Notice the Good Stuff
If you don’t notice the good stuff and savour it, your brain will convince you that the world is awful.
Your brain is primed to notice the bad stuff. Because if we don’t notice danger, we can’t respond to it. So evolution made us 4-8 times more responsive to stimulus that might be negative than to positive stimulus. End result, if you want to be optimistic about the world, you need to focus on 4-8 good things for every negative thing you see in the world.
Don’t Ignore the Bad Stuff
But, a lot of people are preaching a very dangerous kind of false positivity. They want you to act like things are always good, or worse, that things always happen for the best.
The reality is, a lot of life sucks. AND, there is usually something good happening at the same time as the suckage.
The trick is to allow the good and the bad to exist simultaneously, and to spend extra time enjoying the good stuff.
What is the difference between noticing the good that is around and thinking that good things will always happen?
In almost all situations, there is some good that can be noticed.
But, and it is a big but, I do not advocate denying the bad stuff.
Many people think focusing on gratitude or noticing the good stuff is a way of denying the problems of the world, and dismiss the practices as naïve or simplistic. Even more seem to have embraced the idea that everything happens for a reason, that good will prevail, and that positive thinking is enough.
Positive thinking is not enough. Positive thinking without forward motion in positive directions is at best a nice pat on the back. At worst, it is delusional.
Noticing the good stuff is a practice of shifting our awareness to see a part of what is already there that we often miss. Let the good that you notice give you hope and ease and a sense of groundedness to face the icky stuff.
O, a cherubim
Thou wast that did preserve me. Thou didst smile,
Infused with a fortitude from heaven,
When I have deck’d the sea with drops full salt,
Under my burthen groan’d; which raised in me
An undergoing stomach, to bear up
Against what should ensue.
~The Tempest by William Shakespeare
In The Tempest, Prospero speaks to his daughter, Miranda, about when they were thrown out of his dukedom by his usurping brother when she was three. After Miranda remarks on what a burden she must have been as they were pushed out to sea in a rotting carcass of a boat, Prospero says the line quoted above.
Your smile, he says, gave me the hope to withstand my troubles.
Smiling is not about denying the trouble. It is about finding hope and pleasure in a small thing to get you through.
Is there something troubling in your life?
What small pleasure can you use to support yourself as you face it?