Tiny Wisdom: There’s More Right Than Wrong

“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

About Lori Deschene

Lori Deschene is the founder of Tiny Buddha and Recreate Your Life Story, an online course that helps you let go of the past and live a life you love. Her latest bookTiny Buddha’s Gratitude Journal, which includes 15 coloring pages, is now available for purchase. For daily wisdom, follow Tiny Buddha on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram..

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  • Carole

    Every day is BRAND NEW. The power of moving forward is awesome. We all need to focus on forward progression, as that is where hope and possibility reside!!!

  • I’m grateful that I’ve been married for 11 years to a good person.

  • LadyTamborine

    I am grateful that I have the discerning spirit to find the good in everything, while at the same able to recognize a bad thing.

  • Matt

    Ironic that focusing on the negative is actually our brain’s instinctive way of protecting us, i.e. doing us a favor.  But seeing those worries & concerns in that perspective can hopefully help to release them.  Attend to the worry, learn what you can from it, appreciate it for doing its job and let it go.  =^)

  • Once again, Lori, you’ve tapped into a simple idea about stopping to be grateful & focusing on the positive that surrounds us if we allow ourselves to see it. Thank you for this beautiful and important reminder.

  • Tony Applebaum

    To Quote Jon Kabat-Zinn, 
    “…as long as you’re breathing, there is more right with you than wrong with you, no matter what’s wrong with you.”

  • You’re most welcome. Happy Friday =)

  • I’ve thought about this many times–how sometimes we hurt ourselves in order to avoid getting hurt. I love what you wrote about appreciating the worry for doing it’s job and then letting it go. What an empowering way to turn things around!

  • I understand my evolutionary bias for noticing and fixating on negative things intellectually, but it can still frustrate the heck out of me sometimes.  It can take a lot of conscious intention to remind myself that there may have been 100 positive things happen to that one negative thing, and to actively choose to let go of the attachment to the negative one (sometimes multiple times).

    Something I find helps sometimes if I find myself constantly gravitating back to that one negative thing is to try to consciously examine the negative thing that happened.  I ask myself questions like:
    – “What *actually* happened?” (as opposed to “what’s the story I’m telling myself about it happening?”) 
    – “What, realistically, is it likely to mean in terms of consequences?” 
    – “What else *could* it mean if the world surprised me and things didn’t go exactly the way I fear?”
    – “Do other people think it means the same thing I do?  If so, is it possible they know something I don’t?”
    – and probably most importantly, if there is a negative consequence, “Is there anything I can reasonably *do* at this point to mitigate that consequence?”

    Consciously going through those questions helps me to separate out firstly the things that are upsetting but don’t have any real consequence beyond the upset they cause me; and secondly, the things that I just have to accept and let go of, versus the things that I can still do something about.  (then all I have to do is remember that I do actually have the power to decide whether to start asking them or not!)

  • Alexius

    I’ve just become a dad…

  • Congratulations!! How exciting!

  • Thanks for sharing a little of your process Tanja! These are all wonderful questions, especially the one about consequences. It always helps me to remember that most difficult situations are inconsequential beyond the initial discomfort I may feel.

  • Anonymous

    I can relate to this post.  I recall one day in particular where everything went pretty amazing, then it rained (poured) during my walk home, I forgot my umbrella, and I got pretty wet – and in turn this made me feel absolutely terrible.  In retrospect I realized while 100+ things went right that day, only one went mildly wrong, and it was strange that I put all my attention on that one bad thing that wasn’t even that bad.  I know “in the moment” it’s easy to lose your cool and get mad, but like they say we really do choose how we feel.

  • freddie

    I am going through another transition this year constantly moving from place to place and trying to get a handle on my financial situation. I have just started a new job and find it difficult to save money because of the personal and college debts that I have acquired. I am also trying to start a new career. I have a good job, wonderful siblings and great friends who support me mentally, emotionally and even financially but for some reason when something went wrong today it felt like the end of the world. I’m so glad this was today’s post. I needed to hear this. And I constantly struggle, even after reading this, with the negativity bias. I hate to get my hopes up even about things that have already gone well. I really wish I could change this about myself. I feel so dark and moody compared to those around me. Thank you for this post. I will have to read it often.

  • Tami

    Sometimes it helps to just start the day over again. Hope is all I have some moments of some days so when I lose that hope and start the day again it stops whatever spiral the negativity started.

  • Grace

    My husband had a severe stroke in spring 2010. My adult son has struggled with addiction and depression. I was unable to perform my job and fulfill my role as caregiver so I’m now unemployed with a very uncertain future.

    The spiritual journey I travel, the books I’ve read, the meditation, yoga and Qi Gong practices I’ve developed, the many little blogs of wisdom I read online (e.g., Tiny Buddha) continue to provide the tools I need to help keep me out of that “negativity bias.”

    I’ve often cursed this media crazed, online culture — but it has provided me with resources I might have never found otherwise. These ARE the good old days.

  • Johnwillemsens

    Hi Carole,
    Have a look at 🙂

  • I’m really inspired by you, Grace. You make the world a better place for choosing to develop these practices. 

    Sending you lots of love,Lori

  • You’re most welcome Freddie. I know that feeling of grasping at control. Sometimes I think it would feel so much safer to just get things figured out and then know that things won’t change or end–that there won’t be uncomfortable transitions and the potential of loss. But then I remind myself how many wonderful things have happened after uncomfortable transitions, or as a direct result of loss. 

    Incidentally, I can be moody, too, and this is something I’ve many times wished I could change. If I did change it, though, it’s likely I wouldn’t be the writer I am. I wouldn’t understand people like I do. The truth is that we’re all a little moody. Life is uncertain and that can be scary. I think some people just wear their emotions closer to the surface. I’m not suggesting we dwell in a dark place or let our emotions overwhelm us–I think we can do a lot to create a sense of peace and calm, if not always, then often. But maybe we don’t have to curse our instincts. Maybe we can cut ourselves some slack and realize that we’re beautiful, and we’re doing the best we can.

  • gwynneve

    i have belonged to sites that tell me everything bad about the world’s elite. natural news tells me everything i eat is bad for me.
    i took a healing class where pretty much everything i taste,see, smell, breath, touch etc. is bad for me and i need all sortsof remedies.NOT!. i know how to use a pendulum and i know about intentions and i believe that the prime creator and mother earth want to provide me with all sorts of good ness and that is what i now see. i don’t ingest things that are so called ‘bad’for me but i love the air i breathe and the food i eat and the water i drink and feel blessed that i came to this revelation. the powers that be cannot control my sovereignty, my path to goodness, my choices to love or fear.
    so your article is so correct in that we have choices. do we love or fear? thanks

  • Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts Gwynneve! We get so many messages that tell us to live in fear, but that’s no way to live. What a beautiful realization. =)

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