?


The Practice:


Love your neighbor.

Why?

This practice might sound extreme or pushy, and I want to tell you what I mean by it.

Everyone has lots of neighbors, and they come in many shapes and sizes. Obviously the people living across the street are neighbors, but in some sense so are the people you live with. Friends, relatives, co-workers, all the people you know are neighbors. So are the people at the market or walking past on the street. Other living things are neighbors as well, such as cats and dogs, birds and bees, ants on the kitchen counter, and plants and trees.

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Love Someone

Love Someone Love Someone

What can you do when there’s nothing you can do?

The Practice: 
Love Someone.

Why?

Sometimes something happens. Perhaps your sweet old cat takes a turn for the worse, or there’s a money problem, or your son waves goodbye as he gets on a plane to start college on the other side of the country. Sometimes it’s on a larger scale: maybe there’s been an election and you’re grappling with its consequences (see my last post on this topic: Take Heart.

Or you might be dealing with something ongoing, like a dead-end job (or no job at all), life after divorce, chronic pain, or a teenager who won’t talk to you.

Whatever it is, at first it’s normal to feel rattled, frozen, or unclear about what to do. After awhile, you do what you can to change things for the better. But often there’s not much you can actually change, and sometimes nothing at all.

Still, there is always one thing you can do, no matter what.

You can always find someone to love.

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Stand Up to Bullies

stand up to bullies Bullying at all scales causes much suffering. What can we do?

Is anyone being pushed around?


The Practice:

Stand up to bullies.


Why?


Humans are the most social species on the planet. Most of us spend most of our lives working, eating, sleeping, and playing in groups that range in size from two people all the way up to nations and humanity as a whole.

Woven through the tapestry of our relationships are several major threads. One of these is power, which plays out in almost every group of any size. The only question is, do we use it for good or ill?

Like a hammer, power itself is neutral. It can be used justly and wisely for beneficial purposes, such as the necessary authority of a loving parent, a child’s popular friend protecting her from mean kids, a physically stronger spouse helping a more vulnerable one, or a government defending a country being invaded. Power can also be used unjustly and unwisely for harmful purposes, such as a parent beating a child, a big kid picking on a little one, domestic violence, or a government jailing its critics.

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Love What’s Real

real Love What’s Real

What do a healthy relationship, family, organization, or country have in common?

What can you count on?

The Practice:
Love what’s real.

Why?

Because this practice could seem so abstract or so obvious that it’s not worth doing, I am going to take longer than usual to explain why it’s so important.

As I grew up, my family and schools felt like very shaky ground. I didn’t understand why my parents and many kids reacted the ways they did, with anger or plain weirdness that was unrelated to what was actually happening. It felt shaky inside me, too, and I sure didn’t understand my own feelings and reactions. Outside and inside both felt twirly, up in the air, unnerving.

So I looked for solid ground. I tried to see and understand what was really true. The orange groves and hills around our home were natural and comforting, and I spent a lot of time there. I started reading science fiction and loved an orderly universe in which you could figure out why the spaceship was falling and save it.

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Welcome Joy.

joy Welcome Joy.

Joy lifts the heart and nourishes inner peace.

What’s the spark and what’s the fuel?

The Practice:
Welcome joy.

Why?

Positive emotions—such as feelings of gratitude, love, and confidence—strengthen the immune system, protect the heart against loss and trauma, build relationships, increase resilience, and promote success. Based on studies that have already been done, if a drug company could patent a happiness pill, we’d be seeing ads for it every night on TV.

Technically, emotions can be organized along two dimensions: intensity (how strong they are) and hedonic valence (how good they feel). Tranquility, for example, has low intensity but can feel really really good, a profound inner peace.

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Find Your Ground

Rick-Hanson-Find-Your-Ground Find Your Ground

What can you do when you're shaken?

The Practice:
Find your ground.

Why?

I've been to New Zealand, and really respect and like it. There's a Maori term - turangawaewae (link is external), "a place to stand" - that I've come back to many times.

I'm sure I don't know the full meaning of the word in its cultural context. But at a basic level, it's clear that we all need a place to stand. A physical place to be sure - hearth and home, land and sea, a bed to curl up in - but also psychological or spiritual places, such as feeling loved, a calm clear center inside, knowledge of the facts, compassion and ethics, and realistic plans.

This is our ground, the place we rest in and move out from . . . even under the best of circumstances. And when you're shaken by events at any scale - from changes in your health to changes in your country or world (here's a recent post you may find relevant: Take Heart (link is external)) - then it's especially important to find and hold your ground.


How?

Start with the body, and the feeling of being here. The sensations of breathing . . . heart beating . . . going on living . . . feet on the floor, back against a chair. Whatever is true now can never be taken from you.

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