What’s Going Right?
Our brains are wired for fear. In any situation or circumstance your brain is on the look out for danger. It is automatically scanning for anything negative. In a matter of minutes your brain can access a situation, point out all the negative, and generate a worst case scenario dialogue in your head. This mental function was not designed to be a downer, but to help protect you and keep you safe. Obviously this automatic function is very important if you are walking in a dark alley by yourself, but not always so helpful in day to day life. When your brain is constantly taking in what’s “wrong,” it’s hard to notice what’s right.
This primal wiring makes it is all too easy to fall into the trap of putting more focus on our problems, rather than on our victories. You can witness this just in our every day conversations. We spend a lot more time talking to people about what’s not working in our life, instead of what is. The more we practice this behavior the more conditioned it becomes. Unfortunately as humans we’ve practiced this way of thinking for generations! It is such a conditioned thought process at this point that positive thinking can feel unnatural, or unrealistic. Sadly someone that walks around talking about how great their life is and how happy they are with themselves is seen as bragging and egotistical. Perhaps it’s time that we evolve and changed that perception.
Now trying to out think your brain into only noticing the positive is a bit futile. You are never going to escape that fear mindset completely, but you don’t have to buy into it. The key to taking control over your thoughts starts with awareness and intention. First you have to recognize when your mind is in fear mode. Next you have to consciously choose to see things differently. This is where I like to play a little game called “what’s going right?” It is similar to the childhood game “I spy,” except you are specifically focused on looking for the good in any given situation or circumstance.
Here is a good example of how this can play out. I am writing this blog at 4:00am. Why? Because my alarm mysteriously went off at 3:30am. I got up thinking that it was morning only to realize 10 minutes after I was up and about that it was the middle of the night and I could have slept for another 3 hours. Immediately my brain went into negative mode and launched a multitude of fear based thoughts. Stupid alarm clock. WTF?! Now I am way too awake to go back to sleep. Great, and I have a really long day today! How am I going to get through it? It’s only Tuesday now I am going to be tired all week. My brain kept going for a good 20 minutes, manifesting every worst case scenario possible that would result from my lack of sleep. But I stopped myself at this point and became aware that this current mindset was not going to help me get through the day. I had a choice here. I could get swept up in the negative chatter and spend the rest of the day complaining to everyone I come across that I barely got any sleep. Or I could look for what’s good about this situation. Like the fact that it gave me time to write this blog, which I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I had tons on my to-do list today and since I am up so early I get an extra jump start on my day. It’s also a great excuse to indulge in some coffee, which I reserve only for days like this. My alarm going off early can be a blessing or a curse. If I leave it up to my primal wiring it’s going to be a curse. But when I consciously interject with a positive spin on the situation it becomes a blessing.
Understand that it is perfectly normal for your brain to go into fear mode or take off on a negative rant when presented with a challenging situation. The key is to catch this rant as soon as possible and turn it around. Make it a game, even if you don’t feel like playing at the moment. Try asking yourself, what’s great about this situation? And in general make a daily effort to ask yourself, what’s going well in my life right now? The more you practice this the more conditioned you will be to turn your thoughts around and start looking for the positive.
We all have problems. But I guarantee if you start paying more attention to what’s going right in your life you’ll realize that the good in your life far outweighs the bad. The best way to make this a habit is to consciously play this game every day for the next 40 days. This will actually start to create neural pathways in your brain that wire you to look for the positive. You may never be able to override your fear based wiring completely, but you’ll be able to switch into positive mode a lot faster. Try it. The only thing you have to lose is your fear, anxiety, worry, anger, and depression. And you might just find that your life is actually way better than you realized.