Feel 2018: Taking in the Good Heals and Strengthens my Brain and Spirit

I’m gonna get personal here for a minute.  Haha.  That’s what this blog is, right? … A space where I can share my personal growth journey.

I’m an introvert and I’m pretty reserved.  As I have gotten older, I have gotten more comfortable talking to people and I’ve come out of my shell quite a bit since I was a kid.  I actually think it’s kind of interesting that my name is Shelly since coming out of my shell has been quite the process for me.  🙂 

When I was growing up, I was super shy.  My mom said that I was pretty clingy and attached to her when I was a baby.


Another example of this is that I had to take summer school before kindergarten because I wouldn’t say anything to the teachers when I was being tested for kindergarten registration. They couldn’t tell what I did or didn’t know so they had me do summer school to get a better assessment of my skill level.


Kindergarten Picture


My parents didn’t have a video camera when I was a kid so we don’t have much video footage of my childhood, but thanks to our neighbor and good friend who did have a video recorder, we do have a few videos from when I was between the ages of 1 and 7.  Here are some clips of me that show how shy I was.


As I got a little older, I did start to get a little bit more comfortable around people and I would talk if I needed to or if I felt really secure, but for the most part, I was still pretty reserved, quiet, and shy.    

In high school, I was voted as “most likely to be seen and not heard.” At the time, I was just flattered that I had been noticed enough to even be included in the yearbook at all


Photo from the yearbook: the male and female “most likely to be seen and not heard” winners.


But since then, I have felt like this was kind of an insult – like I didn’t have anything valuable to say, or that I was so reserved that people didn’t even notice that I had anything to contribute.

I think I’ve always had an insecurity around this personality trait of mine, but it wasn’t until a few years ago that I was able to figure out what it was that bothered me about all of this.  I realized that I struggle with not feeling heard.

This is a thought/belief about myself that I have been trying to undo and stop believing. I know that it’s just a thought and that it’s not really true.  Sometimes I am successful at remembering this. I have found more of my voice as I’ve gotten older and I genuinely do feel like I have valuable things to say and share with others. This is one reason why I love to share on my here on my goodmorningshelly blog/instagram account. It’s a place where I can share my thoughts and feelings and things that I’m learning.  It’s a place where I can use my voice.  

But there are other times, when I really struggle and I fall into the trap of believing the thought that I’m not heard.  I take things personally or choose to take offense when none is intended.  This isn’t good for my self-esteem or for my relationships.    

I think that there are also times when I overcompensate by trying to prove to others that I do have a voice and I do have something valuable to share. This can often come across as me being pushy and can be interpreted as me thinking that I know more than everyone else.  Really, I’m just trying to find the balance.  I spent the first 20 ish years of my life feeling like I didn’t have much of a voice, or not feeling comfortable expressing my thoughts and feelings.  So now I am trying to figure out the ins and outs of finding my voice and then knowing how to use that voice appropriately and effectively.

Why is this even important to me?  The main reason comes down to connections.  I want to create stronger connections with people.

I have been having some lightbulb moments this past week that have felt like large pieces to this personal issue puzzle of mine.

During my meditation a few days ago, a few thoughts were triggered and I had some ah ha moments.  This is what I wrote in my journal…

I think I’m starting to realize that I base some of my self worth on if I have anything worthy to share or not, or on if my sharing is accepted or not. When I share something and it doesn’t feel accepted or heard, I take it really personally and feel like it diminishes my value. I feel a mix of shame: “I am just not good at talking to people. I stink at conversations. When will I learn to stop pushing my ideas on people and stop giving unsolicited advice?” and of pride: “how can this person not see that this thing I am sharing has a lot of value?” –  but both are fear based.  Both show that I feel that my worth is on the line.


Later on that same day, I wrote this in my journal…


I was just thinking about that humility meditation and the “ah ha” that I had about myself. I was thinking… how do I get better at not letting my self-worth go down hill when I don’t feel heard/valued?

Then I remembered something from a week or so ago that I read in the book that I’ve been reading called Hardwiring Happiness …

First, I’ve been learning about “taking in the good.”  Here is some info from the book…


“Technically, taking in the good is the deliberate internalization of positive experiences in implicit memory. It involves four simple steps:

1. Have a positive experience

2. Enrich it.

3. Absorb it.

4. Link positive and negative material.

Step 1 activates a positive mental state, and steps 2, 3, and 4 install it in your brain. The first letter of each step produces the acronym HEAL. The first three steps focus entirely on positive experiences. The fourth step is optional, but powerful: It uses positive thoughts and feelings to soothe, reduce, and potentially replace negative ones.

Step 1: Have a positive experience. Notice a positive experience that’s already present in the foreground or background of your awareness, such as a physical pleasure, a sense of determination, or feeling close to someone. Or create a positive experience for yourself. For example, you could think about things for which you’re grateful, bring to mind a friend, or recognize a task you’ve completed. As much as you can, help ideas like these become emotionally rewarding experiences; otherwise, it’s merely positive thinking.**

Step 2. Enrich it. Stay with the positive experience for five to ten seconds or longer. Open to the feelings in it and try to sense it in your body; let it fill your mind. Enjoy it. Gently encourage the experience to be more intense. Find something fresh or novel about it. Recognize how it’s personally relevant, how it could nourish or help you, or make a difference in your life. Get those neurons really firing together, so they’ll really wire together.

Step 3. Absorb it. Intend and sense that the experience is sinking into you as you sink into it. Let it really land in your mind. Perhaps visualize it sifting down into you like golden dust, or feel it easing you like a soothing balm. Or place it like a jewel in the treasure chest of your heart. Know that the experience is becoming part of you, a resource inside that you can take with you wherever you go.

Step 4. Link positive and negative material (optional). While having a vivid and stable sense of a positive experience in the foreground of awareness, also be aware of something negative in the background. For example, when you feel included and liked these days, you could sense this experience making contact with feelings of loneliness from your past. If the negative material hijacks your attention, drop it and focus only on the positive; when you feel re-centered in the positive, you can let the negative also be present in awareness if you like. Whenever you want, let go of all the negative material and rest only on the positive. Then, to continue uprooting the negative material, a few times over the next hour be aware of only neutral or positive material while also bringing to mind neutral things (e.g., people, situations, ideas) that have become associated with negative material.” (pg. 60-62, Hardwiring Happiness)

**I think that this is where my Feel 2018 comes in… it turns a thought into an experience. Goes back to my ideas about how feelings bring thoughts to life.


Here’s the part that I had remembered and wanted to look up again…

“You can use the HEAL steps for any positive experience. But as you’ve probably seen in your own life, some experiences feel more nourishing than other ones do. How can you focus on the experiences that will help you the most? This is where taking in the good gets very personal – and very wonderful, for you can take in the experiences that are specifically aimed your own wants and needs.

Perhaps you’d like to feel less worried, self-critical, or insecure. Perhaps you’re dealing with a tough situation at home or work, or you’d like to feel motivated to exercise more or drink less. Perhaps you’d simply like to feel happier, more at ease in life, and more loved. What, if you had more of it inside you, would make a big difference for you?

A good way to answer this question is in terms of your brain’s three operating systems. If you feel worried, tense, pushed on, or helpless, that triggers the avoiding harms system, so you’d be particularly helped by “resource experiences” related to this system, such as protection, safety, relaxation, strength, and agency. Sadness, disappointment, frustration, drivenness, pressure, or boredom engage the approaching rewards system and are best addressed by related resource experiences of gratitude, pleasure, accomplishment, and satisfaction. Feeling left out, hurt, inadequate, envious, lonely, resentful, or provoked involves the attaching to others system, so resource experiences of belonging, self-compassion, being appreciated, friendship, kindness, and assertiveness would especially help here.

In other words, a problem requires a solution that’s matched to it. If you have scurvy, you need vitamin C. For years I tried to fulfill my need for love – a need that everyone has – by piling up accomplishments, but this never worked because I was trying to fix an attaching to others type of problem with an approaching rewards type of solution. In effect, I took a lot of iron pills for scurvy, which didn’t help. Only by taking in attaching type experiences – feeling seen, included, respected, liked, and cherished – have I been able to gradually take care of this need of mine.

So what’s your own vitamin C? It could be related to a current situation, a long-standing difficulty with another person, or an old wound from your childhood. When you know what you want to take in and grow inside yourself, you can look for opportunities in daily life to experience it and install it in your brain by using the HEAL steps. You’re being on your own side, a good friend to yourself, giving yourself the psychological nutrient you need. Once it’s installed, this inner strength will be easier to activate the next time you need it, and then you can reinstall it, deepening its neural trace in a positive circle. And of course you can use this approach for more than one “vitamin,” for more than one resource experience.” (pg. 67-69)


As I re-read that part of the book, it struck me that perhaps my personal issue of not feeling heard – and then allowing that to affect my feelings of self worth, taking me out of true confidence and into either pride or shame –  falls in the the attaching to others system.  So, according to Rick Hanson (the author), a problem requires a solution that’s matched to it.  If my problem has to do with my attaching to others system then I need to figure out a solution that’s matched to it.  

To quote the book again,


Feeling left out, hurt, inadequate, envious, lonely, resentful, or provoked involves the attaching to others system, so resource experiences of belonging, self-compassion, being appreciated, friendship, kindness, and assertiveness would especially help here.


I know that the real, lasting solution comes down to really, truly believing and feeling the truth that I am a child of God.  I wrote about that back here so go read that and it will explain more of where I am coming from.


I decided to brainstorm some ideas for how I can work on strengthening that part of my testimony, and also strengthen my attaching to others system.  These ideas are specifically designed to help me to have positive experiences, using the HEAL steps and installing the good in my brain.

I have already started putting some of these together and I plan to include these (one each day, whichever one I’m drawn to that day) in my morning routine, even when my attaching to others system isn’t being triggered in a negative way.  I hope that this will just become a habit of having positive experiences of taking in the good and strengthening my brain and my spirit.  I think that these tools will also come in handy at other times when needed, like when my attaching to others system is being triggered and I’m falling back into feelings of shame and/or pride.


Here are the ideas that have come to me so far…


Security by David Bowman


  • There is a painting on the wall above my desk of Heavenly Father (I think that it’s actually supposed to be Christ… but I like to imagine that it’s Heavenly Father, mostly to strengthen my relationship with Him specifically), holding and hugging a little girl.  I think that it would be great to take a few minutes to really gaze at the painting, while listening to some specific hymns or music that invites the Spirit and a feeling of love and attachment to Heavenly Father.  This would help me to strengthen my relationship with Heavenly Father, help me to remember that I really am a child of God, and help me to remember that I truly do have a real relationship with Him.  He is literally my father.  I am literally His daughter.  He loves me.  I matter to Him.


  • I have been working on compiling some excerpts from General Conference talks that really speak to me in a meaningful and personal way about my relationship to God.  A few that I have really liked so far are here, here, and here.


  • Look at old photos/video clips of me as a child and focus on how much my parents loved me – and still do.  Let these feelings sink in.


One of the very few photos that I have of me when I was a newborn.  This is me with my dad.


Interestingly, putting together this little video today was a very healing and touching experience for me.


  • Think about how much Jershon loves me.  Absorb these feelings.



  • Read old comments or notes that people have written to me about how I have been an inspiration to them and helped them in some way, big or small.  Absorb the feelings that come from sharing light and doing some good in the world.


  • Concentrate more intentionality and effort on attaching to my kids. Be more physically and verbally affectionate with them.  Take in these moments and really turn them into experiences.  


  • Attach to my ancestors through family history work and getting to know them better.


  • Compile some of my journal entires where I recorded experiences of when my core needs of peace, contentment, and love were met.  Reflect on those past experiences and allow the memories to sink deeper into my heart and to install more fully in my brain. 


  • Compile a playlist of songs that support each of my 3 brain systems. 


  • When I was reading the Hardwiring Happiness book a few nights ago, I read a script that Rick Hanson (the author) put together to help with coming back into a state of peace, contentment, and love. These all come together to bring you home to the responsive mode (instead of reactive) of your brain. Peace connects to the avoiding harms system, Contentment connects to the approaching rewards system, and Love connects to the attaching to others system.  After reading through the script, I thought that it would be a great meditation. So I typed it up and then a couple days ago, I made an audio recording of myself reading that “taking in the good” meditation. I listened to it after that and then I listened to it again yesterday morning and this morning during my routine. I really enjoyed it and it did help me to feel peace, contentment, and love.  I plan to listen to this as wanted/needed during my meditation time in the morning.


  • I was thinking that it might be kind of neat to pull out some scriptures and religious content and make up my own meditation that is similar to the one that Rick Hanson wrote – still basing it on peace, contentment, and love and helping my brain to come home to it’s responsive and natural (meaning Divine nature….not natural man) state. I’ve started compiling some of these scriptures/quotes and then I’ll organize everything into some sort of script/meditation.


I am sure that I will continue to gain more clarity about this over time, but I think that it’s so interesting when I am able to receive little puzzle pieces over time that come together to help me to understand myself better and give me some ideas for how I can improve and heal in certain areas.  It’s pretty exciting, actually. 🙂

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