Friday, February 5, 2016

Being positive

It is a revelation that you can pick your moods.  Maybe not all the time, but most of the time.  It mostly depends on what you put your attention on.  If you see again in your mind's eye, a smile or expression of delight from a loved one, it will probably be difficult to think that life is only pain and darkness.  I am confident that there is a basic delight in being alive.  Agreed, as you age and have more trouble getting out of an easy chair, it can be more likely that you wonder if life is worth the trouble.

If it weren't a one-way door, you might be tempted to try taking a break from life.  It can be dreary and it can be a burden.  But right in the midst of loss, defeat, bad breaks and animosity, there can be sunshine, there can be fun and triumph.  Winning the lottery is fun and uplifting but it is even more fun to sketch a project or attempt a discovery and find the project works out and the discovery is right on target.

Last night, I revived my practice of copying Martin Seligman's notion of listing three positive things that happened during the day.  The main impetus for my doing that is that I find I have trouble recalling the previous day.  A day can contain a large number of different events, different moments and pleasures.  I am sensitive to small ideas and single comments.  Yesterday, I heard for the first time about sensors on many new cars that turn on a little red light in the side mirror when a vehicle is sitting in the driver's blind spot.  I can see that red light in my mind, even though I don't have that feature on my car.  It is a pleasure to learn of such good design.

We can't help having a negative bias.  It is part of the nervous system to be alert to dangers, possibilities that will terminate our living state.  They are basically more important than seeing your friend's happiness with the brownies.  Couple that fundamental, evolutionary sensitivity to negatives with my awareness that I can't jump as high, run as fast or even hear as well and you can see why it is natural to frown.

Today's summary of research from the British Psychological Society lists 216 words in foreign languages for positives, pleasures and emotional states that English doesn't have.  Quite a few have to do with pleasures such as strolling that are available in many situations without needing great wealth or equipment.

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