Condition your mind to think positively, appreciate the small stuff and focus on wellness.
March should be called the Grumpy Month. Most of us are cranky when the winter weather insists on sticking around. Sure, the days are getting longer, but the mercury stays stubbornly stuck subzero. Being the cantankerous Canadians we are at this time of year, we want to plow anyone who tells us to "look on the bright side."
But at the risk of having you all utter a collectively dismissive groan, I'm one of those Susie Sunshine sorts prevailing upon you to see the glass as half full. March isn't the only month in which we tend to drift toward the dark side; many of us do it year-round. Scientists even have a name for it: negativity bias. As psychologist Rick Hanson describes in his book Buddha's Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love & Wisdom, "Your brain is like Velcro for negative experiences and like Teflon for positive ones."
It may have been that, for our ancestors, this programming glitch wasn't a glitch at all; being drawn to the negative may have served some evolutionary purpose, keeping our species safe from the threat of the woolly mammoth, plague or starvation. But these days, a great threat also comes from stress, anxiety and depression. We have to reprogram ourselves for a sunnier disposition. Hey, look, March was named after the Roman god of war, Mars, so how about we choose to start fighting the good fight—the one for mental health?
OK, you say, but how? I'm glad you asked. I've mapped out three simple steps you can take to shift the balance in your brain so your awareness is weighted toward wellness. But none of these steps is going to work if you don't embrace one critical, foundational notion: What you think is entirely up to you. Thoughts are made up by you. In my world, we call them "constructs," a term I love because the implication is we actively construct them. Got it? All right, let's proceed.
1. Be aware. Most of the time, we're largely unaware of our thought patterns. We don't question these unconscious creations. I suggest you start questioning them. When you find your attention drifting to the negative, notice it. You don't need to be hard on yourself; just compassionately and curiously observe the trend: "Oh, look, I'm doing it again."
2. Be mindful. A downside to our preoccupation with potential threats is we're missing the here and now when we should be concentrating on being in the present. So, when you find your attention mired in, say, imagining the mess waiting in the kitchen because your darn kids never clean up after themselves, come on back. Right here, right now, there's a moment free from that stress. Grab it.
3. Be grateful. What we attend to is a choice. Why not choose to focus on a few of the things that are really great? Even the small things. Especially the small things.