We humans have a tendency to notice the negative things around us more than we notice the positive. “Noticing more” means seeing most of the negative, not registering most of the positive, and giving more emotional emphasis to the negative events around us than we do the positive. Wow! No wonder many of us feel like we lead a hard-luck life. We are looking for and dwelling on the bad stuff! However, we aren’t doomed to humanity’s natural tendency to gloom.
We can change how we view the world with one simple exercise. Keep track of the positive. Specifically, I keep a Success/Gratitude Journal. My Mom was one of the first people I knew to write in a gratitude journal. She kept one for several years before she died. She lived with us for the last 10 years of her life so her entries included things about our family. She would refer to a conversation with my sister as “Hearing sweet Stacey’s voice.” She snuggled in bed with my youngest son and read Moby Dick aloud to him before the rest of us were up and moving. She played action figures with my oldest son. I know these things because she wrote about them in her gratitude journal. It is sweet and moving to read the things that touched her heart each day.
Everything about gratitude is good for you. Physiologically it slows your heart and calms you down. Thinking of things for which you are grateful when you are lying in bed can help you fall asleep and sleep better. Feelings of gratitude can improve your health. If you are feeling profound gratitude, you can’t feel worry or fear. Feeling more gratitude can only improve your life!
This year, in addition to writing three to five things for which I am grateful, I’m writing three to five successes I’ve had that day. It’s working out great for me because I like to document what I accomplish. It’s sort of a Dear Diary response of about middle school age: “Dear Diary, Today I…” You get the idea. I allow myself to fill that need and then I pause, leaving the “doing” place and dropping into the “feeling” place. I’m still a work-in-progress on defining and embracing my emotions so it’s a good exercise for me. It gets me to really sink into a feeling of gratitude for small things like the soothing smell of coffee that I didn’t notice when I was counting successes.
Here’s the big news, in order to write your successes and gratitudes, you have to notice them! You start looking for things that go right and things that give you that warm fuzzy feeling in your heart as you go through your day. Then you write them down which helps cement them in your memory. Instead of noticing and dwelling on the negative, you are noticing and dwelling on the positive – and the world is suddenly a better place!
Isn’t that neat? You create a new and positive world for yourself merely by looking out at it with fresh eyes.
Here’s a video of me talking about my Success/Gratitude Journal: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rwaXOh_mCVA
Here’s a good NY Times article about noticing negativity that cites several sources: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/24/your-money/why-people-remember-negative-events-more-than-positive-ones.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
Here’s a good Time article on the benefits of feeling grateful: http://healthland.time.com/2012/11/22/why-gratitude-isnt-just-for-thanksgiving/