“Joy is what happens to us when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are.” -Marianne Williamson
Every now and then, I ask Tiny Buddha Facebook friends to share things they’re grateful for. I do this because I know that I sometimes forget how many things I’ve valued and appreciated throughout the course of my day–especially if I feel I’ve dealt with a lot of stresses and worries.
It can happen to any of us: Even one especially difficult encounter or situation can overpower all the good things if we’re not deliberate about recognizing them, and realizing how fortunate we really are.
Psychologists refer to this as negativity bias–the phenomenon by which we give more weight to negative experiences than positive ones. It’s an evolutionary development from a time when everyday threats could be matters of life-or-death. According to neuropsychologist Rich Hanson, “the brain is like Velcro to negative experiences and Teflon to positive ones.”
It’s when you move into a new house, and even though almost everything went smoothly, you can’t stop feeling annoyed about that one vase the movers chipped. Or you have a fantastic interview, but you can’t stop obsessing about that one question you didn’t answer as well as you could have.
In short, we sometimes fixate on the bad things–judging them, rehashing them, maybe even reliving them. It generally comes down to fear of pain, and more specifically, loss.
If we can become aware of what’s going on in our brains, we can actively choose to recognize how few real threats there are, and then create positive feelings by honoring all the good things we sometimes take for granted.
The reality is that there is often more right than wrong with our lives. There are people looking out for us. There are needs that are consistently met. There are pleasures that we often get to enjoy. It’s not a perfect world, but there’s a lot of beauty, if only we’re willing to see and appreciate it.
Look around today. Choose to see the good things. And don’t let the tiny things that went wrong detract from your pleasure. Joy isn’t just knowing that you should be grateful for your blessings–it’s allowing yourself to actually enjoy them.
Photo by JOPHIELsmiles