Rick Hanson, PhD, is the author, most recently, of Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence. Among his other books are Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom and Just One Thing: Developing a Buddha Brain One Simple Practice at a Time This article comes from his blog.
Rick Hanson, PhD | posted on: April 18th, 2014
“Let go a little, you’ll have a little happiness. Let go completely, you’ll be completely happy.”
Letting Go of Body Sensations
- Ordinary breathing, focusing on exhalation, intending to let go.
- Diaphragm breathing.
- Breath of fire.
- Heartmath: Breathing evenly through the heart with a positive emotion.
- Scanning the body and releasing tension. Progressive relaxation.
- Using imagery to relax.
Letting Go of Thoughts
- Two fundamental errors of thought:
- Overestimating the bad.
- Underestimating the good.
- Systematically argue against errors of thought, on paper or in your mind.
- Identify “sub-personalities” generating errors of thought; thank them for sharing, ask if they have anything new to say, and then tell them to shut up.
Letting Go of Emotions
- As with any unpleasant experience, have compassion for yourself.
- As you release negative emotions, sense positive feelings replacing them, like security replacing fear, worth replacing shame/guilt, peacefulness replacing anger.
- Name the feeling, own it, and accept it. For bonus points, try to choose it.
- Imagine/sense the emotion leaving on the exhalation, or draining out of the body, or being released to the universe or even to God/the mysterious Divine.
- Use imagery, like standing in a cool mountain stream washing pain away.
- Sense the underlying softer, deeper, younger feelings, and then let them go.
- Venting safely, like writing letters you don’t send, yelling, hitting something SAFE.
Letting Go of Wants
- Same methods as with releasing emotions: Naming and accepting. Draining out of the body.
- Releasing via imagery. Sense the underlying, positive wants, and respond to them.
- Do a cost/benefit analysis, and choose what you really want.
- Reflect on the suffering that is embedded, that’s inevitable, in most desires.
Letting Go of Self
- Perspectives: The more we “self” experience – personalize it, identify with it, cling to it – the more we suffer: “no self, no problem.” The degree of self varies; it’s not an omnipresent fact; it’s continually constructed. When self is minimal or absent, notice that it’s not needed to function in life.
- Observe the activity of self and experiment with reducing it.
- When others are upset, see the ways it’s not about you: They’re on automatic; you’re a bit player in their drama; they are already punishing themselves; you are separate, with good boundaries.
- Each day, take time to sense the fact of your interconnectedness with everything.
• • • • •
- Be the awareness of the experience, not the experience itself.
- Notice that all experiences change.
- Keep evoking positive feelings.
What practices have YOU found to be effective for letting go? I’d enjoy hearing from you in the comments section.
Rick Hanson, Ph.D., is a neuropsychologist and New York Times best-selling author. His books include Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence (in 13 languages), Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom (in 25 languages), Just One Thing: Developing a Buddha Brain One Simple Practice at a Time (in 13 languages), and Mother Nurture: A Mother’s Guide to Health in Body, Mind, and Intimate Relationships. Founder of the Wellspring Institute for Neuroscience and Contemplative Wisdom, and on the Advisory Board of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, he’s been an invited speaker at Oxford, Stanford, and Harvard, and taught in meditation centers worldwide. A summa cum laude graduate of UCLA, his work has been featured on the BBC, NPR, CBC, FoxBusiness, Consumer Reports Health, U.S. News and World Report, and O Magazine and he has several audio programs with Sounds True. His weekly e-newsletter – Just One Thing – has over 100,000 subscribers, and also appears on Huffington Post, Psychology Today, and other major websites. For more information, please see his full profile at www.RickHanson.net.