Every day there are moments which can push you into the negative. Small things like why do I always get a shaving rash? Big things like how overwhelmed with sadness I felt when I my ex-husband dropped off the kids for me to take to Europe and, I realized that my kids would never again experience a vacation with both parents.
Personal things like, I broke my thumb about 5 weeks ago and it’s still tingly, numb, swollen and not useful yet and world things; Global things like, every time my HuffPost or BBC phone app beeps it’s negative, which makes me wonder what is the world coming to with all the gun violence, attacks, murders, Brexit, US politics, #blacklivesmatters events in the world?
It can be easy to look for the negative. And then focus on it. Why? Well our brains have evolved to focus on the negative. Evolutionarily this so-called negativity bias made sense because it encouraged us to pay attention to the negative, which meant that we were more likely to survive, in the times of Saber Tooth Tigers and Woolly Mammoths. Apparently the negative can weigh as much as three times more than positive events.
What can we do to shift out of the negative? We need to TRAIN our BRAINS to see the positive and to up their cognitive valence – that is how much attention we pay to the good!
- Gratitude – every day count your blessings, look for the good, actively notice and celebrate what’s good in your life. Say it out loud, right it down, get your family involved, text your best friend. I don’t care how you do it, JUST DO IT! Stop talking about and focusing on and re-living the negative.
- Indulge the Good Stuff – it takes longer for the positive stuff to sink into the brain, so when those amazing moments happen – sip, don’t gulp them, like a fine vintage Krug or the fresh tomatoes that you picked from your yard.
- Use Bayesian Probability to Be More Accurate – err, what? We tend to focus on frequency, i.e. how often something happens and as denoted above, we tend to focus on the negative. So, if we use Bayes’ theorem we look at what’s going on, include the conditions that are connected to the event, and then we can skew the probability and make pretty good guesstimations. So, step back from all the negative and look at the positive events, and then factor these observations into the event of a future likely occurrence. Gather your evidence and don’t just make emotional rationalizations!
All these practices are made easier by meditating daily, because meditation teaches us where to pay attention and by giving ourselves breaks, like taking a screen Sabbath (one day a week where you are not connected.)
On that note, I am off to see what my extended family has brought back from the market in the local village, here in the South of France and to see if my fantastic traveling jet-lagged kids have risen yet!
Copyright Tamsin Astor, YogaBrained LLC, 2016