“For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness.”
―Ralph Waldo Emerson
Dammmmn… what a quote.
Emerson was such a boss. This is what Elbert Hubbard, a contemporary and author of A Message to Garcia, called Emerson: “our modern Plato,” and “Every time I pickup a volume of Emerson, I have to reach for my notepad and pencil.”
I’ve only read a few of his Emerson’s essays, but that’s going to change. I’m now committing myself, with you as my witness, to reading all of his works.
Now, back to that quote…
There is a concept known as “negativity bias” that humans are prone to. Negativity bias is the phenomenon of human behavior in which we more vividly recall past negative experiences over positive ones. Nature has a reason for this.
In a nutshell, humans are designed to be negative because avoiding things that are bad for us, like spiders, snakes or sabertooth tigers, would have been conducive for survival. By being on the “watch” for anything we would label “negative,” we are more likely to avoid unfavorable circumstances. Being overly optimistic would make one lax in carefulness, and as a result, probably wouldn’t last very long in the harsh and unforgiving wild.
But that was then and this is now.
Nowadays, a negativity bias is, in most cases, dangerous and a self-fulfilling prophecy. You probably know a few people that could be called “downers.” These people see the worst in everything to the point of being blind to the positive. The thing is, they were not born pessimistic; they developed pessimism by succumbing to negativity bias over a long period of time.
Negativity bias is one of the reasons I don’t watch the news: it’s fear-mongering crap meant to tap into the negativity bias inside us all. It’s meant to scare us and get us addicted to feelings of fear so we will keep tuning in to the latest event we should be scared of.
As the news corporations (and ad agencies) know, negativity is an addictive drug. The more you dwell on it, the more you will. What’s especially insidious about negativity is the fact that most people brush it off as no big deal, and will delude themselves by saying things like, “I’m not like that.”
No matter how optimistic of a person you think you are, if you aren’t vigilant in combating negativity bias, you can slip into the trap that negativity bias so carefully lies for you.
Negativity is a choice. Anger is a choice. Happiness and positivity are choices. Your view of everything in your world is a choose matter of perception. Everything is choice. But choice doesn’t come automatic or easy, and if you aren’t used to the idea of making conscious choices—because you only make them reactionary—then it will take some getting used to.
Choice is like a muscle; you have to train it constantly to make it stronger and more efficient.
As optimism and forward-thinking as I am, I struggle with bouts of negativity and pessimism on a regular basis. I have good days and bad days, just like everyone else, and if start letting my bad days go unrestrained, I will end up having more of them. Like a weed, they would quickly overrun my garden of optimism until nothing was left.
The best advice I can give you is to be vigilant and never lax in building your positive mindset. Your mind is constantly changing. To think that you are now the person you will be in a year—or five—is ludicrous. You have to develop who you are going to be on a daily basis.
You have to train your optimistic muscles every chance you get because if you don’t you will be letting your negativity muscles rule the day.
Yours in Life, Fitness and Success,