It's easy to forget that we are all perfect in our own design. Sometimes we muck it up with habits and choices that do not serve us. 

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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 HappinessBuddha’s BrainJust One Thing, and Mother Nurture.

 A summa cum laude graduate of UCLA and founder of the Wellspring Institute...

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 HappinessBuddha’s BrainJust One Thing, and Mother Nurture.

 A summa cum laude graduate of UCLA and founder of the Wellspring Institute for Neuroscience 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. 


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Receive Generosity

Receive Generosity - Rick Hanson Ph.D

Do you accept the gift?

The Practice:
Receive generosity.

Why?

Life gives to each one of us in so many ways.

For starters, there’s the bounty of the senses – including chocolate chip cookies, jasmine, sunsets, wind singing through pine trees, and just getting your back scratched.

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Pay Attention

Pay Attention - Rick Hanson, Ph.D

Is your mind wandering?

The Practice:
Pay attention.

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Notice You’re Alright Right Now

Notice You’re Alright Right Now

Are you basically OK?

The Practice:
Notice you’re alright right now.

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Minimize Painful Experiences

Minimize Painful Experiences Minimize Painful Experiences

Are you feeling unneeded pain?

The Practice:
Minimize painful experiences.

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Copyright

© © Copyright 2019. Dr. Rick Hanson

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One Breath At A Time

One Breath At A Time- Rick Hanson Ph.D

Are you breathing?

The Practice:
One breath at a time.

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Have Compassion

Have Compassion  - Rick Hanson, Ph.D

Do You Care?

The Practice:
Have compassion.

Why?

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

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Give No One Cause to Fear You

Give No One Cause to Fear You -  Rick Hanson, Ph.D

What puts people at ease?

The Practice:
Give no one cause to fear you.

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Feed the Wolf of Love

Feed the Wolf of Love - Rick Hanson

Which wolf do you feed?

The Practice:
Feed the wolf of love.

Why?

I once heard a teaching story in which an elder, a grandmother, was asked what she had done to become so happy, so wise, so loved, and respected. She replied: “It’s because I know that there are two wolves in my heart, a wolf of love and a wolf of hate. And I know that everything depends on which one I feed each day.”

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Don’t Be Intimidated

Don’t Be Intimidated - Dr. Rick Hanson

What makes you feel threatened?

The Practice:
Don’t be intimidated.

Why?

Humans evolved to be fearful, since anxiety helped keep our ancestors alive. Consequently, we are vulnerable to being alarmed, manipulated, and even intimidated by threats, both real ones and “paper tigers.”

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Cling Less, Love More

Cling Less, Love More - Rick Hanson Ph.D

Are you getting rope burn?

The Practice:
Cling less, love more

Why?

As a rock climber and a parent, I know some physical kinds of clinging are good – like too small holds or small hands!

But clinging as a psychological state has a feeling of tension in it, and drivenness, insistence, obsession, or compulsion. As experiences flow through the mind – seeing, hearing, planning, worrying, etc. – they have what’s called a “hedonic tone” of being pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral. It’s natural to like what’s pleasant and to dislike what’s unpleasant: no problem so far. But then the mind takes it a step further – usually very quickly – and tries to grab what’s pleasant, fight or flee from what’s unpleasant, or prod what’s neutral to get pleasant: this quality of grabbing, pushing, resisting, or pressing is the hallmark of clinging.

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Choose To Love

Choose Love - Rick Hanson PhD

What does your heart say?

The Practice:
Choose to Love

Why?

Many years ago, I was in a significant relationship in which the other person started doing things that surprised and hurt me. I’ll preserve the privacy here so I won’t be concrete, but it was pretty intense. After going through the first wave of reactions – What?! How could you? Are you kidding me?! – I settled down a bit. I had a choice.

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Hold Wants Lightly

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What do you want?

The Practice:
Hold wants lightly.

Why?

Getting caught up in wanting – wanting both to get what’s pleasant and to avoid what’s unpleasant – is a major source of suffering and harm for oneself and others.

First, a lot of what we want to get comes with a big price tag – such as that second cupcake, constant stimulation via TV and websites, lashing out in anger, intoxication, over-working, or manipulating others to get approval or love. On a larger scale, the consumer-based lifestyle widespread in Western nations leads them to eat up – often literally – a huge portion of the world’s resources.

Similarly, much of what we want to avoid – like the discomfort of speaking out, some kinds of psychological or spiritual growth, standing up for others, exercising, being emotionally vulnerable, or really going after one’s dreams – would actually be really good for oneself and others.

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Find Stillness

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What doesn’t change?

The Practice:
Find stillness.

Why?

Things keep changing. The clock ticks, the day unfolds, trees grow, leaves turn brown, hair turns gray, children grow up and leave home, attention skitters from this to that, the cookie is delicious but then it’s all gone, you’re mad about something for a while and then get over it, consciousness streams on and on and on.

Many changes are certainly good. Most people are glad to put middle school behind them. I’m still happy about shifting thirty years ago from single to married. Painkillers, flush toilets, and the internet seem like pretty good ideas. It’s lovely to watch grass waving in the wind or a river passing. Fundamentally, if there were no change, nothing could happen, reality would be frozen forever. I once asked my friend Tom what he thought God was and he said “possibility.”

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Enjoy The Good That Lasts

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What doesn’t rust?

The Practice:
Enjoy the good that lasts.

Why?

So many things change. Leaves fall, friends move away, children leave home. My dad died a year ago, and my mom about ten years before that. I don’t know about you, but I’m getting older (darn, there is no fooling the mirror).

The world changes, too. Evolving technologies alter jobs and lives. Elections happen and different people take charge. New restaurants open while others close.

The experience itself is always changing, right at the front edge of now. So are the neural substrates of this moment’s experience, fleeting coalitions of millions of synapses coming into being even as they disperse, while the molecular structures of individual synapses themselves are dynamically constructing and deconstructing in the blink of an eye.

It’s kind of unsettling! Especially if things you care about are changing for the worse at any scale, from a big scratch on a table because someone dropped a plate on it (that was me a few days ago) to a factory closing to the chilling title of an article in Science magazine: “Ecological selectivity of the emerging mass extinction in the oceans.”

And yet.

All around, and under our noses, so many good things last. Recognizing them lifts the heart, and enjoying them for at least a few seconds in a row helps turn passing experiences into lasting psychological resources woven into your own brain. Which among other benefits makes you more able to deal with things that are changing for the worse.

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Lower Your Stress

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Can you take a moment?

The Practice:
Lower your stress

Why?

[Note: This JOT is adapted from Mother Nurture – a book written for mothers – focusing on typical situations that are experienced by many, though not all, mothers during the years before their children enter grade school. These are most commonly the years when mothers (biological and adoptive) experience the greatest demands of parenting. The article has been adapted to use non-gender specific language.]

Nobody likes being stressed, but parents often seem to have a hard time doing anything about it. First, it might look like nothing can help. But while it’s true that parents no longer have the kind of control over their lives they once had, it’s important to remember that no matter how bad it gets, there is always something that can be done to soothe nerves and boost spirits. Right now, for instance, try shifting positions, loosening tight clothing, or taking a full breath. Does that feel even a little better? It’s a small thing, but it shows how small actions and adjustments can affect stress levels.

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Forgive

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Are you holding onto feeling wronged?

The Practice:
Forgive.

Why?

Forgiveness is a tricky topic.

First, it has two distinct meanings:

  • To give up resentment or anger
  • To pardon an offense; to stop seeking punishment or recompense

Here, I am going to focus on the first meaning, which is broad enough to include situations where you have not let someone off the hook morally or legally, but you still want to come to peace about whatever happened. Finding forgiveness can walk hand in hand with pursuing justice.

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Learn As You Go

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By “learn as you go,” I mean that each day is an opportunity to take in the good: to help useful or enjoyable experiences sink in and become a part of you. Then when you go to sleep, you’ll be a little stronger, a little more resilient, a little wiser, a little more loving, a little happier than you were when you woke up in the morning.

This kind of learning is not memorizing a multiplication table. It’s emotional learning, somatic learning. It’s becoming more skillful with the world around you and the world inside you. It’s social learning, motivational learning, even spiritual learning. It’s healing from the past and growing strengths for the future. It’s becoming more compassionate, confident, patient, capable, and joyful. This is the learning that matters most. If things fall apart, what’s already inside you is what you can really count on.

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Feel Whole

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What’s left out?

The Practice:
Feel whole.

Why?

When I look back on mistakes I’ve made – like dumping my anger on someone, making assumptions in haste, partying too much, losing my nerve, being afraid to speak from my heart – in all cases, a part of me had taken over. You know what I mean. The parts of us that have a partial view are driven by one aim, clamp down on other parts, really want to have a particular experience or to eat/drink/smoke a particular molecule, yammer away critically, or hold onto resentments toward others.

The mega part – the big boss – is of course the inner executive, the decision-maker, and the driver – some call it the ego-centered in neural circuits in the prefrontal cortex, behind your forehead. This part is determined to a fault, running things top-down, ignoring bottom-up signals of growing fatigue, irritability, burnout, and issues with others. It draws on and gets wrapped up in the sequential, action-planning, language processing parts of you that are based in regions in the left side of your brain. (The statements here about sides of the brain are reversed for about half of all left-handed people.) Meanwhile, the boss part shames, disowns, and suppresses other parts of you, especially those that are softer, more vulnerable, and younger.

But when you open to the whole of your experience, you have more information and can make better decisions. You perceive more fully, seeing the big picture, putting things in perspective. You free up energy that was spent pushing down your real feelings. You tune into your body, your heart. You’re less fixed or attached in your views. You recognize the good things in you and around you that you’d tuned out. You feel more supported, more protected. You take things less personally.

You feel at home in yourself.

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Enjoy Four Kinds of Peace

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What’s your sense of peace?

The Practice:
Enjoy four kinds of peace.

Why?

“Peace” can sound merely sentimental or clichéd (“visualize whirled peas”). But deep down, it’s what most of us long for. Consider the proverb: The highest happiness is peace.

Not a peace inside that ignores pain in oneself or others or is acquired by shutting down. This is a durable peace, a peace you can come home to even if it’s been covered over by fear, frustration, or heartache.

When you’re at peace – when you are engaged with life while also feeling relatively relaxed, calm, and safe – you are protected from stress, your immune system grows stronger, and you become more resilient. Your outlook brightens, and you see more opportunities. In relationships, feeling at peace prevents overreactions, increases the odds of being treated well by others, and supports you in being clear and direct when you need to be.

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Be Mind Full of Good

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What’s in your mind?

The Practice:
Be mind full of good.

Why?

It’s kind of amazing: right now, what you think and feel, enjoy and suffer, is changing your brain. The brain is the organ that learns, designed by evolution to be changed by our experiences: what scientists call experience-dependent neuroplasticity.

Neurons that fire together, wire together. This means that each one of us has the power to use the mind to change the brain to change the mind for the better. To benefit oneself and other beings.

Using this internal power is more important than ever these days, when so many of us are pushed and prodded by external forces – the economy, media, politics, workplace policies, war on the other side of the world, the people on the other side of the dining room table – and by our reactions to them.

Life is often hard. To cope with hard things, to be effective and successful, or simply to experience ordinary well-being, we need resources inside, inner strengths like resilience, compassion, gratitude, and other positive emotions, self-worth, and insight.

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