I’ve had the pleasure to work with Gary Lalonde, a wonderful corporate trainer and motivational speaker, over the years and I’ve always loved his traditional greeting: “What’s the good news?”
During these challenging times, this seems like a helpful tool to consider.
First of all, it sets a positive tone and it puts the responder in the position of doing a quick brain search to come up with something that is going right in their lives.
I’ll admit it can be a bit disarming, especially for those Debbie and David Downers out there. Cue the sound effect from “Saturday Night Live” (waaaah, waaaah).
Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!
Our brains have a natural tendency to go toward the fearful “fight or flight” response. Blame it on that throwback to the saber-toothed tiger days and the human race’s need for safety. It’s estimated that 70% of what we encounter in our outer worlds is negative, so look at how much we need to overcompensate just to get back to neutral!
Rick Hanson, Ph.D., is a psychologist who has done extensive research in the neuroscience arena. He sums up the negativity bias of our brains in an interesting illustration below:
“Our ancestors had to avoid two kinds of mistakes:
Thinking there’s a tiger in the bushes, but actually all is well.
Thinking all is well, while actually there is a tiger about to pounce.
What’s the cost of the first mistake? Just needless worry. But what’s the cost of the second mistake? Gulp, no more mistakes ... forever. So, we have a brain that tends to make the first mistake again and again ... to avoid ever making the second one.
As a result, the brain is like Velcro for negative experiences, but Teflon for positive ones.”
Dealing with uncertainty
During this pandemic, there are lots of unknowns. This can be particularly unsettling, causing imaginations to run toward worst-case scenarios. At the other extreme, a “Pollyanna” attitude is not the best way to deal with uncertainty, either. As with many situations, the balance hangs in the middle.
Since our brains have that negative bias, and there’s a tendency to look at things that are going wrong, it could be helpful to look at what’s going right in your life. Just taking five minutes a day to reflect on the positive things in your life can work wonders.
I’m currently studying the book, “A Course in Miracles.” Today’s lesson is, “I Could See Peace Instead of This.” Quite appropriate for these times, don’t you think?
Dealing with stress
Pop quiz: What is a powerful antidote to worry, stress and anxiety? You may be thinking of a treatment or a supplement to take. Actually, gratitude is one of the best — and quickest — ways to turn around a downward spiral.
You’ve likely heard of the power of gratitude journals. Sometimes this method may seem forced, which is fine since it’s OK to fake it till you make it. If you have resistance to journaling, though, I’ve included a simple exercise below that may be helpful.
Asking the right questions
Our brains love questions, and they go in search of answers. The problem, though, is we often ask questions out of fear and they have no real answers. The mind keeps searching and searching and going around in circles. This keeps the uncertainty swirling.
Try this easy exercise, developed by author, trainer and registered nurse Aila Accad, to help with focus, clarity and gratitude. It’s very simple, yet it can yield profound results. Just keep asking your mind these questions:
What is going right in my life?
What else is going right?
And what else is going right?
Our brains think in pictures, so the more you can attach a positive picture to your answer, the better. Images of pets, grandchildren and anything in nature fit the bill nicely, as well as a “fist pump” when recalling a particular success.
Putting it into perspective
My niece, Caity, has a wonderful way of shedding light on life lessons with her sons. She came up with the term “PIP it,” as a shorthand way of saying, “Put it into perspective,” and we’ve adopted the phrase in our extended family. It often helps us to snap back quickly.
Consider these real-life scenarios, shared by authors and life coaches, Marc and Angel Chernoff, from participants in their workshops. Talk about PIP-ing it!
“On my nursing shift at the hospital this evening, I was forced into a moment of clarity when I got off the phone, utterly flustered after having an argument with my husband. An 8-year-old patient — who is dying of leukemia — asked me if I was OK.”
“Today is the 10-year anniversary of the day I had planned on ending my life. It’s also the 10-year anniversary of the day I found out I was pregnant with my now 9-year-old son. He’ the reason I changed my mind. And he is so worth it! But, perhaps most important, I now realize I am worth it, too.”
So, what’s the good news in your life?