Rewiring Your Mindset
To answer these questions, let’s start at the beginning and look at what has helped us, as a species, survive.
We’ve been around a pretty long time, and the truth is, at least early on, the odds were against us. We couldn’t outrun our enemies, and we didn’t have sharp claws and teeth to defend ourselves. But we were good at one thing: anticipating danger and figuring out how to get out of it.
As a result, what evolved for us were brains that became wired toward negative thinking. We learned to spot threats and flaws everywhere, and often, overlooked the positive and pleasant completely. The reason was simple. Using the carrot and stick analogy, if we missed a carrot, there was always tomorrow. But if we missed a stick, there might not be.
A great for mechanism for survival, but an absolutely miserable one for creating a happy life.
Scientists call this “negative bias.” This means that in order to survive, our brains learned to primarily see the negative. Neuropsychologist Dr. Rick Hanson, equates the brain’s processing system to “Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for good ones.” In fact, it’s estimated that, all things being equal, it can take five positive experiences to balance out the effect of one negative one.
But here’s the good news: we don’t have to be limited by past, outmoded conditioning. Recent discoveries have revealed that the brain is highly plastic, meaning it can change and grow. This means we can deliberately retrain the brain to notice the good, the positive and the pleasurable.
In fact, research shows that there’s real science behind all the positivity practices that are popular these days, like gratitude lists, positive affirmations, random acts of kindness, meditating, and mindfully being in the moment. We are emphasizing and focusing on the positive, and in doing so, encouraging the brain to grow neural pathways that emphasize its capacity to experience happiness and pleasure.
So, no matter what we resolve to do in the coming year, be sure to include a practice that encourages the brain to embrace the positive. Not only will this increase the chances of success, it will cultivate the possibility of creating a happy life…which is really what new year’s resolutions are all about : )
Until next time