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How Pain Affects Your Brain – And Your Health

Rick Hanson, Ph.D.

What are some small things you can do to help reduce the impact of negative experiences?

1) Take a stand for yourself - being kind to yourself, wise and realistic about the toxic effects of painful experiences.

2) When emotional pain does come, even softly, try to hold it in a large space of awareness. In a traditional metaphor, imagine stirring a big spoon of salt into a cup of water and then drinking it: yuck. But then imagine stirring that spoonful into a clean bucket of water and then drinking a cup: it's the same amount of salt -- the same amount of worry or frustration, feeling inadequate or blue -- but held in a larger context.

3) Be careful whenever you feel stymied, frustrated or disappointed. Focus on where you can make a difference, where you do have power; it may only be inside your own mind, but that's better than nothing at all.

4) In your relationships, be mindful of reacting more strongly to one negative event than to a bunch of positive ones. Pick an important relationship, and then really pay attention to what's working in it; let yourself feel good about these things.

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