Monday, December 4, 2017

101 Ways To Live Better: Track Your Successes

Welcome to my 101 series, which explores 101 little things you can do to improve your day to day life, and the world, just a little bit.

Our fourteenth post is: TRACK YOUR SUCCESSES

It's a proven fact that we remember failures and criticisms longer than successes and praises. This awesome TEDtalk by Alison Ledgerwood on youtube discusses some interesting studies about how the human brain processes negativity:

Her findings suggest it is much harder for the brain to convert negativity (losses) to positivity (gains). Which is why if one person tells us our new shirt makes us look fat, and three people tell us it looks great, we’re likely to never wear that shirt again. The negativity carries a lot more weight in our brain.

But what does that mean for our self-perception and our own judgment of our successes and achievements? It means we’re more likely to remember all the times we failed, than the times we succeeded.

I can’t remember every awesome stew I have made—there have been a lot. However, I do remember two stews with crystal clarity. One, where the lid of the pepper fell of and rendered the whole thing inedible and one where I had company over and it inexplicably burned. Both of these failures are profoundly memorable. To me, at least. It's unlikely anyone else remembers either event.

So how do you train your brain away from this negativity? On some level, you can’t. Remembering failure is critical to survival. You have to remember negativity things vividly, so you can avoid them in the future. This is why we can often go off certain foods for life if we are exposed to them right before we throw up. It is a basic survival instinct that is hardwired into being human.

You can’t stop being human, but you can train yourself to be more aware of positive things and pay more attention to them. If you give them more weight, they can start to balance out the negativity you are programmed to hold on to.

There are several popular ways to do this. I think most of us are familiar with the New Year Positivity Jar. If you aren’t, the idea is that you find a large jar and every time something nice happens, you write it down, put it in the jar, and then at the end of the year, read them all out and look back on all the positive moments of the year before.

I love this idea and I think it's great for the whole family, however it is delegating positivity to one day of the year.

I also love gratitude diaries, where every day you write down 1-3 things you are grateful for. If you can’t think of anything to be grateful for, look around and ask yourself: ‘if I woke up tomorrow with ONLY what I said I was grateful for today, what would I write down?’. Suddenly you’ll have a whole list of people, things, places, memories, concepts and experiences to be grateful for. It's about learning not to take things for granted.

I like to keep a notebook, and every time something nice happens, or I achieve a goal, I write it down. However, since it's a notebook and not a jar, I can flip through it every week and remind myself of all the great stuff that has happened whenever I am stressed or down.

However, there is another very traditional way to share and express gratitude and positivity. Saying grace.

Grace has always been about thankfulness. Saying what we appreciate, thanking God for the things we have, thanking each other for the things we have, sharing positivity and time with the family. I think it is a fantastic tradition to maintain, showing as it shows our children how to be grateful and think positively. You can’t just tell them to ‘think positive’, you need to show them by being positive yourself and giving them an internal script.

Take home exercise:

To get you started, open wordpad or get a notebook and pen and write down the following:

- Three good things that have happened to you this year, no matter how big or small.

- Three people you are glad are in your life.

- Five things you are grateful for.

- Three things you enjoy doing, that make you feel good.

The more often you do exercises like this, the more your brain will be trained to reorganize and appreciate the positives. Stay happy!

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