Our brains are hard wired to seek out the negative. Thousands of years ago, on earth there were predators and prey. Dog eat dog. Eat or be eaten. It was adaptable to be continuously scanning the environment for danger so that we could keep ourselves alive and safe! It was a survival technique that we dearly needed.
Fast forward to now-we don’t have the kinds of threats on a daily basis to life and limb. We have numerous ways to protect and care for ourselves and families. We don’t need to be constantly looking over our shoulders, sizing people up for our very survival.
So, you might wonder, what does this have to do with me? Good question! If like many others, you often find yourself looking at things through a dark lens, primarily feeling pessimistic, and seeing the glass as half empty it may be your ancient brain functioning being kicked up. We now know from research that certain things positively impact the brain and how it perceives things.
One example is keeping a gratitude list. Ideally you would write down (the writing part is very important) any or everything you noticed that day that was even the smallest bit positive. So rather than noting to yourself that you got stopped at 2 (God forbid!) traffic lights on the way to work, you would note that you made it through 5 of them.
The Items on your list are not intended to be profound and magical. Some may be, and certainly you can acknowledge them, but primarily we’re looking for every day events. I am grateful that my blue shirt was clean and ironed when I looked for something to wear…I am grateful that my despised coworker called out today….I am grateful that my friend was available to talk when I needed support and new ideas.
This is a way to begin to shift what you notice and pay attention to AND to “restart your scanner” so that you are beginning to scan for the positive. This is not about denying the unpleasant things in life. Those cannot be avoided entirely but they can be coped with. You would still be aware of the negative or unpleasant events, but you would not be focused on them (read think and think and think about them, wallow endlessly, etc. You would become more and more aware of the upside of events in your life. Before you toss aside the idea, try it, for 3 or 4 weeks on a daily basis and see for yourself if and how well it can work to begin turning around entrenched negative thinking (which is a key part of depression and anxiety).