Despite dedicating my profession to encouraging others, I don’t exactly wake up, jump out of bed and feel happy naturally.
My default mode is a slight lean towards negativity.
I’ve battled negative thoughts: I’m not good at organizing information, I’m not a good writer.
Just like you, I fear what other people think of me, failing, and putting my work into the world and having it fall flat…
I’ve been working on cultivating a positive mind for years.
It’s one of the reasons my life’s work is coaching (we teach what we need to learn the most!). In fact, I now see my negative thinking as one of my greatest gifts because it has been my biggest inspiration to figure out how we actually can be happy.
So if you find yourself cycling around negative thoughts, you’re not alone. You need to understand is that you have a “negativity bias,” we all do.
What does that mean?
It means we pick up negative information faster than positive information. In effect, the brain is like Velcro for negative experiences, but Teflon for positive ones. That’s because we are wired for survival — we’re looking out for perceived threats… so that we remain safe.
We’ve all had the experience of getting feedback and somebody tells us a bunch of positive information — things we’re doing really well but then somebody gives us one piece of information that’s slightly negative. And what do we harp on? The negative part.
That’s negativity bias. We need to know that it’s operating. And even though it’s operating to protect us, we shouldn’t always believe our negative thoughts.
The way to counter this is through the practice of “taking in the good.” This is research done by neuroscientist and positive psychologist, Dr. Rick Hanson.
You can practice “taking in the good” by savoring a good experience and letting it sink into you for 10 to 15 extra seconds. These are small moments that I allow to weave into the fabric of my mind to create new neural networks.
Here’s how I practice this: When it’s a moment that I see my son playing, I really take that moment in that moment of joy that I feel when I’m watching him play. If I’m driving in my car and listening to a song that I’m really enjoying, I let that vibration absorb in my body. Or really appreciating a cup of iced tea on a hot summer day…
I’ve been practicing this for a few months now — and today, I found myself being happy for no apparent reason. I noticed I was walking around my house smiling and feeling a deep sense of contentment as I walked by a mirror and glanced at my reflection.
It doesn’t mean that you ignore negative things you see, but learning to direct your attention is a key component to happiness.
Dr. Rick Hanson says, “The more you get your neurons firing about positive facts, the more they’ll be wiring up positive neural structures. Taking in the good is a brain-science savvy and psychologically skillful way to improve how you feel, get things done, and treat others.”
There is a saying in Tibet: if you take care of the minutes, the years will take care of themselves.
Perhaps you might like to pause and take in the good you are experiencing for 15 seconds?
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