April 22, 2013

Hunt for the Good Stuff

Last week, I attended a Master Resiliency Class at work. Ever since suicide rates, depression disorders and PTSD have been on the rise dramatically for the Army the last few years with all the increased deployments, the Army has been trying to combat the problems by teaching coping strategies and preventative measures. The version I attended of the course is not finished, and it is also condensed, but, I enjoyed it. A nice break from routine, and I love anything that teaches us how to be happier better people basically.

We went through four segments, but I really found the first segment the most valuable, "Hunt for the Good Stuff". Have you ever heard of negativity bias? I think I had before, but had forgotten. Anyhow, negativity bias is the psychological phenomenon by which humans pay more attention to and give more weight to negative rather than positive experiences or other kinds of information. Our brains are much better at storing/processing the negative than the positive, and it is instinctual vs learned. Our brain evolved to react more quickly to fear than to hope, to respond to a threat more quickly and more intensely than to an opportunity for pleasure. One effect of negativity bias is that we are likely to give more credence and more weight to negative claims about positions or candidates that we oppose than we are to positive claims about them. We are likely to not be very critical in our examination of such negative claims, certainly not as critical as when negative claims are made against views we cherish. Another effect of negativity bias is that we are likely to be afraid of things disproportionately to the evidence, e.g., most people who are afraid of flying in airplanes have little fear of driving in an automobile even though their chance of being killed in an automobile crash is much higher than their chance of being killed in an airplane crash.

Aside from that, we tend to let one little bad thing ruin an entire day full of happy, good stuff. But, there is hope! You can actually train your brain to seek out the good stuff. Studies have shown that by simply concentrating on the positive, writing down one or two happy things that happen each day, you can actually make yourself a happier person. Find the silver lining every day. Think about what you are grateful for. Praise someone else each day. By doing any of these simple things daily, you can actually retrain your brain, even as adults, and make happiness habitual.

I have noticed that the times where I am most depressed and in a bad mood tend to be mornings/days where I just didn't get enough sleep. Trying to work on that and make myself go to bed earlier these days. Does wonders for my mood. As does a nice walk outside. Always clears my mind. Or a hot relaxing bath. Check out this post from Raptitude . David's blog is full of great ways to concentrate on the positive and live in the present.

Lastly, give yourself some credit and a pat on the back here and there. Remind yourself to concentrate on the positive. We tend to view ourselves much more negatively than we should. Frank sent me a  video last week about an experiment Dove did, aiming to change the way we see ourselves. This focuses on our physical appearance, but still fascinating. We don't see ourselves near as beautiful as others around us do.

Remember as Christopher Robin once said, "You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think." 

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