Happy Halloween! I thought the Darth Vader pumpkin carving would be a good representation of the dark side considering what day it is!
You’re probably wondering what I’m referring to when I say the Bright Side or the Dark Side.
Here’s an example of the bright side: When was the last time you saw a sunset that was so beautiful it made you cry? For me it was last week, and again on Sunday evening. On Sunday evening, as the sun was setting, the light was hitting these two little trees that had already lost all their leaves. The way the setting sun hit those trees, it lit them up and made them look red. The actual branches looked like they were shining with red light. It was gorgeous. In that moment, I happened to be talking to my boyfriend on the phone (which I always enjoy) and as he was talking I was watching these beautiful red trees. And I was just in awe of how simple that moment was and how wonderful it was. Talking to someone I love while watching a lovely moment in nature. Fleeting, but inspiring.
When Was Your Last Moment Like That?
When was the last time you just observed something? Just took in the moment, and felt gratitude to be witnessing that beautiful thing? Felt it in your body, how lucky/happy/grateful you were to be in that moment.
Maybe a while ago right? If we don’t intentionally pause in our day, interrupt our train of thought… we can get so wrapped up in the busyness of life that we forget to notice the little moments.
Maybe the issue for you isn’t the busy times… but the quiet times. When you have time to yourself or maybe work is less busy or even on a weekend.
Have you ever noticed when you have a lot of free time to think, that a negative thought or a worry can pop into your head? One thought like that is no big deal right? But have you also noticed that once one of those thoughts take hold, suddenly other worries and negative thoughts start to trickle in, and if you aren’t careful, it can turn into a flood.
Negativity Bias: The Reason Why Our Brains Seek Out The Negative
Have you noticed that your brain remembers negative things easier than positive ones? A good example of this comes from Dr. Rick Hanson’s TEDx Talk: Hardwiring Happiness. He said if you have 10 interactions with you significant other during the day: 5 are positive, 4 are neutral, and 1 is negative… which one keeps you up at night?
This is true in every area of our life. Because in order to protect life thousand of years ago… our brains had to remember negative things, for survival. If you escaped a dangerous situation, your brain would remember every detail, so if you were ever in that situation again you could get out alive, or even better avoid that situation in the first place.
Therefore, when something negative happens to you, your brain soaks it up like a sponge and holds onto that memory.
What Purpose Does That Serve In Modern Life?
Not a whole lot. Of course if you’ve lived through a dangerous situation, that bias in the brain is useful to you. However, if you have a relatively safe life, and don’t experience much danger. This brain bias isn’t very useful to you.
What happens now is that LITTLE things: like an off comment from a friend or significant other, or even from a parent in childhood can stick in our brains forever if we let it. If we don’t do any kind of practice, those negative thoughts will be what occupy our mind most.
How Can You Overcome Negativity Bias?
The TEDx talk I mentioned earlier: Hardwiring Happiness has an easy, effective technique. To get a full explanation, watch the youtube video. Here is a quick run through:
The acronym is HEAL:
Have a good experience
- no matter how small, a person smiles at you, you feel the sun on your skin, drinking a cup of tea, getting a hug etc.
Enrich the Experience
- Let it last, help it grow in your body, let it become increasingly intense, give yourself over to it.
- sense an intent that it’s sinking into you. When you focus on this it helps to build new neural pathways.
Link Positive & Negative Material
- optional step: be careful because you don’t want the negative to take over. But if you can focus enough on the positive, it can sooth the negative thought, until eventually it replaces it.
Watch the video to get a better idea of how this works.
What Happens When You Do this Over and Over Until It Becomes Part Of You?
You start to focus on the bright side more and more often. Even in the midst of a crisis no matter how big or small. Last week my cell phone completely quit working, and that was STRESSFUL. My cell phone is incredibly important for my business, here are just a few things I use my phone for that I was unable to access last week:
- my work schedule for Christianson Chiropractic
- my work schedule for my coaching calls and yoga
- phone numbers for coaching clients
- work email
- my entire computer for my coaching job
- alarm clock: I literally didn’t have something to wake me up in the morning
- music to teach my yoga classes
My phone was absolutely unresponsive. It was a backlit black screen. The phone wouldn’t shut down or start up. It was just constantly trying to do something, which meant very quickly it was overheating. I immediately tried to make an appointment at apple and the soonest appointment was on Friday evening (it was currently Monday evening). I couldn’t wait that long for this issue to be resolved.
How Focusing On the Bright Side Was Helpful
I didn’t focus on the bright side the whole time, I did get stressed out. But instead of letting it ruin my ENTIRE day, I did force myself to take time to notice some of the beautiful things.
For example, I was driving to apple to try to get in even though my appointment wasn’t until Friday, and the sun was setting, and the sky was orange and there were planes landing. It was beautiful, and despite my stressed state, I took time to notice that. It made me feel a little better. Can you tell I have a thing for sunsets? What’s your thing?
Later that night after going to Apple and Best Buy and not being able to get help, I was so frustrated I was about to cry. Then I reminded myself that I could solve this problem. I called in to Apple Support instead, and I got lucky enough to have a senior manager answer the phone. He was so helpful and so kind. I paid extra attention to his kindness and his help. After doing a hard reset to my phone, my boyfriend and I ate dinner together (he cooked lasagna) 🙂 and we watched a show. I took time to be grateful for those moments as well.
How Does This Add Up Overall?
You take more time to focus on the good ad less time to focus on the bad. You catch yourself in non-useful thinking patterns (self-doubt, worry, fear) and you step out of those thought patterns to focus on something you’re grateful for. Those little shifts can change your day, your week, your month, and your year. Life just becomes a little brighter. =)