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The Green Sheet Online Edition

October 26, 2020 • Issue 20:10:02


The positivity habit

The song Keep on the Sunny Side came to mind today. It was first popularized by the Carter Family in the early 20th century and later featured in the 2000 movie O Brother, Where Art Thou. It is a welcome reminder to not feed into the drama and discord prevalent in these times. Humming snippets of that tune gets me sitting up a bit straighter, lifting my mood.

That example might be too homespun for you, but there are plenty of other songs, poems, books, movies and positive developments that can do the same thing. And right now seeking to bring out smiles is a smart move.

Why is that?

Throughout human evolution, being alert to negative events that could harm us has been a major factor in our ability to survive. We are predisposed to notice and react to negative developments.

GoZen founder Renee Jain discussed this in 2017. "Think about cavemen who went out gathering food for their families," she wrote. "Those who survived did so because they were sharply attuned to attacks from saber-toothed cats lurking in the bush. In modern times, we don't have a regular need to run from predators, yet what remains with us is an evolutionary imprint called the negativity bias."

According to Jain, some researchers posit that, psychologically speaking, negative events weigh close to three times more than positive events. "While this bias may serve us in situations related to survival, it can cause distress in everyday encounters," she noted.

What to do?

The issue then becomes, what can we do about this? That's where consciously focusing on positive things—whether they're happy songs, notes of appreciation from colleagues and friends, or other uplifting things—comes in. It means developing a positivity habit, which can be done in several ways. Here are some ideas:

  • Express gratitude at least once a day. There are various ways to do this. You could keep a gratitude journal, for one, or have a standing phone call with a buddy for exchanging thoughts on what you appreciate in your lives that day.
  • Tune out all sources of news for a portion of each day. That means social networking platforms, TV, internet and radio news; articles that pop up in your phone's news feeds; email alerts; etc.
  • When something good happens, pay attention. Don't just gloss over it. Acknowledge and celebrate it, even if it seems small at the time. The benefits of savoring small positives accrue over time.
  • Look for uplifting programming. Don't immediately fall into shows like Tiger King. Balance the programming you consume.
  • Get plenty of rest. It helps to go to bed at about the same time most nights and avoid looking at any of your device screens directly before turning in.
  • Have regular contact with people who bring you joy. No need to expound on that.

So remember, humans are hardwired to overestimate the power of perceived threats. If you become distracted by something negative, it is likely not as awful as it may seem in the moment. Take action to put your mind on something good. end of article

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