Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Pursuing Positivity

Life is irritating. Every morning, before I'm even out of bed, the litany of annoyances begins. It's too early. It's so dark outside. It's going to be cold. 

By school drop off time, the people around us are the enemy. The high school kids drive like maniacs. No one knows how to use a stop sign. The buses will never get out if someone doesn't yield. The speed limit is 15 mph in the school zone, buddy!

My internal monologue and often my conversations are skewed far to the negative side. For the sake of comedy or just ease of coming up with talking points, snark and annoyance are quick to take hold. So much that one evening I began to count how many times some form of the word "annoying" was used in our home.

Do you know what's annoying? It was so annoying. It's really annoying. I was so annoyed!

"Tell me something that's not annoying," I said.

The reply to that was pretty curt. And later that night I was told that it was annoying that I'd called out overuse of the word annoying.

It occurs to me that we're collectively turning into Batman as a family. Everything is dark and the world is hopeless. We resort to groaning and listening to death metal. Well, at least groaning.

With increasing regularity, we're trying to claw our way out of this negativity abyss. It occurs to me that being annoyed is just easier. Maybe there's some evolutionary reason for it or maybe I was just born with sarcasm that infects the rest of my family. Either way, our default is hypersensitivity to what's wrong with this picture. We're only briefly noticing what's right.

"In our brains, there are two different systems for negative and positive stimuli. The amygdala uses approximately two-thirds of its neurons to detect negative experiences, and once the brain starts looking for bad news, it is stored into long-term memory quickly. Positive experiences have to be held in our awareness for more than 12 seconds in order for the transfer from short-term to long-term memory. Rick Hanson describes it in this way: 'The brain is like Velcro for negative experiences but Teflon for positive ones.'" 

It is necessary to pursue positivity. To shift conversations toward the good things that happen every day. To notice the other people that are doing the right thing and even give them positive reinforcement.
So take a compliment (the ones above a free) and share it. Together we can evolve into more positive people. Or at least be less irritated while trying.