Have you ever had one of those days (or weeks!) when things just seem to go from bad to worse? Or are you perhaps one of those people who believe that bad things always come in threes. A particularly pessimistic and often self-fulfilling frame of mind, in my view. Once you have that mindset, then you are automatically on the lookout for the next bad thing to happen, just to prove to yourself that you’re right. And that’s not really a mindset I want to foster in myself, or in my children. There’s plenty of evidence from neuroscience that the connections we make in our brains (the synapses we create) get stronger with practice. In other words, the more pessimistic we are, the more pessimistic we become. Add to this the notion that we humans have a predisposition to negative emotions, and we’re in a sticky situation indeed!
Predisposed to negativity? Apparently so. You see, fear and anger and the like probably helped us stay alive way back when we were literally fighting for our survival every day. Those so called negative emotions have been passed on as ‘useful’ in our collective psyche and can still serve us well from time to time, but we no longer need to have them as the default setting. We need to be aware of our tendency to over use them, and perhaps give positivity a bit more of a play.
I have found myself at the start of what looks to be a very challenging week, and I must admit to starting down the path of focusing on how difficult everything is going to be… And then this came into my email in-box:
“Overall, whenever you remember, deliberately tilt toward the positive in your mind. That’s not looking at the world through rose-colored glasses. Given the negativity bias in the brain, you’re only leveling the playing field.” (Rick Hanson, PhD. Co-author of Buddha’s brain: The practical neuroscience of happiness, love and wisdom”).
You can read more of his work and sign up to receive a weekly dose of wisdom with the Just One Thing email here.
And the image at the start of this post? Well, it’s a photo from a portrait session I did some time ago now. It reminds me of those people who just like to run away from a problem, or cover their eyes and pretend it doesn’t exist. And then there’s the other bunch who think that you can just think positive thoughts, and pretend that the bad stuff doesn’t happen, or that it doesn’t matter. But that’s not what I suggest at all. Rather, take the blinkers off your eyes. Acknowledge the bad things that happen in life, and then own up to your own part in making things worse by ‘catastrophising’ everything in your own mind. Or is that just me? Greet negative emotions and thoughts when they come a-knocking on the front door of your mind.
And then open the back door and let them walk right on through!
Have a great week.