The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California – Berkeley is wealth of resources on pro-social emotions. Sample titles from their e-newsletter: What’s Love Got to Do with the Brain?; The Biology of Mindfulness and Compassion; Sleep Before You Bicker; Empathy: the Most Important Back-to-School Supply; Five Ways to Ease Your Envy.
One of my recent favorites from my friend and colleague Rick Hanson’s new book Hardwiring Happiness:
How to Grow the Good in Your Brain
Imagine that your mind is like a garden. You could simply be with it, looking at its weeds and flowers without judging or changing anything. Or, you could pull weeds by decreasing what’s negative in your mind. Or, you could grow flowers by increasing the positive in your mind. In essence, you can manage your mind in three primary ways: let be, let go, or let in.
When something difficult or uncomfortable happens-when a storm comes to your garden-these three ways to engage your mind give you a very useful, step-by-step sequence.
First, be with your experience. Observe it and accept it for what it is even if it’s painful. Second, when it feels right-which could be a matter of seconds with a familiar worry or a matter of months or years with the loss of a loved one-begin letting go of whatever is negative. For example, relax your body to reduce tension. Third, again when it feels right, after you’ve released some or all of what was negative, replace it with something positive. For instance, you could remember what it’s like to be with someone who appreciates you, then stay with this experience for 10 or 20 seconds.
Besides feeling good in the moment, this third step will have lasting benefits, for when you take in positive experiences, you are not only growing flowers in your mind. You are growing new neural circuits in your brain. You are hardwiring happiness.
You can easily subscribe to the GGSC newsletter. The website offers many free videos of lectures by well-known speakers such as Jon Kabat-Zinn and Dacher Keltner. Greater Good also sponsors wonderful seminars and workshops open to the public; coming up this fall are Barbara Fredrickson (Love 2.0) and Rick Hanson (Hardwiring Happiness).