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

Don't Rain On the Dreams of Others

rainbow-and-water-drops-on-glass-texture-picture-id153517484 Don't Rain On the Dreams of Others

Are you too quick with doubt, limitations, cost analyses, reasons why not?

Why do we have cheerleaders?

The Practice:
Don't rain on others dreams.

Why?

Let's say you've had an interesting idea or moment of inspiration, or thought of a new project, or felt some enthusiasm bubbling up inside you. Your notions are not fully formed and you're not really committed to them yet, but they have promise and you like them and are trying them on for size. Then what?

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Receive Generosity From Others

shopper-giving-a-gift-to-a-friend-in-winter-picture-id887389552 Receive Generosity From Others

Let it sink in that receiving generosity is good.

Do you accept the gift?

The Practice:
Receive generosity from others.

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.

What does life give you?

Consider the kindness of friends and family, made more tangible during a holiday season, but of course continuing throughout the year.

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Speak Intelligently (6 guidelines from Buddha)

happy-couple-walking-and-talking-in-the-countryside-picture-id806165312

Words – and the tone that comes with them – can actually do damage.

What are you saying?

The Practice:
Speak Intelligently.

Why?

"Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me."

Ah, not really.

Often it's words– and the tone that comes with them – that actually do the most damage. Just think back on some of the things that have been said to you over the years – especially those said with criticism, derision, shaming, anger, rejection, or scorn – and the impacts they've had on your feelings, hopes and ambitions, and sense of yourself.

Words can hurt, since the emotional pain networks in your brain overlap with physical pain networks. (The effects of this intertwining go both ways. For example, studies have shown that receiving social support reduces the perceived intensity of physical pain, and – remarkably – that giving people Tylenol reduced the unpleasantness of social rejection.)

Besides their momentary effects, these hurts can linger – even for a lifetime. The residues of hurtful words sift down into emotional memory to cast long shadows over the inner landscape of your mind.

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Try to Understand Others

fathers-mothers-and-babys-hand-picture-id672165776 Try to Understand Others

Painful experiences are more than passing discomforts.

What Are They Feeling?

The Practice: Try to understand others.

Why?

Imagine a world in which people interacted with each other like ants or fish. Imagine a day at work like this, or in your family, aware of the surface behavior of the people around you but oblivious to their inner life while they remain unmoved by your own.

That's a world without empathy.

Empathic breakdowns shake the foundation of a relationship; just recall a time you felt misunderstood – or even worse, a time when the other person couldn’t care less about understanding you. In particular, anyone who is vulnerable (e.g., children, the elderly) has a profound need for empathy, and when it’s a thin soup or missing altogether, that’s very disturbing. In my experience as a therapist, poor empathy is the core problem in most troubled couples or families; without it, nothing good is likely to happen. With it, even the toughest issues can be resolved.

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Don't Be Pressured

pressurefall Don't Be Pressured

Bring mindful awareness to how your brain reacts to feeling threatened

What makes you feel threatened?

The Practice:
Don't be pressured.

Why?

Humans evolved to be fearful, as 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.”

This vulnerability to feeling threatened has effects at many levels, ranging from individuals, couples, and families to schoolyards, organizations, and nations. Whether it's an individual who worries about the consequences of speaking up at work or in a close relationship, a family cowed by a scary parent, a business fixated on threats instead of opportunities, or a country that's routinely told it's under "Threat Level Orange"—it's the same human brain that reacts in all cases.

Therefore, understanding how your brain became so vigilant and wary, and so easily hijacked by alarm, is the first step toward gaining more control over that ancient circuitry. Then, by bringing mindful awareness to how your brain reacts to feeling threatened, you can stimulate and therefore build up the neural substrates of a mind that has more calm, wisdom, and sense of inner strength—a mind that sees real threats more clearly, acts more effectively in dealing with them, and is less rattled or distracted by exaggerated, manageable, or false alarms.

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Don't Squabble

happysiblings Don't Squabble

You know you're squabbling when you find yourself getting irritated.

The Practice:
Don't squabble.

Why?

It's one thing to stick up for yourself and others. But it's a different matter to get caught up in wrangles, contentiousness, squabbles . . . in a word: quarrels.

Similarly, it's one thing to disagree with someone, even to the point of arguing—but it's a different matter to get so caught up in your position that you lose sight of the bigger picture, including your relationship with the other person. Then you're quarreling.

You know you're quarreling when you find yourself getting irritated, especially with that sticky feeling that you're just not gonna quit until you've won.

Quarrels happen both out in the open, between people, and inside the mind, like when you make a case in your head about another person or keep revisiting an argument to make your point more forcefully. We quarrel most with family and friends—imagine that! But also with people on TV, or politicians and groups we don't like. We can even quarrel with conditions in life (such as an illness or tight money) or with physical objects, like a sticky drawer slammed shut in anger.

However, they happen, quarrels are stressful, activating the ancient fight-or-flight machinery in your brain and body: a bit of this won't harm you, but a regular diet of quarreling is not good for your long-term physical and mental health.


Plus, it eats away like acid on a relationship. For example, I was in a serious relationship in my mid-twenties that was headed for marriage, but our regular quarrels finally so scorched the earth in our hearts that no love could grow there for each other.

This week, try not to quarrel with anyone or anything.

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Forgiveness

forgiveness Forgiveness frees you from the tangles of anger and retribution.

Are you holding onto feeling wronged? Try the practice of forgiveness.

First, forgiveness 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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Don’t Give Up

dontgineup What's the most important thing?

The most important thing is to remember the most important thing.

The Practice: Don't Give Up.

Why?

Have you heard this saying?

The most important thing is to remember the most important thing.

What are the most important things to you? In your life as a whole? During a particular interaction with someone? Right this minute?

The most important things often get pushed to the sidelines. Urgent crowds out important. Modern life is full of distracting clamor, from text messages and emails to window displays in the mall. Other people tug at you with their priorities - which may not be your own. And it can feel scary to admit what really matters to you, tell others, and go after it for real: the fearful voices whisper in the back of the mind: What if you fail?

But if you don't make a sanctuary for what is important, it will get overrun by the bermuda grass of B and C priorities.

How?

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Speak From Your Heart

communication Speak From Your Heart

Speaking truly—to yourself and to others—does mean being authentic.

What's in your heart to say?

The Practice:
Speak from your heart.

Why?

It's been said that the most powerful tool for physical health is a fork (or spoon), since the choices you make with it determine the good or bad things you put into your body.

In the same way, perhaps the most powerful tool for your mental health—and certainly for the health of your relationships—is your tongue. Thousands of times each day, it (or your fingers on a keyboard: same thing) offers the good word or the bad one out into your world.

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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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