Today might be a big day. We might find out today if we keep the same racist, sexist, cruel, dishonest president we've had for the last four years, or we might find out that we get to try a different elderly, rich, able-bodied, Christian, cisgender, white male president for the next four years. We might also not know those results yet, as (1) mail-in ballots need to be counted and (2) the current president has said he'd contest the results if he doesn't win. Our current president, who has done so much to dismantle democracy, is trying to steal this election, which would also mean no results yet.
No matter what we do or don't find out today, we're all coming to the end of a year that has thrown unimaginable obstacles in our way. I know we haven't all suffered the same amount this year, as some of us have been privileged to have the means and skin color to be sheltered from many of the plagues upon us, but I do believe we've all experienced a year like no other. We've all faced difficulties and come to terms with injustices and fear and anger and threats. This year has been difficult politically and personally, and I bet a lot of people are asking WHY certain things happened to them.
I propose that better questions to ask would be, "WHAT can I learn from this?" or "What did I gain from this experience?" Even events that seem entirely negative often provide learning experiences and opportunities for reflection. If we focus on the downsides of everything, we can wallow in negativity, but if we choose to seek silver linings, we can mold our brains to work better and to enjoy life more.
In his TED talk, Shawn Achor discusses how we can train ourselves to be more positive, and he posits that engaging in that process can help us be more productive, I recommend that you watch his talk (It's entertaining!), but if you don't have twelve minutes to change the way you think about everything, I offer my takeaways from his research.
- When our brains feel good, we focus better and work better and form better relationships.
- We can't entirely control our brains, but we can make them incrementally more positive through daily practice.
- We should think consistently about what we feel grateful for.
- We should recount our best moments.
- We should seek out joy and beauty and goodness.
- By searching for and focusing on good rather than bad, we actively rewire our brains for better efficiency and cheer.
Have you ever engaged in active positive psychology work? If so, please tell about it in the comments. If not, I double-dog dare you to start a project today. Then, in a month, please come back to this post to write about your results, or you can send me a guest blog post to tell about what you've found.
Note: I'm fully aware that if I follow my own advice, I should change my weekly posts' name to "What Wednesdays," but I'm not sure I want to do that yet. What do you think?