Rick Hanson (@drrhanson) is a psychologist, Senior Fellow of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, co-host of The Being Well Podcast, author of Hardwiring Happiness, and co-author of Resilient: How to Grow an Unshakable Core of Calm, Strength, and Happiness.
What We Discuss with Rick Hanson:
- While you can’t count on others or the world, you can count on your own strengths (and why this is a good thing).
- Why your brain is like velcro for the bad and teflon for the good and what you can do to mitigate your own negativity bias.
- The two stages by which you develop mental resources: experience and conversion to lasting change.
- How you can build resilience by focusing on experiences rather than conditions.
- How to stay informed about current events without letting the news hijack your emotions.
- And much more…
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The human brain evolved to be pretty good at surviving in a kill-or-be-killed world, but it turns out that being on constant alert for potential danger doesn’t always make us feel good, treat others well, or serve us when we’re trying to get an anxiety-free night of good sleep. But Resilient: How to Grow an Unshakable Core of Calm, Strength, and Happiness co-author Dr. Rick Hanson knows a few things about giving our brains a much-needed update for life in the modern world.
In this episode we’ll talk about why learning to rely on ourselves rather than others (or the world at large) is ultimately empowering, why our brains are often teflon for our good experiences and velcro for our bad experiences and what we can do to mitigate this negativity bias, and how to ensure we’re focused on the right metrics for emotional health and happiness. Listen, learn, and enjoy!
Please Scroll Down for Featured Resources and Transcript!
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More About This Show
In Resilient, Dr. Rick Hanson says that the path your life takes is dependent upon how to manage your challenges, protect your vulnerabilities, and increase your resources.
“Let’s say you’re doing dishes and the water itself is full of germs and crud,” says Rick. “That’s a challenge. Let’s say, also, that you have a little cut on your hand that the germs can penetrate. That’s your vulnerability. So what do you do? You put on the big yellow gloves and do the dishes. That’s the resource that protects your vulnerability and manages the challenge. That’s kind of everyday life. I recognize that resources, vulnerabilities, and challenges are out in the world, in the physical body, and in the mind. That gives us nine ways we can make things better. That’s a 3×3 matrix.
|In the World|
|In the Body|
|In the Mind|
“That said, I tend to focus on resources, because that’s where we have opportunity. Often we can’t do much about challenges and vulnerabilities. While it’s super important to grow [resources] out in the world — including build up your relationships with others, build up your bank account, build up your likes on Facebook. And it’s also good to build up resources in the body — good nutrition, exercise, and whatnot, again, it’s a pretty slow road. But to grow resources in your mind, to grow confidence, skills with other people, know-how, to grow inner peace, to grow insight, to grow self-awareness, to grow patience, those are things that first you can always make bigger — because you can work with your mind all the time. And second, you take the results with you wherever you go.
“So of those nine ways to make the world better, I focus on growing resources in the mind. To me, that little box in the 3×3 matrix, that’s where there’s great opportunity.”
Another key point Rick makes in Resilient is that we may not be able to count on others or the world, but we can count on our own strengths. While this might sound like a fatalist attitude, it’s really a reminder that while we can’t control everything life throws our way, we can control how we react to it.
“I’m talking about the essence of old-school self-reliance,” says Rick. “I’m talking about really hardcore stuff. At the end of the day, a lot of people will disappoint you. At the end of the day, your body is getting older — it’s aging, it’s vulnerable, it’s fundamentally frail. At the end of the day, institutions in your country that you thought were trustworthy and reliable, suddenly they’re exposed as not-so-reliable. Leaders that you thought were reliable? Not reliable. What do you do then?
“The weather may change. Your partner may drop the rope. But what you can count on is what’s inside you. It doesn’t mean to be cynical or pessimistic about what other people can do for you. Do what you can to help the world and other people and your body be more reliable. Ultimately, even existentially, in the last breaths you’re ever going to have, in a funny kind of way, you’re alone inside yourself when that happens.”
Listen to this episode in its entirety to learn more about how Rick’s near-death experience after a car accident gave him a clearer perspective of self-reliance, why Rick sees self-improvement as an ultimately selfless act, why Rick considers learning to be the strength of inner strengths, how the brain consistently remodels itself and what we can do to harness this to bolster our resilience, and much more.
THANKS, RICK HANSON!
If you enjoyed this session with Rick Hanson, let him know by clicking on the link below and sending him a quick shout out at Twitter:
Click here to thank Rick Hanson at Twitter!
Click here to let Jordan know about your number one takeaway from this episode!
And if you want us to answer your questions on one of our upcoming weekly Feedback Friday episodes, drop us a line at email@example.com.
Resources from This Episode:
- Resilient: How to Grow an Unshakable Core of Calm, Strength, and Happiness by Rick Hanson, PhD and Forrest Hanson
- Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence by Rick Hanson, PhD
- The Being Well Podcast with Dr. Rick Hanson, PhD and Forrest Hanson
- Greater Good Science Center, UC Berkeley
- Rick Hanson’s Website
- Rick Hanson at Facebook
- Rick Hanson at Twitter
- What I Learned Spending the Day in a Maximum-Security Prison by Jordan Harbinger
- Grow a Key Inner Strength by Rick Hanson, PhD
- The Enchanted Loom, Lapham’s Quarterly
- What a Concussion Looks like Inside Your Brain by Rebecca Jacobson, PBS
Transcript for Rick Hanson - The Science of Hardwiring Happiness and Resilience (Episode 192)
Jordan Harbinger: [00:00:00] Welcome to the show. I'm Jordan Harbinger. As always, I'm here with my producer Jason DeFillippo. When I first met Dr. Rick Hanson, I'd never even heard of concepts like resilience, the negativity bias, or really even thought about deliberately managing emotional issues at all. Today, Dr. Rick and I discussed why we can't count on others in the world, but we can count on our own strengths and why this somehow isn't nearly as depressing as it sounds. We'll also uncover why our brains are often Teflon for the good and yet Velcro for the bad experiences and memories that we have in our lives and of course what we can do about all of that. Last but not least, we'll use a practice Dr. Rick and I have both used to ensure that we're focused on the right metrics for emotional health, happiness, and other hippie-dippy concepts that if you're anything like me, you've been pretty negligent at managing for pretty much your entire life.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:00:49] Spoiler alert, one of the keys to happiness is relationships and making sure that you build and maintain those, and that's what we're teaching you how to do in Six-Minute Networking, which is a free course from yours truly. If you go to jordanharbinger.com/course. It's just a few minutes per day. You don't have to enter your card number or any of that BS before you get in there, jordanharbinger.com/course. All right, here's Rick Hanson.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:01:13] One of the first pieces of Resilient says the path of your life -- and this is paraphrased because that's how I roll -- the path your life takes is dependent upon how to manage your challenges, protect your vulnerabilities, and increase your resources. Can we break that down a little bit? Because, of course, I think everyone wants to learn how to manage their challenges, protect vulnerabilities, and increase their resources. It's just that when we're thinking about especially increasing your resources and protecting your vulnerabilities, we're probably not thinking about what you meant in the book. You know, when I see an increase in your resources, I think of making more money. When I hear protect your vulnerabilities, I mean look better on my social media or to my friends or my wife. Not exactly what you had in mind.
Dr. Rick Hanson: [00:01:54] Well, yes and no. So that's a classic idea in psychology and healthcare. It's a very legitimate idea and it makes sense actually. I think the funny analogy of, let's say, you're doing the shows and the water itself is full of germs and crud. That's a challenge. And let's say also that you have a little cut on your hands that the germs can penetrate through. That's your vulnerability. So what do you do? You put on a pair of those big yellow gloves and do the dishes. That's the resource that protects your vulnerability and manages the challenge. That's kind of everyday life. I recognize factually that resources, vulnerabilities, and challenges are out in the world, in a physical body and in the mind that gives us nine ways we can make things better if you think about it. Right? It's a three by three matrix that gives us nine ways to make things better and whatever works, great. I'm great. That said, I tend to focus on resources because that's where we have the opportunity. Often we can't do much about challenges and vulnerabilities. And then in resources, while it's super important to grow them out in the world, including build your relationships with others, build up your bank account, build up your likes on Facebook, great and it's also good to build up resources in the body, you know, good nutrition, exercise or whatnot. Again, there are two. It's a pretty slow road, right? But to grow resources in your mind, to grow confidence skills with other people, know-how, to grow inner peace, to grow insight, to grow self-awareness, to grow patients, those are things that first you can always make bigger because you can work with your mind all the time. And second, you take the results with you wherever you go. So of those nine ways to make the world better, I focus on growing resources in the mind. That's one of the nine. And to me that little box in the three by three matrix, bling, bling, bling. That's where there's a great opportunity.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:04:00] So maybe we can throw this in the worksheet for this episode, but I like the idea that you can manage challenges, protect your vulnerabilities, increase your resources. Then we can do these in one of each of these three locations -- so like increasing your resources in the world would be getting more, more dollars.
Dr. Rick Hanson: [00:04:18] Sure. Get more money in the bank or put up a fence around your yard, develop relationships.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:04:24] And then the body would be what like increase?
Dr. Rick Hanson: [00:04:25] Muscles, nutrition, health, strength in your immune system.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:04:31] Yes. Okay, great. And the mind is like concepts like resilience and grit maybe.
Dr. Rick Hanson: [00:04:36] Yeah. Grit, insight, mindfulness, self-compassion, confidence, self-worth.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:04:43] Yeah. Those are easier said than done, right? Confidence, 10 years, self-worth, still working on it. I think that's probably true for a lot of people. I like the idea that we can build these resources. One thing that I've read though that sounds a little fatalist, maybe I'm just misreading it. We can't count on others or the world, but we can count on our own strengths. Kind of a bummer. Initially. Why can't I? I mean, I guess it's true, we can't always count on other people, but what do you mean by this? Just that the resources we built in our minds are the most reliable.
Dr. Rick Hanson: [00:05:13] Yeah. It's easy to talk about this stuff in a way that makes the sound like it's sort of airy-fairy. Or kind of like West Coast pop-psych.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:05:23] Yeah. We're in the Bay. So like that's why we believe all this stuff. But somebody listening in New York just thinks we're about full of --
Dr. Rick Hanson: [00:05:29] Yeah. Yeah. And I would just say I get that, but to me, I'm talking about the essence of old school self-reliance. I'm talking about really hardcore stuff. At the end of the day, a lot of people will disappoint you. At the end of the day, your body is getting older. It's aging, it's vulnerable, it's fundamentally frail. At the end of the day, institutions in your country that you thought were trustworthy and reliable. Suddenly, they're exposed as not so reliable. Leaders that you thought were reliable, not reliable. What do you do then? I have a lot of background in the wilderness doing a lot of intense things. In the end of the day, the weather may change. Your partner may drop the rope. What you can count on is what's inside you. It doesn't mean to be cynical or pessimistic about what other people can do for you. Do what you can to help the world and other people in your body be more reliable. But ultimately, even existentially on the last breaths, you're ever going to have a funny kind of way, you're alone inside yourself when that happens.
Dr. Rick Hanson: [00:06:36] I had a near-death experience one time where it really felt to me like I was indeed dying. Happily, I wasn't.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:06:44] What happened?
Dr. Rick Hanson: [00:06:45] It sure felt like that. It was after a car accident and part of what was happening afterward. I think retrospectively I started to faint, but what it felt like was that my body was dying and I went through an experience thereof it being real to me that I was in fact, "Oh, I am dying now." And what was really striking about it was how I was the only person right then and there who was dying. I was alone in the dying. No one was in my mind with me while my mind was facing its last moments. And what was also really striking to me was how rapidly I cut loose of this life when it was seemingly inevitable that it was going to end.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:07:31] What do you mean cut loose of it? You just decided -- what happened? What does that mean?
Dr. Rick Hanson: [00:07:36] It was for me, and I don't know if -- it maybe for others too. In that moment you just realize, "Wow, if I really am dying, I need to disengage from the body. The body is dying. I only have seconds here before it's all over and I need to turn in a different direction." So what was striking to me was how rapidly when I thought I was dying, I just jettisoned the body in a sense. I was like, "See you later everyone. I'm on a one-way trip and I'm all alone."
Jordan Harbinger: [00:08:05] You weren't panicking, you weren't scared?
Dr. Rick Hanson: [00:08:07] No, it was more resignation. And because in those seconds you can't get caught up in all that other stuff because you're leaving and what you do in those seconds is shaping the nature of your leaving. So that's how real it was for me.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:08:25] And then what you woke up in your family was there, were you relieved or were you like, "Oh man, I thought I was going on a trip."
Dr. Rick Hanson: [00:08:31] Within probably milliseconds, but seconds last a really long time at those times. I kind of returned to the body and it was clear my heart was still beating. It wasn't going to end and I was still here and there were people around me. Nobody knew what I'd experienced during those seconds because again, I was alone in my experience and it may well be, and some people talk about this, that in those times they have a sense of angels or other something or other with them. I didn't have that. I was like, "Whoa." In the most radical sense possible, I'm really on my own here and I don't want to over-interpret from that experience. It may not be universal. On the other hand, it does speak to the fact that in many, many, many, many kinds of ways, large and small, the best thing a person can do in this life, I think in many ways is to grow the good inside themselves, because you can't do anything about the past, even the present is what it is. But moving into the future, you can always grow the good inside yourself. You can always become a little stronger, a little smarter, a little more skillful, a little happier, a little more loving each hour and each day. And that is within our power. No one can stop us from doing that. No one can stop us from growing from our experiences and no one can do it for us, in a very old school.
Dr. Rick Hanson: [00:10:01] So I'm stunned sometimes by people who sneer at or dismiss personal growth as if it's some sort of luxury item or some sort of la-di-da vain self-indulgent practice. For me, it's one of the most honorable, self-reliant, even heroic things a person can do.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:10:19] That's an interesting point. There are a lot of folks, maybe not a lot. I occasionally will get an email like, "I can't believe you're not talking about the political situation. You need to take a stand on this. This is far more important than anything anyone on your show has to say about resilience for example, or about becoming better at networking or about developing their relationship. We're in a crisis here." And I'm just thinking this is the only one of the only places where you can find out things that are not about the current political situation and the crisis that you're facing and you turn on the news, you want the pro or anti-Trump or Putin or whatever, turn on the TV and flip to any channel that's not MTV. Right. And then find something like that or go and turn on TVs that don't have news and find a reality TV show about rich people blowing money on leggings or whatever. So like for me and for the people that listen to this show all the time, I'd like to think that what we're talking about is not just an oasis away from those things, but it's actually, like you said, more important because I think people don't necessarily remember the last political crisis we had. There may be a few of them here and there, but they're probably more concerned with whatever they did with their kids or their big family event or the way that they grew as a person. So I tend to look at that stuff that's in the news as kind of unnecessary manufactured drama. And we'll talk about that when we talk about the old Teflon for the good type situation in our brain. But I liked that point. I never thought about personal development being one of the most real things that we can do, but it turns out that it really hits home with me as well.
Dr. Rick Hanson: [00:12:00] Yeah, I think about that. I've had a business background too, and I know these using men who are kind of alpha dogs, big, tough, assertive, strong, maybe sometimes a big bully, fine. You put them in an interpersonal situation where they need to be vulnerable, speak from the heart, get real, be exposed. Their courage goes out the window, their interpersonal cowards at a deep level. And to me, that's such an example of um, people who have built up their outer shell but have not done the inner work on the underlying infrastructure inside themselves. And sooner or later, you will be exposed. Maybe you need to become elected president to be finally exposed and called to justice eventually. But every one of us will have that day. Maybe it'll be on your deathbed. Maybe it'll be in the last breaths of your life, you know, as I was talking about earlier. maybe it'll be when your kid looks you in the eye and says, "Dad, you were never there for me." What will you do that day? So to me, it's critically important even recognized in the armed forces by the Marines to develop mental fitness, internal fitness in your own service and for the service of other people.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:13:23] I just spent a day last week in a maximum-security prison and it was a lot of former gang members, people who had done some pretty serious violent crime in their past and we did a lot of work. People listening are going to be like, wait, what? We did a lot of work where there's an exercise called to step to the line where you are facing a partner who's an inmate, we call them Mavericks because they're running a business, et cetera in the program. But we're facing them and when they do this exercise with each other where they have to talk about or acknowledge when they've done something bad, do they forgive themselves? Do they hurt other people? You know, how young were they when they first got incarcerated, that kind of thing. When they do it with each other, they're kind of like looking at, you know, the head tilt, look down the nose. There's not a whole lot of openness and vulnerability. They make jokes when they do it with the people from the outside, like me, they're crying and we're crying and we're hugging each other. I mean, it's really, really something else, but these guys have gone through a lot of work in this program. Because I thought prisoners are just all sitting here waiting to open up and cry about things that they've done in their past and the organizer of the event, my friend, Cat Hoke says, "No, not really. This is like, you know, months and months and months and months of work being done to get there." So these guys are a pretty good example, I think of what you're talking about. Where in their world you don't show emotion, you carved things on your head, face, neck, and you kill other people. You sell drugs or whatever it is. You don't talk about how your parents hurt you and weren't there for you and you feel like your relationships are all superficial. It's not really part of the dialogue. But I think that the idea of resilience does promote wellbeing. Can you break down the idea of resilience and what this does for us as humans?
Dr. Rick Hanson: [00:15:11] Yeah. Resilience is the capacity inside us to both survive the worst day of our lives and thrive every day of our life. And so it's not just for combat or trauma or growing up in great poverty, it's for dealing with everyday stresses so that as life challenges us, we are not swamped by it. It's a little bit like a sailboat with a keel. So the challenges come, the waves come, the weather changes, the storms arrive and yeah, they affect you, but they don't sink you and if they bang on your heart, you recover quickly. That's what resilience fundamentally is. It's the capacity to stay, to maintain an equilibrium, to be regulated internally in the pursuit of important goals while being challenged. We don't need to be resilient when we're sitting on the porch at the end of the day with an umbrella, drinking, chilling out, watching the sunset with our friend telling us we're wonderful. That's easy.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:16:14] That sounds great though.
Dr. Rick Hanson: [00:16:15] Yeah, it sounds great. Yeah, it sounds great, but how many minutes of our lives are exactly like that?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:16:20] Yeah. I can't really think of a single one now that you mentioned it.
Dr. Rick Hanson: [00:16:23] I've got a few. I think there's a place for them. But challenges keep on coming, including even from inside our own minds. All the crowd that gets stirred up or our body. You know the body breaks down, the body is in pain. Our back hurts. Our ulcers are kicking up again. Something we're challenged. It's one thing after another. So that's what resilience is. Is resilience an end in itself? No. Sometimes people talk about it as if it's an end in itself. No, it's just a means to an end. It's a means to an end broadly of wellbeing, happiness, quality of life, love, service, wisdom. It's a means to an end. If we're going to have any kind of lasting well being in a changing world, any kind of lasting happiness or ease in a changing world, we need to grow these strengths inside to make us resilient. So that for me is the nature of resilience. And it also speaks to what are its causes. Resilience is the result of the inner strengths of various kinds. And in my book, Resilient, I go through 12 major inner strengths and the strength of strengths is learning because if you know how to grow from your experiences emotionally -- that's how I'm using the word learning broadly. If you know how to become stronger, wiser, happier, calmer from your experiences, then you can apply that. If you, in other words, have developed the strength of learning, you can apply that to everything and grow any particular of strength inside yourself, including Lincoln, said earlier, confidence or self-worth that will help you these days.
Jason DeFillippo: [00:17:58] You're listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Dr. Rick Hanson. We'll be right back.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:18:02] This episode is sponsored in part by ZipRecruiter. Hiring is very challenging. Anybody that's run business has hired a bunch of turds, has hired people that don't show up, has hired people that quit by not showing up. Jason, by the way, I heard this, I read this actually somewhere a while back, and most people quit jobs by just not showing up anymore. I think it's like your first job, not like your career job-job, but most people quit by just not showing up. Can you believe that? They just stopped showing up. They're like, "Nah." I remember this because I hired somebody. He was a videographer. He just stopped showing up one day and we were like, "Hey, are you coming back and no answer." And the sales guy that had had a few years of experience that was working with me at the time, he just goes, "Actually that's how most people quit." I was like, "What are you talking about?" He was like, "Yeah, I've read research on this," and he goes, "You know, to be honest, I did that at my first job and where I worked last. Most people quit by just not showing up." And I was like, "What kind of Mickey Mouse BS is this?" Anyway, hiring is challenging. That's the point. So there's one place where you can go where hiring is simple, fast and smart, a place where growing businesses connect to qualified candidates and that place is ziprecruiter.com/jordan. ZipRecruiter sends your job to over a hundred of the web's leading job boards, but you know that's not going to cut it most of the time just that alone. With their powerful matching technology, ZipRecruiter scans thousands of resumes and it finds people with the right experience and then invites them to apply to your job. So it's not just scanning for people that are low hanging fruit, for example, they're trying to find the right person and as applications come in, ZipRecruiter analyzes each one and then spotlights the top candidates so you don't miss a great match and ZipRecruiter is so effective that four out of five employers who post on ZipRecruiter get a quality candidate through the site within the first day.
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Jordan Harbinger: [00:20:01] This episode is also sponsored by Just Crack An Egg.
Jason DeFillippo: [00:20:04] Is it time to put the heat back into your relationship with breakfast, but a hot breakfast just sounds like too much work? Well, it's time to head over to the egg aisle and pick up Just Crack An Egg. It's a hot, fluffy breakfast scrambled that'll have you back in hot breakfast love in less than two minutes. All you've got to do is add a fresh egg over their hearty breakfast fixings, then stir, microwave and reignite your love of breakfast. And something else you'll love about Just Crack An Egg is that it has no artificial flavors, dyes, or preservatives, but even better is how fluffy and cheesy and delicious it is. It comes in seven different varieties including three brand new kinds of veggie, southwest style, and protein-packed scrambles, or just try one of the classics like Denver or all-American. So don't wait for the weekend to get a little hot, hearty breakfast love into your a.m. It's time to run with your arms wide open to the egg aisle and take breakfast back with Just Crack An Egg.
Jason DeFillippo: [00:20:54] Don't forget we have a worksheet for today's episode so you can make sure you solidify your understanding of all the key takeaways from Dr. Rick Hanson. That link is in the show notes at jordanharbinger.com/podcast. And thanks for listening and supporting the show. To learn more about our sponsors and get links to all the great discounts you just heard, visit jordanharbinger.com/deals. If you'd like some tips on how to subscribe to the show, just go to jordanharbinger.com/subscribe. Subscribing to the show is absolutely free. It just means you get all the latest episodes in your podcast player. As they're released so you don't miss a single thing from the show. Now, I'm back to our episode with Dr. Rick Hanson.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:21:31] The brain continually remodels itself. It's one of the concepts from -- and now I'm getting your books all blended together because you read a bunch of prep for this, so I'm not even going to pretend I know which one that concept comes from. Let's just say all of them have that. The brain is evolving and can change for the better or for the worst. And this concept, I think it either is or it used to be called neuroplasticity. Maybe that's not a thing anymore.
Dr. Rick Hanson: [00:21:54] That's a good word.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:21:54] How does the brain consistently remodel itself and why is this, why is this important? I mean, is this the learning that we're talking about? Because I think a lot of people -- I'll get an email that says something like, "I'm really glad you're teaching what you're teaching. I wish I had learned it when I was younger. Sometimes it's hard to teach an old dog new tricks." And my thinking is only because you think that it is. Are you now "too old" to learn how to be resilient or develop relationships, et cetera?
Dr. Rick Hanson: [00:22:23] Yeah, so it's obvious that we learn stuff broadly. You know, we learned a multiplication table. We learned to walk instead of crawl. Hopefully, maybe it takes us a few starter relationships. We learn how to be in an intimate relationship with someone and not be too much of a jerk. Right? We're, hopefully, growing along the way. We learn how to run a meeting. We learn how to not feel so intimidated by some big authority figure boss. I mean we learn things along the way. We learn how to put up with Uncle Fred when he gets like a few beers and then starts ranting about politics. We learn how to deal with that, right? So we're growing any kind of growth, any kind of learning for ourselves must involve a change in the brain. Otherwise, we're left with magic. So it's been understood for a long time that the basis of our growth or development has to be some kind of neural change.
Dr. Rick Hanson: [00:23:17] The breaking news is the new clarity about how that happens, how quickly that happens, and how massively it happens. That's the breaking news about experience-dependent neuroplasticity or what I focus on is positive neuroplasticity using what we've learned about how our nervous system grows and learns using that information to turbocharge that process. So instead of going the day, we wake up in the morning, we go to bed at night and our growth curve is really flat. You need a microscope to detect any slight improvement at the end of the day. Are you a little wiser, a little stronger, a little happier, a little more confident at the end of the day when you woke up or not? For many people, that's pretty flat but if you learn how to learn, if you know how to harness the power of positive neuroplasticity, every day, you can have a steeper, a more vertical growth curve as you go through that day. And that difference that day might not be that great that day. But if you add up those differences day after day, after day after day, you're here in a year rather than here or you're here by the end of your life rather than here. And that makes all the difference in the world. I can get into the detail of how the brand does that. It's kind of wild, as super geeky and cool and neat and it's happening right now. Right now as we talk, just think about it right now as we talked, three pounds of tofu-like tissue inside your head.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:24:45] Is that really the consistency of the brain?
Dr. Rick Hanson: [00:24:46] Yep. It's making your experiences, it's like gushy tofu or thick tapioca pudding, gushy.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:24:52] Really I always thought it was harder than that. I don't know why. Probably because the only brains I've ever touched are plastic brains from anatomy. I just figured out this is maybe a little bit softer and wetter than this.
Dr. Rick Hanson: [00:25:01] And to really creep you out, there are no sensory neurons inside your brain. So you can pop the skull open, stick your finger into a brain -- and I know creepo right?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:25:14] Yeah.
Dr. Rick Hanson: [00:25:14] And you wouldn't feel it. Now don't do it.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:25:16] It's like something from Silence of the Lambs, right? Yeah, we'll be having this conversation through a flex glass window next time.
Dr. Rick Hanson: [00:25:26] Yeah, but which side are you on? I don't want to be an animal.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:25:29] I would for sure.
Dr. Rick Hanson: [00:25:30] I'm not the animal.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:25:31] Yeah. I for sure it would be on the inside of the glass if I started sticking my finger in people's brains. I want to know how we guide the process though. I'm down to get a little geeky with it because, of course, if I'm remodeling my brain, just like if I'm remodeling my kitchen, I want a little bit of input on the projects. I want to know what I'm doing and not just be playing it by ear.
Dr. Rick Hanson: [00:25:50] Good, good, good. So, you know, let's talk about the hardware a little bit.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:25:55] Okay.
Dr. Rick Hanson: [00:25:56] So right now we've got a brain that's the result of literally 600 million years of evolution in the nervous system. Moving to sort of the literally ancient jellyfish stage, which is where the nervous system, first of all, in the primordial seas up through crabs and lizards, and then mice and monkeys, right? And then us today, that's been the whole long strange trip has been. Okay, so right now we have this organ inside our head. It's about three pounds, about five cups of volume. And it contains about give or take 200 billion cells, about half of which are neurons and the other half are support cells. Neurons on average make several thousand connections with each other. Each of those connections called synapses is like a little microprocessor. That means inside our heads right now as we talk here right now. As people listen or watch right now, several hundred trillion, several hundred trillion little microprocessors are sparkling inside your head right now
Jordan Harbinger: [00:27:08] Are these like binary like transistor-type situations?
Dr. Rick Hanson: [00:27:11] Great question. Neurons are binary on-off in the sense of firing or not firing.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:27:16] Right.
Dr. Rick Hanson: [00:27:17] And the nature of the firing tends to be, it tends to either have an excitatory or inhibitory effect. In other words, hit the gas or hit the brakes, green light, red light, to a man senses binary. On the other hand, when you have gazillions of binary events happening, the total effect can be kind of analog. And also a lot of the neurochemicals that neurons produce aren't just released in this on-off fire, don't fire way, but they kind of ooze outside of the neuronal cells, especially the more ancient little neurochemicals called peptides like oxytocin or the natural opioids that are really involved with what it feels like to be you moment by moment by moment. So that's what scientist one's called the enchanted loom, continually weaving the next moment of consciousness, the tapestry of experience. That's what's going on. Neurons typically are firing five to 50 times a second. It really helps to kind of slow it down and think about the scale, like these tiny little microprocessors, these little connections between neurons, the synapses, you could put several thousand of them side by side in the width of a single hair. It's so tiny. In a cubic millimeter, you could probably get millions of synapses there. So little structural changes in your brain actually give us lots more processing power or lead to harm like the impact of trauma on people or concussions over time. So that's kind of the basic hardware.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:28:53] You know, I found or I didn't find, a doctor did a brain scan on me at this place in LA. He's a brain scientist.
Dr. Rick Hanson: [00:29:01] Okay.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:29:02] And he found a concussion that I probably got when I was like two or three years old. It's super old. And he goes, "Look, this is where your brain is," and I'm looking at this picture that I don't know what it is. I see a white part that he goes, "That's not normal. Here's another brain without that." And I was like, "Oh my gosh." And he goes, "Look, there's all this other sort of stuff around it. This is where your brain went, 'Oh, that's not working. Let's build around it.'" Because I was so young, but he goes, "It's theoretically possible for you to rehabilitate this sort of shut down part of your brain. So we're actually going to work on that." Now, whether or not it's going to do something that I can find any sort of tangible difference is a question that may or may not ever get answered, even if it turns on. Will I notice without looking at a scan? Probably not. But it's pretty fascinating to look at a picture of your brain, me who's never really done anything, that traumatizing theoretically to see this whole sort of chunk of my brain that is clearly just dead air. It's a little terrifying, honestly. It's interesting and scary I guess at the same time.
Dr. Rick Hanson: [00:30:03] Well, you know, for me there are a couple of takeaways from learning what I've learned about all this stuff. One of them is to protect your noggin. Like as a parent, I would no longer sign off my kid being able to play tackle football in high school. I just wouldn't give permission. Pick another sport. Baseball.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:30:23] Get hit in the head with a baseball.
Dr. Rick Hanson: [00:30:25] Track and field.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:30:26] Less likely.
Dr. Rick Hanson: [00:30:26] Gymnastics, maybe. Wrestling, basketball.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:30:32] Every single thing you've just named can result in head injury. But I guess football is almost like a guarantee.
Dr. Rick Hanson: [00:30:36] Yeah, we went for more likely. Yeah. And I love playing football, especially touch football, but I'm just saying protect your noggin. Another thing is to protect your noggin against the impact, frankly, of lots of alcohol or lots of toxins. Not good on the old noggin. It's one thing to have fun for a night with your friends and it's another thing to do it routinely, so that's another takeaway. More generally, negative emotional experiences have a toxic effect on the brain. They accumulate over time because for example, the stress hormone cortisol that's released when we're irritated or frustrated or work under pressure, work-driven. It sounds like most of the working day of a lot of people.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:31:18] Yeah. I went through a lot of that. I remember doing a gut panel and a blood panel and the doctor goes, "Your cortisol is really low," and I was like, "Yes, I am so good at managing stress." And he's like, "Well, let me, let me pause you right there, tough guy. Your cortisol level is so low because it's getting depleted before lunchtime because you're doing something that's resulting in a crazy amount of it." He's like, "This is called adrenal fatigue. It's not just your cortisol is low because you're good at relaxing. It's, you're so bad at relaxing, you're just burning all of them."
Dr. Rick Hanson: [00:31:47] Yeah. You hit that gas pedal so often, then nothing happens now when you hit it.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:31:50] Right.
Dr. Rick Hanson: [00:31:51] Yeah. So that's a great takeaway that these were tough critters. I want to be really clear. I'm not saying that we're a bunch of little hothouse flowers. We're not a bunch of snowflakes. All right? We're really tough critters. We're top of the food chain for a reason. We're tough critters. On the other hand, I call it the law of little things, for better or worse. Lots of little bad things, a dozen times a day of being irritated, frustrated, hurt, lonely, weirded out, sense of dismay, mad at yourself. Any single episode like that? Yeah, we're tough. We can deal with it, but it doesn't have them a day, day after day after day, 10 years after 10 years after 10 years, they add up over time. On the other hand, positively, the law of little things works both ways. Day after day after day, a dozen times a day, slowing it down for breath or two. I call it taking in the good to rest in something useful that's happening, a moment of feeling self-worth, a moment of accomplishing something, a moment of feeling strong, a moment of feeling like my needs matter too in this family in a healthy way. Something useful, something good. Maybe it's just a moment of looking out the door and going, wow, those flowers look pretty neat. They look pretty great. Whatever it might be, those dozen times a day, slow it down to take it into yourself and in the process hardwire that positive experience in your nervous system. Kind of the mirror opposite to hardwiring that negative crud into your nervous system. Those little things a dozen times a day, day after day after day after day, they determined that that day is a better one than the day before it. That's what creates the growth that day that then you can take with you wherever you go.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:33:43] That's interesting. What happens if, let's say 10 out of the last 15 years I worked somewhere where every day was really stressful, focused on the negative. Can I repair that or is the damage has been done?
Dr. Rick Hanson: [00:33:54] You can totally repair that, but you've got to do the work. That's another aspect of this whole thing that to me blows up the, I think kind of BS idea that la-di-da. No, you got to do the work. You have to make the effort inside your mind and the work has to be in proportion to the challenge. These gang bangers, they got a lot of work to do and to put a little differently. People who've been really mistreated. I bet every single one of those gang bangers has been really mistreated, grew up in tough circumstances. The deck was stacked from the get-go. I'm not turning a blind eye to whatever bad things they did. But I'm just saying if we look at the bigger picture here, there's a lot of damage and a lot of injuries happened to that person. So we have to ramp up our resources to the level that scaled up to the issue. Very often as a therapist, I'll be in a situation where people roll in the door. The issue is this big. The challenge, let's say is this big. The resources inside themselves and in their relationships are that big. We need to scale up the resources so people need to face that fact. You need to do the work in proportion to the scale of the problem, but if you do the work, you will earn the results and you will be able to take those results with you wherever you go.
Jason DeFillippo: [00:35:17] This is The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Dr. Rick Hanson. We'll be right back after this.
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Jordan Harbinger: [00:39:02] So we developed these mental resources in two stages according to the book. One is experience. And I assume you mean by having an experience, like what was the example you gave earlier looking at flowers or enjoying some small --
Dr. Rick Hanson: [00:39:15] Building a sense of accomplishment that you did a tricky project or a sense of pride in yourself that you stood up for yourself with somebody, let's say.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:39:25] And then the second step is converted to lasting change in the neurosystem. You sort of touched on that. Take a pause, let it sink in, tie that to lasting change. Can we break that down a little? Because that's sort of practical help.
Dr. Rick Hanson: [00:39:38] Yeah, it's incredibly important. It's kind of like saying to someone, they have a car but they don't know where the gas cap is and they don't know how to put gas in. And it's really fundamental like how do you put gas in your car. It's really basic. So if you want to learn how to help yourself grow, it's this basic and it's kind of that simple. You know, you open it up and you put the nozzle in and you pull the trigger and the gas goes in and you're good to go. It's kind of that simple but you have to do it. You have to put gas in your tank. So if you want to change your brain for the better, that's the inherent two-step process. We start with experiences. Neurologically, that means we start with some kind of activated pattern, some kind of underlying pattern of activation in all those neurons and all those synapses that are the basis for the experience of worth or accomplishment or calming or happiness, let's say. We start there. That's a state of mental neural activation. Mind and body entwined together, two aspects of a single process, that's very dynamic. So right there we have that moment, that state of activation.
Dr. Rick Hanson: [00:40:47] How do we help it leave a lasting change? That's the question and the dirty little secret. Frankly, people come to me for my talks or people honestly listen to your show. In the moment, it's great, but how much of it sinks in and what are the people doing who are super learners? They're the ones that are really growing from listening to me or listening to you. What are they actually doing compared to frankly, many people, maybe most people who have a momentarily nice experience like, "Oh, whoa, that's a good idea." Or, "Wow, I feel better. I feel lighter." "Oh wow, that's so inspiring." And the next day there is irritable as worried as much of a pill in their family as ever. What makes the difference?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:41:33] Yeah, what is the difference?
Dr. Rick Hanson: [00:41:33] Yeah, the difference is turning that state into a trait, helping that passing pattern leave a lasting, durable physical change behind in neural structure and function. That's the fundamental process. So that's the money question. How do we do it though?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:41:51] How do we take that experience?
Dr. Rick Hanson: [00:41:53] How do we make that lasting change happen? That's the money question. And before I answer the money question, I'm going to torture you --
Jordan Harbinger: [00:42:00] There's no money in this for you. I'm sorry.
Dr. Rick Hanson: [00:42:01] I'm going to teach you a little about it. No, it's the flag effect that almost nobody asks that question. So many people including in my profession, clinical psychology or related fields like coaching, mindfulness training, human potential, we were in the growth business, but we don't ask the question.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:42:19] Yeah.
Dr. Rick Hanson: [00:42:19] How does growth actually happen at the level of the body? Because lasting growth means a lasting change in the brain. How does that process actually happen?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:42:29] It seems like that's the most important part of any of this.
Dr. Rick Hanson: [00:42:31] I think so.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:42:32] Yeah.
Dr. Rick Hanson: [00:42:32] Because that's the money question, that's the superpower. The answer to the money question gives us the superpower that we can use to grow all our, all our other superpowers. Learning is the superpowers, superpowers. All right, so now that I've really got you revved up for this, the fundamental process usually takes at the beginning, at the front end, a few seconds to get launched and then it takes minutes and hours and even days to fully complete itself to create a lasting neural trace. That is the basis for feeling a little more confident, a little happier, a little stronger, a little wiser. So we can help that process happen. When it does happen, we can help it to happen with three major things. I get into a lot of detail about this, but you can remember three things and you only need to do one of them. And the more, the better. First of all, stay with the experience for a breath or longer. There's a famous saying, you know it, "Neurons that fire together, wire together." So we have the two stages of the process, the firing and the wiring and we want the wiring to happen because that's the enduring growth that really counts and is staying with us. So the longer those neurons are firing, the more they're going to be wiring.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:43:56] So somebody, something good happens to me, sit in it and actually enjoy it. Instead of doing what I always do, which is getting really embarrassed with the compliment and, or try to think about something else that I can work on.
Dr. Rick Hanson: [00:44:06] Yeah. And you're not alone, Jordan. Trust me you're from the load. Exactly. Isn't it weird? We work so hard to have these experiences, right? Including in modern technical societies that are really, really privileged, fairly affluent, quite fortunate. We're having this pleasure, we're having this experience, and we skitter on to the next thing constantly. We’re constantly changing the channel or allowing our channel to be changed by external forces that bombard us with stimuli and are constantly trying to grab eyeballs and hijack attention. So step one, stay with the experience for a breath. That's about five to 10 seconds.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:44:45] When you say stay with it, do you mean like, I'm trying to think of a metaphor here. Am I kind of like letting it roll around in my head or feel it more completely? Like if someone says, "You know, I really love your show. It really makes a big difference in my life." I see those emails every day, and I could be like half looking at a food menu at the time. And I used to just be like, "Okay, mark this red, and then answer it in three months." Now, I save it as new and I try to read it when I'm tired or something and I go, "Oh, that was nice in that person to write that. I'm going to reply and smile while I do it," but it takes me forever. It took me a long time to even realize that that was even worth doing. It took me years. I mean like a decade.
Dr. Rick Hanson: [00:45:29] It's really poignant. See the good facts, feel the good facts, take in the feeling. Right, there are three opportunities and we routinely blow each one. We don't see the good facts in the first place or second, if we see it, we don't feel it right there. You're reading the email, you're not feeling anything or even if you read the email and feel something for half a second or two, boom, you're onto the next thing. Take it in. So that's where people can really help themselves every day. Look for the genuine facts. it doesn't mean rose-colored glasses. I don't believe in positive thinking. In a funny kind of way, as we see the good facts, feel the good facts, and then take in the good feelings. We grow strengths inside that make us more able to see the crud in this life and to actually be more effective politically and otherwise because we're growing strengths inside. So see the good facts in your life.
Dr. Rick Hanson: [00:46:23] Second, when you see a handful of times every day, at least slow down to feel something. Why not? You earned it. Those are good factors there. It doesn't harm others for you to let yourself feel it. It doesn't make you a patsy. It actually makes you stronger to recognize good facts in your life, to have a sense of reassurance and relief and satisfaction when you see them. And then when you are feeling it, stay with it for a breath or longer, why not? It's private. On the outside, you can look all tough and cool and everything, but on the inside, you're like, "Yeah, this is great. I'm going to let this one sink in." So what it would look like is, let's say you're in a relationship, and your partner is kind of funny or sweet or caring or nice, or maybe you just hanging out with buddies or you're joking with a hotdog vendor. It doesn't need to be a million-dollar moment, but you're enjoying it. There's a moment of friendliness or a moment of goofball humor, kind of relief. Why not slow down for a breath or longer, five, 10, 20 seconds in a row and just feel it. If you do that, you're going to be helping your neurons wired together. So that's my first suggestion.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:47:33] How many times a day should we be doing that?
Dr. Rick Hanson: [00:47:35] My rule of thumb is half a dozen times or more.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:47:37] Oh wow. Okay.
Dr. Rick Hanson: [00:47:38] Yeah. But think about it. That's 10 seconds at a time. Gee, I don't know. That's less than a minute, Jordan.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:47:44] It's funny to think though. I, my first thought was, I don't know if I have that many, but the truth is since I'm not doing this, I actually have no idea how many of these I have and just don't ever think about again.
Dr. Rick Hanson: [00:47:54] Oh yeah. There are all kinds of opportunities. And to me, again, it goes to this critique that "Oh, this is la-di-da for rich people. No, the more your life sucks, the more that you're dealing with poverty, the more that you're in the joint, you're in jail. The more that you have a tough life, you got to work two jobs because you've got kids to support. You're not making any money. And that's just the way it is. The harder your life, the more important it is to recognize the blade of grass poking up to through the broken sidewalk. The more important it is to have a feeling of foxhole camaraderie. When the other people who are with you, while the bullets are flying by. The more important it is to recognize the legitimate, authentic good facts. In your life, including the good facts inside yourself that you're not such a dick, that you really are a decent person, that you do learn. You do admit fault. You might be begrudging about it but eventually, come around. You do not want to hurt other people. You do want to make things better rather than worse. Why not recognize that inside yourself as well when you taste the coffee or eat the doughnut? It tastes good. Why not? Or when you're surrounded like we are right now by electric lights, by modern technology. Just medical care, I probably wouldn't have been here by now.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:49:14] Oh yeah.
Dr. Rick Hanson: [00:49:15] Back in the stone age. I've had a few things that would have taken me out already.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:49:18] Well, you had that car accident that would've been in the stone age. I assume you used some modern marvels.
Dr. Rick Hanson: [00:49:22] Yeah. To get back to that thing. Why not recognize it? So that's the first thing you can do to help yourself. I said there were three. I'll give you the other two now. So first being with the experience for a breath or longer to help those neurons wired together.
New Speaker: [00:49:38] Right, so it's not just some woo-woo, like be happy and let it prolong like this is your brain will strengthen this connection or this happiness ability if you just feed it a little bit more time in the zone.
New Speaker: [00:49:52] Yeah, that's right. And it's not that hard to do. It takes a little bit of mindfulness to be aware of your own experience in the moment.
New Speaker: [00:49:59] And my wife can help me with that. She's good at it.
New Speaker: [00:50:01] Yeah. And/or you finish the email. Why not slow down for breath and go -- Got that one done. You do the dishes. Why not take a moment? Look at the kitchen. Go sinks cleared out. Check that box. Why not feel it?
New Speaker: [00:50:19] How satisfying is that? Take five seconds.
New Speaker: [00:50:22] I'm taking five seconds here, man. Five seconds. Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock. Why not stay with it for five seconds. Okay. Second, feel it in your body as much as you can. The more that our experiences are embodied as every kindergarten teacher knows. In most good therapists, they're going to sink in more. So slow it down, feel it in your body. You get that nice email, you finish the dishes. Don't just know intellectually, "Oh yeah, I got the dishes done. Good job." Feel it, feel it in your body. That will also increase the physical trace left behind in your nervous system from that experience.
Dr. Rick Hanson: [00:51:05] Third, focus on what's rewarding about it. What feels good about it? Or what's meaningful about? What's enjoyable? When we do that, that naturally increases the activity of these two neurotransmitters, dopamine and norepinephrine. Norepinephrine also is a hormone when it works outside of the body but it's the same molecule. So as you increase the sense of reward, the sense that experience is enjoyable or meaningful as you do that dopamine and norepinephrine, activity increases. And what that does is flags the experience you're having at the time as a keeper for protection and long-term storage. It says, "Whoa, this one matters. This is important to protect it as it goes in the long-term storage and thereby wire it more and more into yourself. In my acronym, I use HEAL to describe this process in general -- have, enrich, absorb, and optional but useful step link. That goes into a lot of detail about it, but people can remember to do one of these three things and the more, the better, at least a handful of times every day.
Dr. Rick Hanson: [00:52:15] And in the process of that you'll be practicing what's called self-directed neuroplasticity. That's a mouthful. But for me, it basically is you're taking charge of the process of who you are becoming. Who's the boss of who you are becoming? Is it the other people around you? Is it all those likes on your Facebook feed?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:52:33] For sure not that.
Dr. Rick Hanson: [00:52:34] Yeah. Who's the boss of who you are becoming? For most people, the boss of who they are becoming or bosses of who they are becoming scattered outside themselves. They're not autonomous. So if you believe in old school values, which I think speak to everyone and, and this is a way frankly for many men, including young men who poo-poo personal growth to relate to this as well. Hey man, are you in charge of who you are becoming or are you being pushed around by everything else?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:53:01] Yeah, like the internet stuff you read on the internet, social media. Yeah, that's a tough pill to swallow because I think if a lot of us are really honest with ourselves, we see that a lot of what we do is to please people that we don't know and will never meet online, which is really a shame and it can lead to some serious misery. I think there's a lot of studies that show how hot and miserable we are as a result of things like social media and when you see people unplug from that, they've run studies that show pretty significant results of uptakes and happiness. I'm sure you're familiar with that research. Are there rules for this? One of the takeaways from the book was focused on experiences, not conditions. That was an interesting distinction that you made there.
Dr. Rick Hanson: [00:53:44] That's a very profound and subtle point. It's really important. So we want conditions to be good, right? We want to get a raise. We want people to give us five-star reviews on podcasts. We want these things. These are external conditionals. We want our wives to still like us or even love us. We want those things. But what's the point of those conditions? Most of the point of those conditions is as a means to the end of our experiences. We want to feel a certain way when we get that paycheck, we want to feel of worth. We want to feel more relieved. We want to feel happy that we're going to be able to save a little more money now and take care of that thing. When people give us that five-star review, we like the feeling, the experience we have that our business will be more successful as a result, we want to have an experience. What that means in general though is that especially if you're trying to heal yourself of things that were bad conditions when you were younger, the healing happens experientially. And what I mean by that is that if you want to feel of worth inside, let's say it's natural to think to yourself, "Oh, I need to have more people telling me I'm a good guy and I don't have anybody in my life telling me I'm a good guy, so I'm screwed." But actually, if you can find other ways to help yourself have the experience that the condition of people telling you you're a good guy would elicit in you. If you can find other ways to have that experience by remembering, for example, people in the past who told you were a good guy or recognizing in yourself, you actually are a good guy or other ways into having that kind of experience. Like recognizing your own abilities and your own good intentions. Once you're having the experience in your mind, it's freed of the conditions that originally elicited. And once you're having that experience inside your mind, your brain doesn't know where it came from. It doesn't matter where it came from, it doesn't need to have come from any particular condition because it's the experience you're having. And as soon as you get that song playing inside your mind, that song of your experience, you can turn on the inner recorder and start registering it into yourself in that second stage of the learning process, the hardwiring stage where you're taking that song is playing and weaving it into the fabric of your own nervous system. You're recording it into yourself. And that's incredibly helpful. It means that we can heal from a lot of the conditions that were missing when we were young and we will never have those. We will never have been really nurtured by a truly loving and sane parent, let's say. We will not have been bullied by those other kids and made to feel inadequate dozens and hundreds of times. That won't change. But today by helping ourselves to have those experiences that are reparative and healing, once we have those experiences inside our minds, then we can take them down into ourselves, into the deeper layers of our own psyche, the younger layers of our psyche and help healing happen there.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:57:06] One thing that might stop us from doing some of this, you know, notice the good things taking the good is the negativity bias. And that was one of the first things that drew me to your work was, "Oh my gosh, I have that." And your response was everyone has that. Tell us about this. What is this?
Dr. Rick Hanson: [00:57:21] You're not special, Jordan.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:57:23] I knew it. It's one of my greatest fears.
Dr. Rick Hanson: [00:57:26] But it's kind of a relief, isn't it? I actually have had people say that to me. "Rick, that really helped me. I realized that I'm grumpy or anxious and I'm kind of designed to be that way. Now I got to do something about it, but it's not so personal." The short version is that if you just think about a relationship, 10 things happen with this person at work or in your home life and nine are good. 10 is kind of weird, irritating. They bugged you, they hurt your feelings. What's the one thing you must think about over the course of the day. It's the one thing that didn't go right. Do you get a job review? Your boss gives you 20 pieces of input, 19 are positive, one is room for improvement. What do you obsess about? So that's the negativity bias in action. And I say it's like having a brain that's Velcro for the bad, but Teflon for the good. And we know what that's like. Every little bad thing kind of sticks to us and all these good facts, good experiences, good moments, kind of wash through us, like water through us. And the reason is as our ancestors evolved and the nervous system evolved for 600 million years. Basically, our ancestors had two tasks: get carrots, avoid sticks. Carrots, food, mating opportunities. Sticks, predators, hazards, aggression inside their band or between bands. All right. If you don't get a carrot today, you'll have a chance of one tomorrow. But if you fail to avoid that saber-toothed tiger or alpha baboon in your primate troop, no more carrots forever. So we're designed to do everything we can to avoid those sticks and meanwhile carrots in there.
Dr. Rick Hanson: [00:59:11] So today we have a brain. Thanks, mother nature that's designed to do five things routinely and you can watch your mind doing it as you go through your day. One scan for bad news, outside you, inside yourself or in your relationships. Second, when you find the bad news, that one red light is starting to flash on the inner dashboard and install the other green lights, over-focus upon it. That's why one of the major theories of positive emotion, Barbara Fredrickson's work on the broaden-and-build theory of positive emotion, talks about how emotionally positive experiences broadened to the perceptual field. We take him more information. Negative emotional experiences were zero on that one light that's flashing. Third thing, we overreact to it. A lot of research shows that if you play sounds for people inside an MRI, they're equally loud. But one is pleasant, like a bell ringing, dong nice dong. Or when it is unpleasant like a baby crying and they're both equally loud. The brain reacts much more intensely to the negative sound.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:00:21] Really.
Dr. Rick Hanson: [01:00:21] Yeah. Or another version of that is called loss aversion. Daniel Kahneman, the psychologist, got a Nobel prize in economics for it. It's the idea that basically if you give someone a hundred dollar, how much does that move their needle up? Well, that's kind of nice. If on the other hand, you steal a hundred dollars from a person, how much does that move their needle down? We're much more affected in most cases by what we lose than by what we gain. So that's an example right there. Fourth thing that happens, the whole messy package of negative experiences, fast track into emotional memory. We remember negative interactions with other people more than positive ones. We remember negative gossip about celebrities more than good news. We're much more rapidly trained into helplessness from a few experiences of futility and defeat. And it takes many, many dozens, as many experiences of being more like a hammer and less like a nail to feel more potent in your own life. So those are many examples of that fast track in the memory. And then fifth related to cortisol, which I was talking about a little earlier. When we're stressed or irritated or frazzled or pressured, blue, cortisol is released and goes up into the brain and there it has like a one, two punch in your brain. Cortisol, both sensitizes the alarm bell of the brain, the amygdala. So now this ancient alarm bell rings more readily and more loudly and cortisol weakens a nearby part of the brain called the hippocampus, which calms down the amygdala, puts things in context. My boss is not my father. It looks like my father, but he's not really my father. That was then. This is now, right. And the hippocampus also tells the hypothalamus to quit calling for stress hormones, enough stress hormones already. With that, one-two punch means a vicious cycle. That stress today, including being irritated or frazzled or worried or blue, stress today makes us a little more vulnerable to stress tomorrow and therefore a little more likely to feel stressed, which then releases even more cortisol making us even more vulnerable the day after that and like a said a vicious cycle.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:02:47] That's interesting. I didn't realize that and it totally jibes with my experience. Because when I'm stressed one day or for many days in a row, I feel like I'm kind of, you know when the water's really hot but it still looks like cold water because there's not a whole lot going on. And then you raise the temperature 10 degrees or five degrees and it boils. But obviously, the cold water doesn't.
Dr. Rick Hanson: [01:03:05] Yeah.
Dr. Rick Hanson: [01:03:06] That's how I felt like I was living my life for years where it was just like one little thing and I would boil over and people would be like, "Wow, what is wrong? What is Jordan's deal? He's got such a short fuse." It wasn't necessarily that I have a short fuse, it's just that the fuse has already been halfway lit and just right at the edge of a trigger, at the trigger point for so long. You know, I'm just on the red line all the time.
Dr. Rick Hanson: [01:03:30] That's a great takeaway. And so for me, like three big lessons from this negativity bias, there are super practical. One, when it's useful, draw the negativity bias. If you're doing a combat tour in Iraq or Afghanistan, that negativity bias is a useful thing. Or if you're growing up in a neighborhood or a family that's like a combat zone. All right, negativity bias is useful when it is, but most of the time it creates a lot of excess suffering. It stresses us out and it traps us in these escalating spirals of quarrels with other people. So the second takeaway is to disengage from negative experiences as rapidly as you authentically can. Get their value. Maybe your anxiety is telling you something. Maybe your anger is telling you something. Maybe that feeling of remorse or guilt inside is really telling you something useful. Okay. Learn from the negative experience. But after that, disengage, quit feeding the beast, right? Neurons that fire together, wire together, especially for negative experiences, especially the negative experiences that happened when we were young. Don't feed the beast, quit ruminating about it, quit obsessing about it. Quit looping on those laps around the track and help to dig that track a little deeper every single time. And the third takeaway is to grow other resources. In other words, quit feeding the weeds. That's the second takeaway. And third, grow flowers. Tilt toward authentic beneficial experiences in the ways that we've been talking, most to which are mild and in the flow of the day, they're not million-dollar moments and they're still real by tilting toward those beneficial experiences. In effect, since mother nature is tilted suffering, we level the playing field.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:05:20] What about a sympathetic response? So something bad happens to me that's clear. What if I'm watching the news, reading the news all the time, watching a video. We already know that the news sort of optimizes for this negativity bias because we pay attention more.
New Speaker: [01:05:33] If it bleeds, it leads.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:05:34] Right, if it bleeds, it leads. So am I increasing my cortisol release more likely to have a stress response. the next day if I watch the news the previous day at an airport lounge.
Dr. Rick Hanson: [01:05:44] Yes and no, and here's the key distinction. If we're glued to the tube and completely hijacked by that negative interaction, let's say with our partner or our sense of helpless outrage on either side of the political divide at what we're seeing on the news, if we're sucked in, if we're identified with it, then it's going to carve deep grooves in our nervous system, metaphorically speaking. On the other hand, if we can step back from it, if we can be mindful of it, in other words, if we can witness it, if we can feel like there's a shock absorber between us, if instead of being in the movie, the whole horror show of our lives with 20 rows back with popcorn going, whoa, that sucks up there. That makes all the difference in the world. As soon as we disengage in that way, we disidentify from the movie, we're witnessing it rather than being in it, even though it's happening inside our own consciousness, then we're not reinforcing it. So I think there's a place, these days especially, to be informed citizens, to stand up for the two fundamental rules of any kind of healthy politics. Tell the truth and play fair. After that, I don't really care. Do you know what I mean? Let the best team win fine with me, but tell the truth and play fair. I'm going to vote for the people who tell the truth and play fair or at least that's their policy stances. And, yeah, I think it's important to be informed, but being informed is distinct from letting it invade your mind.
Dr. Rick Hanson: [01:07:21] You know, we talked a little bit about Buddhism before we started here and the Buddha, when he described his own life of practice in a very human way, he didn't claim any kind of mystical powers. He was a dude. He was basically a rich farmer's boy who walked away from his ordinary life. And there are a lot of personal practices and around age 35 really had an extraordinary awakening that he then taught from for 40 more years. That was his story basically, and as he was describing his run-up to liftoff to awakening, he said, increasingly, "I was having all these horrible experiences, but they did not invade my mind and remain." That's the distinction. We will have experiences, maybe horrible experiences, but do they invade your mind? Do they invade the inner temple of the core of you? And they do invade you, do they occupy you? Do they remain? And alternately, can you shift your relationship to the experiences you're having where you're gently encouraging them to improve over time, partly by growing strengths inside that do start to shape your experiences over time. And meanwhile, can you relate to them in a way in which you can recognize that they're continually changing, continually disappearing, and they're not invading you and remaining,
Jordan Harbinger: [01:08:45] Leave us with one more way to cultivate the good. We talked about focusing on the small wins or positive experiences sitting with them for one breath. I suppose we could also journal those to make sure that we're really hammering them in. If you wanted to do something like that every morning about something on the previous day, I used to do that. You've got this idea of the good year box. Tell us about this. I like this because it trains your brain to look for something positive every day. So you're kind of, I don't know if the reticular activation system is a real thing, but I've heard about it. You know what I'm talking about.
Dr. Rick Hanson: [01:09:16] Yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:09:17] Tell us about this.
Dr. Rick Hanson: [01:09:18] So I got this idea from somebody who said that I think it was a guy who said, "Yeah, I have started to create what I call a good year box. And so basically I have this little box and every day I write down something good that happened on a little piece of paper, maybe I saw a picture that I liked out of the paper. I print something or maybe there's like a Facebook post that's inspirational and I just printed out. I got it and put it in the box. And then, as the year goes on, if I'm feeling blue or I want a pep talk or I kind of want to recenter myself in the big picture, I'll just go into my box and pull some stuff out and take a look at it and I get the value of that. But what really affected me," this person was saying, "Is that it changed how I went through my day. Because as I went through my day, I was always kind of thinking a little bit, well what's it going to be today? What's that one little thing today? Maybe it's a cartoon, some kind of funny, silly thing or maybe it's going to be some moment I have with a friend and I'm going to have that as well. What's the one thing I'm going to put in that box every day?" So that's kind of a nice little technique.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:10:25] Right, so it trains us to look for something every day to put in the box, which of course is training us to look for positive things every day, which is the real value versus what ends up in the box.
Dr. Rick Hanson: [01:10:34] And if you want to be super cool, you can keep the box in your closet. Nobody needs to know that you have it. It's your own little private box. If you'll indulge me, I'd like to kind of name what I think of as the 10-minute challenge.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:10:44] Sure, yup.
Dr. Rick Hanson: [01:10:46] And it comes from the fact that I've been a therapist for a long time, been in business as well, and I've seen, again and again, people will routinely spend hours every day to get good at things that they actually don't care about that much or value that much.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:11:00] Like what?
Dr. Rick Hanson: [01:11:00] Improving their putting in their golf game or learning how to do the latest release of Excel spreadsheet software or some other thing that they'll kind of focus on getting better at that, but they won't spend even 10 minutes a day becoming stronger and happier themselves. And so that's the frame of the 10-minute challenge. So I want to just tell you if you want to change your life in 10 minutes a day, do this every day. Ready? One, you go through your day, half a dozen times, slow down and take in the good for a breath or two or longer. That'll take two, three minutes tops a day. All right? Slow it down as you go through your day. Most of those moments are not going to be million-dollar moments, but they're going to be real. Second, know one’s strength in particular. You're trying to grow inside yourself these days. One thing, maybe it's becoming more patient with your teenagers.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:11:54] That's for sure. Mostly patience with myself and everyone else, but you know, a teenager at work why not.
Dr. Rick Hanson: [01:12:00] Pick one thing. You know it's okay to have more than one, but what's one thing in particular that you're trying to grow these days? Maybe if you're like me, say growing up with a certain amount of neglect, there's like a hole in your heart. It wasn't so much that there was the presence of the bad. It was the absence of the good and the absence of the good can actually have more impact on us over the years than the presence of things that are really bad. So maybe there's a hole inside your heart. Well, you didn't get a certain amount of things that weirdly would have been good. Every kid needs or every adult needs ideally, but we just don't get it, so maybe what you're doing every day is filling that hole in your heart. One brick at a time, and maybe the whole, in my case, looks as big as a construction site for a skyscraper, but a few bricks a day, you're going to gradually fill that hole in your heart.
Dr. Rick Hanson: [01:12:51] So whatever it might be, know what one key thing is you're working on these days that you're trying to develop inside yourself. That takes another couple of three minutes a day. Now we're up to about five minutes a day. And then the rest of the 10-minute challenge is to set aside a time every day that you protect, that's at least a minute long, one to five minutes in length where you just say, "World stepped back during this period of time. I'm going to, as I put it, marinate in deep green." What I mean by that is the green zone that you may know from my work and heartwarming happiness in that particular book, also in Resilient. The green zone is when we feel that we are safe enough and satisfied enough and connected enough in this moment, at least now and now and now. And when we feel that our basic needs for safety, satisfaction, and connection are sufficiently met in the moment, our whole body moves out of the red zone. The whole sympathetic fight, flight, freeze system starts calming. Stress hormones fade away. The heart returns to a normal rate. The whole visceral core of the body is not being strained and burdened and it settles down and our mind is colored in a broad sense in terms of those three needs with a feeling of peacefulness in terms of safety, contentment in terms of satisfaction, and in a word broadly love in terms of connection. We're marinating and deep green, breathing, calming, settling, helping your body return to your home base at least a few minutes every day. Particularly in a life in which we're endlessly driven from that home base by the stressors and interruptions and demands of our crazy world. So that's my 10-minute challenge for you a few times a day, taking the good. Second, know the one thing, in particular, you're growing these days and therefore look for opportunities to experience that one thing, and then take those experiences in. That's the two-stage process of learning. And also third, spend at least a minute or more each day marinating in deep green. If you do that, it'll change your day because partly you'll be looking for things you can do over the day that will change your whole day. And you'll go to bed feeling different. You do that 10 days in a row, it'll change your life.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:15:21] Rick, thank you so much. We'll throw that in the worksheet as well for this episode. Thank you so much for your time.
Dr. Rick Hanson: [01:15:26] It's a pleasure, Jordan.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:15:30] Jason. It's been a long time since we had Rick Hanson on the show.
Jason DeFillippo: [01:15:33] I remember when he came to your loft in San Francisco like way back in the day, that horrible loft where the motorcycles would go by all the time. Oh, God. I had to edit all that stuff out and I fell in love with Rick during that show and it was so cool and I'm glad he's back.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:15:50] He's such a smart guy, really introspective and he's just done a ton of work, not only in this area but also on himself, which I really appreciate. It's always good to walk the walk. If you want to know how I managed to book all these great people -- I've got a great network of guests, I've got a great network of friends and opportunities -- I built those all very deliberately using the techniques in Six-Minute Networking. It's a free course. You won't feel icky for doing it. It's not gross and sales and it doesn't cost anything. jordanharbinger.com/course and I know you think I'm going to do it later and you say this every time. You can't make up for the lost time. You got to dig the well before you get thirsty. The drills take like six minutes a day, hence the name. I wish I knew this stuff 20 years ago. You can find all of it at jordanharbinger.com/course. Speaking of building relationships, tell me your number one takeaway here from Dr. Rick Hanson. I'm at @JordanHarbinger on both Twitter and Instagram. There's a video of this interview on our YouTube channel at jordanharbinger.com/youtube.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:16:46] This show is produced in association with PodcastOne and this episode was co-produced by Jason "Teflon for the Good" DeFillippo and Jen Harbinger, show notes and worksheets are by Robert Fogarty, and I'm your host Jordan Harbinger. Remember, we rise by lifting others. So the fee for the show is that you share it with friends when you find something useful, which should be in every episode. So please share the show with those you love and even those you don't. In the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on the show, so you can live what you listen, and we'll see you next time.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:17:17] A lot of people ask me what shows I listen to and recommend. One of my faves is a $100 MBA Show run by my dear friend Omar Z. And Omar, you have been doing this show for ages now. You're on episode, I mean it's like 1,200 something and actually, episode 1229, How Paying Yourself Puts Your Business First was a little counterintuitive for a lot of entrepreneurs because I think a lot of us, we just reinvest everything and then we wonder why we're broke.
Omar Zenhom: [01:17:43] Totally. One of the reasons why I created this episode is because many entrepreneurs actually don't succeed in business. They quit because of that feeling of uncomfortable in your own, in your own finances, in your own life. If you don't pay yourself first, especially when you're the only employee in your business at the start, you're going to have stress from other angles, paying your bills. Your significant other telling you like, "Hey, you know, our lifestyle just went down a few notches. What's going on here?" So it's really important for you to have a system where you make sure that you pay yourself first, to make sure that that's covered. And then obviously as you grow your business, you're going to have other expenses. But those expenses need to be controlled by making sure that first your expenses are paid, your personal expenses are paid, and that you have a reasonable amount of income that's coming in from the business. A lot of people don't even know how to set their own salary when they get started. Like, "Hey, how much should I pay myself? And is it too little? It's too much." We have a whole bunch of tips on how to set your own salary as well as what are some things you should ask your accountant to make sure that you're getting the best bang for your buck when it comes to your taxes, your own personal income tax versus your business tax.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:18:52] And you can find that episode linked in the show notes, of course, to this episode. And you can find the $100 MBA Show anywhere you get your podcasts. Thanks, Omar.
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