“Why do we notice bad things more than good things?” asked Susie (not her real name)

I was immediately struck by the wisdom of this question asked by a young woman with intellectual challenges.  I have the privilege of providing grief support to people with developmental disabilities.

Susie’s mother died recently, and Susie was telling me about life without her mom.  She has worked part time at the same job for several years and is friendly with many people at her job site.  As Susie talked about her work day, she asked me why we pay so much attention to the “bad” moments during the day.

Susie clearly noticed how she and her friends dwell on the small mistakes, mishaps and frustrations that naturally happen and seem to “forget” all the positive moments that almost always outnumber the negative ones.

Such as – if ten people greet us with a kind word and a smile, we usually remember and focus on the one person that did not smile at us or say hello….. at the end of the day the negative sticks with us while the positive floats into the background.

 What’s Going On Here? ……. Many thousands of years ago, when we were cave dwellers, life was mostly about the need to stay alive.  Our brains evolved to keep us safe, and are still wired to learn quickly from bad experiences.  This ancient survival mechanism often keeps us stressed and worried and may promote harsh self judgments and feelings of inadequacy. 

But – with this little bit of understanding about our brains, we can teach ourselves to remember to stop and savor the good things! 

Begin to turn your awareness toward the pleasant moments throughout the day. Really savor these moments and allow them to land and soak in for 10 to 12 seconds – the sweet thoughts, emotions and physical sensations that arise from completing a task, engaging in a chat with a friend, or enjoying a hot, steaming beverage on a cold day…noticing and embracing the good things hovering in the background of our daily lives!