“Affirmations are our mental vitamins, providing the supplementary positive thoughts we need to balance the barrage of negative events and thoughts we experience daily.”
― Tia Walker, The Inspired Caregiver: Finding Joy While Caring for Those You Love
12 Practices of Optimal Healing: Affirmations
Today we are going to talk about affirmations and particularly a practice that Dr. Rick Hanson has offered. And it’s a really simple acronym which is called HEAL, which stands for Have, Enrich, Absorb and Link. HEAL practices allows you to sort of spend more time with positive experiences in order to rebalance out the negative experiences.
Entitled Positive Neuroplasticity, Dr. Hanson uses neurobiology to help us understand that our brains are hardwired for negative thoughts given that the Paleolithic era were full of threats and we have a habit of looking for threats and paying attention to the negative thoughts. We perseverate on negative thoughts. Positive thoughts, on the other hand, they don’t stick around. These experiences don’t last very long. They kind of bounce off. So for the negative, he uses the image of Velcro. We’re like Velcro with negative thoughts, and we’re like Teflon with the positive thoughts. So we need to re-balance this, and that’s what positive neuroplasticity is really – it’s the physiological way that that happens. And the HEAL practice is the way that we can do this.
So let me stop talking, and you can do this with me right now. Just don’t drive. So it begins with Have. Take a breath, pause. Now can you find a memory or experience in the recent, today, yesterday or last week, that was positive and felt good, that had satisfaction, love, warmth? Bring that experience to mind and have that experience.
Now Enrich it, enhance it, taste it. What are the sensations in your heart or the sensations in your body? What feelings come up?
Third step is Absorb. I like to think of this as like letting experience float into your body, sort of like what happens if you’re in a cloud and it just of wraps you, wraps around you, that quality, that moisture, letting it into your heart, letting it in your – have them in your belly, your Tan Tian, letting your whole body absorb the positive experience. Have, Enrich, Absorb.
It feels good. You can stop there. Often we stop there because that’s pretty easy. So in a positive way, if we do this practice three, four, five times a day for 45 seconds just as long as that, you will begin to help retrain your nervous system to have more time with positive experiences, feelings, and believe it or not, your neurons actually learn. I mean, neuroplasticity is essentially nerves that grow, growing nerves, grow more positive. So you can do it. Why not?
The fourth step is Link and that’s a little challenging. There is a pause here because I wanted you to have the experience without the linking. It’s more of an advanced practice. But linking essentially is the practice of taking a challenging experience, a difficult experience and then adding this positive experience to that in your mind. It’s like you keep the positive experience in the foremind or foreground and the negative or the challenging experience sort of at the back and you let them sit together in your mind, and they link. When they link, what that does is that over time, if I practice three, four, five times a day, 45 seconds, I will begin to have that positive association with me when that negative stimulus comes up or something stimulates that negative thought. I kind of work with it a little bit and I have a balance of states.
So linking should not be done with really deep emotional states unless you’re with a professional, but you can do with more simple things like if you’re irritated or you’re angry or you’re late or you’re in a rush and you feel yourself out of line and it’s challenging. Let’s try it with something really simple. So let’s bring up an experience recently of going through a place or event that you made it to. You were comfortable. You were there. A movie, a show, enrich it, enhance it, absorb the whole goodness of the experience. Now you can bring up a challenging experience, and then see what happens if you hold them both together. In the foreground, there’s this positive experience; in the background, and you link. And then you let it go. It doesn’t need to be any longer than that, 45 seconds. But we’re actually practicing positive feelings, positive thoughts. So have this experience, practice this experience, do this several times a day, and I challenge you. See how well you feel. I’ve been doing it for about a month now, and I’m really enjoying this particular practice. So I hope you can take this type of affirmation and use it as a practice of optimal healing. So how do I heal more quickly, with more efficiency, with skill? I use the HEAL practice, and I then become skilled with an optimal healing practice. So, thanks. Take care.