It is so easy to slip into the doldrums. This seems easy to understand when cabin fever sets in during bleak midwinter, but can also happen for most people on a sunny summer day.
Negative thoughts are seductive. In fact, scientific research tells us that the brain has an automatic survival default to negative over positive. We have a kind of bad news bias built into our DNA that keeps us out of harm’s way. Studies show that we need almost a five-to-one ratio of positive over negative in order to hang onto joy. With the easily accessible barrage of negativity available, it seems like a long-shot that we would be able to resist the depressive lure of distressing and grim conditions. But perhaps our powerlessness holds the key to joy after all.
In order to crack the five-to-one negativity code, we must accept that we are emotionally powerless over the way our brain is constructed and let go of trying to out-think it. Like the folks who practice 12 Step Recovery, we must come to believe that a power greater than ourselves will hold us in loving arms regardless of our shortcomings. Then we have to engage in the work of changing our bad news bias into something positive.
The same research which identifies our default brain confirms that we can tip the scales towards happiness and override the tilt to negativity with frequent small positive acts of kindness and compassion…again with a ratio of about five-to-one. In other words, we need to be actively engaged in being nice if we want to have a life of sustained peace, joy, and love. It sounds like we better get busy.