Filling The Half-Empty Glass

Are you a glass half full or glass half empty person?

The chances are that if you’re tending towards the empty, that you also suffer from anxieties. You may even have a black dog following you around from time to time.

It’s not that you’re a doom and gloom merchant.

You can see the joy in the world as much as the next person. It’s just that when things turn bad, you find it a struggle to get out of your funk.

People tell you to think more positively, that it’s not all bad. Life’s too short, stop worrying. That’s easier said than done, though, right?

You’re not weird for being like this.

We have evolved with a negativity bias baked in.

You are wired to pay attention to negative experiences. Your Chimp is simply looking out for you, scanning for threats. The problem is that they are being too vigilant about it and you’re paying the price. You’re in a negative feedback loop of threat and reaction.

The good news is that it is possible to retrain your chimp.

Because science

Google ‘Neuroplasticity‘ and you’ll get pages of articles with links to peer-reviewed studies. These suggest that we can change our default behaviours, well into our later years.

That is to say your dog can learn new tricks.

The first challenge is to recognise that something needs to change, to be conscious of it.

Then, with intent, you can start to form new habits and break the negative cycle.

Writing

One great technique is to write about positive things every day. Find a few minutes and note down your positive experiences, however small. A slot either side of the day is ideal. Say, soon after waking and before finishing work for the day.

Stop comparing

I wrote about this recently. Comparisons tend towards the negative and this isn’t helpful.

Be kind to yourself

Don’t beat yourself up when something goes wrong. It’s OK to fail. You’re human.

You’re a good person. Recognise that.

In terms retraining: don’t forget to celebrate your victories. Write them down.

Learn how to re-frame

Try hard to look objectively at any situation. When you ‘fail’ what are the positives you can glean?

Did you just miss the bus? Awesome, you get 5 minutes to look at the clouds.

OK, this one is hard and it can feel a bit fake. But remember that intent. You are retraining your chimp. It’ll feel awkward for a while.

If you journal as part of your routine then note down any negative sentiments in your thoughts and attempt to flip them.

Stick this one out, as you build up the momentum it will get easier.

Be Mindful

Mindfulness is a blanket term for clearing your mind and anchoring yourself to the now.

There are plenty of books and other resources to help you with this. Maybe start with Ruby Wax if you’re looking for a combination of science and laughs.

One word of warning: you will encounter the term meditation pretty quickly. This can have negative connotations; it smells a bit of woo.

Try not to be put off by this. Remember that science says it’s good; it’s just a technique for clearing our minds of clutter.

It isn’t sitting uncomfortably and omming. One effective meditation technique is to simply walk along a path and focus on your footsteps. You get to banish your chimp’s narrative for a while. You stop reinforcing those negative ways of thinking and are making new positive ones.

Intent

The key is to recognise that you want to change and then to approach this with your mind wide open.

You’re on this.

You’re going to make it happen.

You’re thirsty and all that water in the glass looks good.

This post is one of 30 I wrote daily during April 2016 as part of the 30 Day Writing Challenge, updated (slightly tidied up) in October for Geek Mental Help Week