Okay, let’s spin the bottle. You’re up! Did you feel the sting of your co-worker’s backhanded comment about you more than you felt your supervisor’s praise for leading that project?
Are you obsessed with looking at yourself in the mirror and seeing so much bloat that you can’t see how great your skin looks?
The reason you feel the sting and obsess more is because of a little neuroscientific phenomenon psychologists refer to as negativity bias.
The neuroscientific evidence suggests that our tendency is not only to react more to negative stimuli but also dwell on it; dwell on it to the point that it’s all we see. Anyone who ever took Bikram’s class can also probably remember him repeatedly saying, “Negative energy is nine times more powerful than positive energy.” To put negativity bias into a simple context, let’s say you’re having a great day. Your hair is amazing, you feel great in your outfit (even in your sweat pants and work shirt at home), and you have a banging class. You then weigh yourself, and the numbers you see on the scale make your great day disappear. You can’t stop thinking about those numbers for the rest of the day.
One of the many gifts of Bikram Yoga I love is cultivating the powerful tool of re-framing negative self-talk. Seeing yourself on your mat in the mirror is powerful. If you’re like me, you also have (what I lovingly refer to as) my itty bitty shitty committee that takes control in my head. They are all sitting around a long conference room table judging me, shaming me, putting me down, and basically extracting all traces of hope and joy from my blood.
There’s only one way to take this committee head on, and it’s by seeing and counting the blessings around you. Counting your blessings will not take away your problems, or suddenly remove the fact that—yes!—you need to let go of that Coca-Cola. Counting your blessings will give you hope and joy as you move through whatever situation, circumstance, or difficult journey you find yourself on.
Now, I don’t have any fancy research to support this but I can share from my own experience that this is true for me as well as many others.
Back in the day, my father always wanted our window blinds closed. I loved opening them and feeling the warmth of the sun on my face and seeing the light brighten the room. Add a few fresh flowers from my neighbor’s rose bush, and our little home suddenly felt like the best place to be.
Well, enter my dad, Alvino, who, once again, shuts the blinds. I finally asked him why they needed to be closed. His response: “So no one robs us and no helicopters think we’re hiding fugitives.”
I made a decision that day to think about what I wanted to have happen versus what I didn’t want to have happen. I knew that the more I looked for good around me, the more I would see it. Let’s face it, we all know that if we’re looking for bad evidence, we’re going to find it, times 1000!
Look for the good, and you’ll keep noticing more.
During this, what can be the winter of our content, I challenge you to see the beautiful rock in the dirt, to give your plant a little more love and pruning, and to give it time to re-grow stronger and blossom brighter. Your bank account is not the only source of abundance that exists: there is beauty all around, and I bet you might just surprise yourself when you notice the abundance of blessings around you.