Scientists believe that your brain has a built-in “negativity bias.” In other words, as we evolved over millions of years, dodging sticks and chasing carrots, it was a lot more important to notice, react to, and remember sticks than it was for carrots.
The negativity bias shows up in lots of ways. In effect, the brain is like Velcro for negative experiences, but Teflon for positive ones.
Having chronic pain, we have to contend with its constant drain on our bodies, minds, and spirits, so finding positives and goodness in life is more than just a good idea. I think positive experiences are absolutely necessary to counterbalance the continuous negative undertow, keep us from losing the will to live and drowning.
I think positive experiences and/or feelings are absolutely necessary to counterbalance the continuous negative undertow, keep us from drowning in an ocean of negativity.
Every day, lots of good things happen, such as a lovely sunset, someone is nice to you, you finish a batch of emails, or you learn something new. And lots of other good things are ongoing aspects of your world (e.g., your children are healthy, life is peaceful in your corner of the planet) or yourself (e.g., personal qualities like determination, sincerity, fairness, kindness).
Besides the sheer injustice of it, acquiring a big pile of negative experiences in implicit memory banks naturally makes a person more anxious, irritable, and blue.
But you don’t have to accept this bias!
By tilting toward the good – “good” in the practical sense of that which brings more happiness to oneself and more helpfulness to others – you merely level the playing field.
Taking in the good is a brain-science savvy and psychologically skillful way to improve how you feel, get things done, and treat others
Here’s how to take in the good – in three simple steps.
No. 1 – Look for good facts, and turn them into good experiences.
Good facts include positive events – like the taste of good coffee or getting an unexpected compliment – and positive aspects of the world and yourself. When you notice something good, let yourself feel good about it.
Try to do this at least a half dozen times a day. There are lots of opportunities to notice good events, and you can always recognize good things about the world and yourself.
It’s private; no one needs to know you are taking in the good. You can do it on the fly in daily life, or at special times of reflection, like just before falling asleep (when the brain is especially receptive to new learning).
No. 2 – Notice any reluctance to feeling good
Barriers to feeling good are common and understandable – but they get in the way of you taking in the resources you need to feel better, have more strength, and have more inside to give to others
So acknowledge them to yourself, and then turn your attention back to the good news. Keep opening up to it, breathing and relaxing, letting the good facts affect you
No. 3 – Really enjoy the experience
Most of the time, a good experience is pretty mild, and that’s fine. But try to stay with it for 20 or 30 seconds in a row – instead of getting distracted by something else.
the longer that something is held in awareness and the more emotionally stimulating it is, the more neurons that fire and thus wire together, and the stronger the trace in memory.
by taking them in and filling yourself up with them,
- you will increasingly feel less fragile or needy inside, and less dependent on external supplies;
- your happiness and love will become more unconditional, based on an inner fullness rather than on whether the momentary facts in your life happen to be good ones.
Intend and sense that the good experience is sinking into you.
People do this in different ways.
- Some feel it in their body like a warm glow spreading through their chest like the warmth of a cup of hot cocoa on a cold wintry day.
- Others visualize things like a golden syrup sinking down inside, bringing good feelings and soothing old places of hurt, filling in old holes of loss or yearning; a child might imagine a jewel going into a treasure chest in her heart.
- And some might simply know conceptually, that while this good experience is held in awareness, its neurons are firing busily away, and gradually wiring together