Home » Parenting Video: The Neuroscience of Happy Memories

Parenting Video: The Neuroscience of Happy Memories

You can definitely try this at home! There are three steps to Rick Hanson’s “Taking in the Good” technique:

1. Teach kids to notice the good things that are all around them. Practice actively looking for the positive: Those flowers we planted in the fall are blooming; our neighbor was so nice to help us with a difficult project; school was particularly fun today. Regular gratitude practices, as discussed here, help with this. The key, according to Hanson, is to “turn positive facts into positive experiences.”

2. Draw out—really savor—those positive experiences. This aspect changed the way my kids and I do our “3 good things” practice at bedtime. The idea is not just to hold something positive in our awareness for as long as possible, but also to remember the positive emotions that go along with them. Now my kids list something that is good about their day (e.g., they had fun with their friends) and we really think about how good it felt to be playing and enjoying friendship. This evokes what was rewarding about a “good thing,” and helps use our brain chemistry to strengthen connections associated with the memory.

3. Let it all sink in. Have your kids imagine that the good thing you were just talking about “is entering deeply into [their] mind and body, like the sun’s warmth into a T-shirt, water into a sponge, or a jewel placed in a treasure chest in your heart,” as Hanson puts it.

This practice is based on Chapter 4 of Rick Hanson’s fabulous book, Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, & Wisdom (New Harbinger Publications, 2009). You can find a synopsis of this chapter in Greater Good here.


If you would like to download the audio version of this video to listen to in your car or on the go, click the link below.


This video is the 4th in a series about high impact happiness routines from The Raising Happiness Homestudy. Check out the rest of the Homestudy here.



  1. Fenway4 says:

    This is a fascinating topic. I clicked on the link to read the synopsis of Hanson’s chapter, and I have a question about this part:

    Recalling an old failure while simultaneously lambasting yourself will make that failure seem increasingly awful. On the other hand, if you call up positive emotions and perspectives while an implicit or explicit memory is active, these wholesome influences will slowly be woven into the fabric of that memory.

    Every time you do this—every time you sift positive feelings and
    views into painful, limiting states of mind—you build a little bit of
    neural structure. Over time, the accumulating impact of this positive
    material will literally, synapse by synapse, change your brain.

    What does this look like on a practical level? For instance, let’s say you have memories surfacing of being bullied when you were in junior high. When those come up, do you start thinking about bunny rabbits, green meadows, trips to Six Flags, etc.? 🙂 Or do you tell yourself stuff like, “Bullies don’t really prosper,” “You were brave to survive that experience,” etc.? I would just like some practical tips on exactly how to implement Hanson’s advice. Thanks for any info.

    • Christine Carter says:

      Great question. I’m going to pass it on to Rick and let him answer, since he is the expert! Linda Graham would also be able to answer this question, her work on resilience touches on this. Let me get an answer from one or the other of them and get back to you.

      • Fenway4 says:

        Thank you for passing the question along to one of them, Ms. Carter. I look forward to the answer, which hopefully will benefit all of us. 🙂

  2. Fenway4 says:

    This is the strangest thing. In my e-mail, I can read what you posted from Rick Hanson, but when I visit your Web page, it’s not there. This happened to me on another Web site a couple of days ago too. Maybe it’s a bug with Disqus? Incidentally, I’m using an older version of the Firefox browser on an old Mac—maybe that has something to do with it. So, the reason I’m not “replying” to what you wrote on here is because I can’t see it. I can see only your short reply from a few days ago.

    Anyway, thank you so much, Ms. Carter, for forwarding my question to Hanson, and for passing along his reply. It’s going to take a while for me to process all that he wrote and understand it fully, but it seems like potent stuff. Please also give him a big thank you from me for his help. 🙂 I appreciate it.

Comments are closed.