When we fail to notice the positive, our brains naturally emphasize the negative.”

I ran across this statement by KJ Dell’Antonia in an article in Time magazine. I read it. Then I re-read it. Then I thought about it. BINGO. What a perfect post for Thanksgiving! Why do we need to have a holiday each year to remind us to be thankful for all of the good things in our lives? Shouldn’t that just come naturally? Sometimes it does, sure.

But also consider the recent midterm election races: One side of the fence was ELATED when a given candidate won– while the other was upset, EXASPERATED. Or what about the economic news that the Dow went down. Again.

Or the latest bombing or school shooting. Perhaps a bad bullying incident at a local school left us in a foul, negative mood about how mean kids are. Etc. etc. Maybe the cesspool of negativity we are surrounded in much of the time has something to do with it?

It’s worth noting again: “When we fail to notice the positive, our brains naturally emphasize the negative.”

What about all of the people whose lives were saved in an active assailant situation because of Officer John Doe’s heroic actions? Why didn’t we think more about that report when we heard it?

But it’s easier to be a pessimist and dwell on the bad, isn’t it?

Or the bullying incident. I remember LOTS of bullies growing up, and your only recourse was to put up with it, or fight back. Anti-bullying campaigns in schools? Didn’t exist in my day! We need to take more note of people trying to do something about societal problems.

But it’s easier to be a pessimist and dwell on the bad, isn’t it? My mom and dad used to have their TV tuned in to CNN much of the day. Then they wondered why they were so anxious and negative much of the time! “Turn the channel or turn it off!” I’d say. It’s great they always wanted to know what was going on in the world – but still. …

Too many times the news we read and hear causes fear. Rather than informing us, it mostly leaves us worried. Scared. Maybe even terrified. What about focusing more on the good things going on in the world that get swept under the rug?

In his book Hardwiring Happiness, neuropsychologist Rick Hanson says, “We are designed to focus on the beasts that are still out there in the deep rather than on those we have tamed.”

“Wow!” I thought. That explains a lot, doesn’t it? But all is not lost: Optimism can be developed. Our thought worlds are powerful, more powerful than we think.

“Eighty percent of physical, emotional, and mental health are a direct result of our thought lives,” writes Caroline Leaf in her landmark book, Who Switched Off My Brain? EIGHTY percent! So, if the bulk of one’s thoughts are negative, it’s no wonder why someone would be so pessimistic!

One recourse, Dr. Leaf says: “Reject incoming info and get rid of what you don’t want, before it wires into your brain.”

I heartily recommend books like Dr. Leaf’s because we CAN learn to retrain our brains to think more positively. Is it easy? No. Does it take time? It sure does. But in the cesspool of negativity we live in, in which positive days like Thursday’s Thanksgiving holiday are more the exception than the rule, what does it hurt to try?

Pay more attention to the positive each and every day, and not just Thursday. I’m going to give it a try. What about you?

 

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