Noticing the Good: The Inside Scoop on Wellbeing
Updated: Apr 22, 2020
Jason is an executive with an ad agency in Toronto. Always well prepared, charismatic and confident, Jason’s track record for closing a sale is impeccable. One day in a meeting while pitching a campaign to a key customer, his attention was suddenly drawn from the many approving faces to one particular individual. Although everyone else seemed delighted, this one man sat with his arms tightly folded and a puzzled look on his face, clearly suggesting that he was feeling uninspired. Jason felt a tug of concern as his brain tried to reconcile the dissatisfaction of this one person..
The story is a typical example of the brain's negativity bias at work. Often, it takes only one negative face in a crowd full of smiles to short-circuit one’s sense of wellbeing.
Dr. Rick Hanson, author of “Hardwiring Happiness” describes it like this - the mind is like Velcro for the bad and Teflon for the good. This bias towards the bad is a product of our evolution; the vestiges of a survival mechanism etched into our very DNA. One-hundred thousand years ago, constant attention was required to quickly detect and assess situations where a threat to one's wellbeing was eminent. Missing out on an opportunity for a meal or to procreate the species is not seen by our brain as a problem. These opportunities would usually come again, but a lack of vigilance in the face of attack by a predator - this would likely spell certain death. Although the threat of being eaten by a predator is no longer a risk for most of us, we often still act like it is.
The good news – the mind can be trained to counter the negativity bias through a mindfulness practice called, noticing the good. Hundreds of good things happen to us every day, but rarely do we take the time to acknowledge them with positivity and gratitude. By routinely bringing awareness to the abundance of good in our lives, we can shift our bias away from the negative, and experience a greater sense of joy and wellbeing. Acknowledging friends and family who love you, a good meal, a roof over your head, clean, comfortable clothes and a warm bed, a compliment from a colleague, a smile from a stranger, even simply appreciating the fact that you are breathing and alive can become a powerful tonic!