The weather...it’s how life is. After weeks and weeks of a chilly, damp spring in the Mid Atlantic Hardwood Forest region of the US we have the most glorious weather. The sun is warm yet the air has been dry and breezy. The sky is as blue as can be, with white fluffy clouds. Flowers abound, a riot of color, smells, textures. it looks like Oz.
Change is the one guarantee in life. Nothing remains stagnant. Nothing lasts, not boundless health, if you’ve been blessed to experience, or healthy relationships. Couples begin to gather baggage that leads to dissatisfaction or divorce. Even when there is more pleasure than pain somebody dies first, unless you’re killed together. This is how life goes yet there is a way to stay in balance, to keep appreciating the beauty and possibility inherent in the journey.
Like the weather, life keeps changing. One of my client’s sisters is losing her husband of 20 some years to dementia. A wonderful couple I know in India just found out that the woman has the most aggressive form of breast cancer possible and the eggs she tried to harvest so they could have a child together post chemo are not viable. Imagine the dreams that are crashing into the facts in these individuals’ lives.
One of my clients realized recently that he has a serious “negativity bias”. A negativity bias refers to the often uneven way we perceive negative and positive experiences. Negative experiences tend to exert greater psychological impact on us than positive experiences of the same magnitude. A moment of profound sadness, for instance, is usually more disruptive to one’s day than an equal moment of happiness.
It appears that without conscious effort our brains forget the beauty inherent in life and remember the pain. With attention and effort you can turn this bias around, soak in and bask in the simple and complex pleasures to maximize your experience. The good news is that we can intentionally reduce the negativity bias and cultivate balance and more joy in our lives by implementing the following 3 steps.
1. Look for the opportunity in every situation. 2008 was a year of serious health issues for me. I was in the hospital for months. The opportunity was being free of any responsibility, time to study Spanish, read, watch movies, and allow me to receive the love and kindness of others. Yes, if I had had the choice I would have chosen health. It wasn’t one of the options. I can only imagine how much more pain I would have experienced if I had not found and appreciated what I could. Take active measures to notice the good in and around you. Pay attention to it.
2. Allow what you enjoy and appreciate to sink in. Give yourself time (at least twenty to thirty seconds) to savor lovely moments. Make a mental note that you are experiencing joy. By consciously savoring positive sensations, we allow more neurons to fire and wire together in response to pleasure. This both solidifies the experience in our memory and primes the brain for happiness in general.
3. Keep a happiness journal. Write down the moments you experience any kind of joy. Writing them down challenges the negativity bias and proves to it that you do feel happiness and joy. When we consciously interact with our positive experiences by paying attention to them and recording them we strengthen their neurological presence in our brains.
Doom and gloom are part of life, not all of it. When the going gets rough the negativity bias can keep those experiences in the forefront and lose the joy. It doesn’t have to! Aliveness and joy are also part of life. How very very important it is to consciously appreciate what we can and do.
Feel free to comment on this post and share your joys as we journey together. Mine? I saw the fox on the way home last night. It stopped and turned to look at me in the illumination of my headlights. I think she was smiling! I’ll keep this embellishment, definitely not fact.
If your negativity bias feels impossibly stuck on consider calling 974-984-2800 for a consultation on how to use Traditional Chinese Medicine (acupuncture, herbs, diet, and movement) or health and wellness coaching to get unstuck and begin cultivating a positivity bias!
Post by Lisa Brick
Feeling out of balance, living with a health issue, dealing with a relationship or divorce, please feel free to contact Lisa for a complimentary initial coaching call.