Why is it that some people need to create drama and make things into bigger issues than they should be? The most obvious answer to this question is that many people do it for the attention. Any kind of attention, good or bad, is better than no attention. Some people just tend to overreact to things though, while some just seem to thrive on conflict and are waiting for the next thing to complain about or be angry about. They appear to be looking for negatives.
I recently read a book called Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence by Rick Hanson, Ph.D. that might explain why this is. It seems our brains are hard wired to think more about negative things than positive things as a means for survival, to prepare us for the worst. This makes sense back in the days where we had to hunt for food and build our own shelter when our survival instincts were necessary. You would think that perhaps our brains would have evolved to not do this, now that we don’t need those survival skills, but apparently they haven’t. The author explains that the brain is better at building brain structure based on negative experiences than it is on positive ones, and negative information about someone is more memorable than positive information. It makes sense to me that the negative experiences are transferred into long-term memory more often because of the sometimes stronger or more intense emotional responses attached to them. So we need to make a conscious effort to “take in the good” so that we don’t still feel down in the dumps, even when we are generally having mostly positive experiences.
Going back to my “Gratitude and Attitude” post, I was partly talking about how I think it is important to go INTO situations with a positive attitude. This author was pointing out the importance of reflecting BACK on experiences and life in general and trying to focus on the positives and how they made us feel and really appreciate those moments. He also goes through the process of how to do this.
I have to admit that for a while, I had gotten away from my habit of writing down something each night for which I am grateful and something I enjoyed about my day. I am back to doing it after reading this book, and I do think I am feeling a difference again, but now I am taking even more time to think about why I am grateful for a particular person, thing, or event and focus on how good he/she/it makes me feel. It forces me to end the day on a positive note, to appreciate any positives even if they are small ones, and it puts me in a better mood before going to bed. That, in turn, puts me in a better mood when I wake up, which makes it less likely that I will notice or focus on the negatives. I’m not going to lie and say this makes all of the negatives go away, but I do feel like I can deal with them a little more calmly. Now, if I could only get the rest of my immediate family to think more along these lines!
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