The human mind loves to focus on the negative. In fact, there is something called the negativity bias or negativity effect which basically states that the negative influences our cognition and behavior more deeply than the positive. But don’t take it personally, it is a human condition resulting from evolution and our inherent survival instinct. If you look at it this way, having attention be captured by the negative is valuable—especially when it increases our ability to avoid danger.
While this was particularly useful hundreds of years ago, these days it isn’t as valuable to constantly focus on the negative. Furthermore, it takes about five positive thoughts or experiences to rewrite the impact of one negative one. You are not alone if you have found yourself in the spiraling cyclone of your negative mind. You’re simply human!
Enter appreciation, our lovely friend that can help balance out these natural inclinations of the mind. Now to be clear, venting is a wonderful thing and necessary. It is important to speak or journal your mind when you are navigating challenge. However, just like everything, there is a tipping point where a venting session is no longer productive. Instead, your mind sinks more deeply into the negativity from one issue and occludes everything around it. As a result, it interferes with our perspective and ability to reframe difficult situations.
When we are able to step back and acknowledge that life isn’t made up of one season, flavor or texture, we can better recognize what is working out. Even when we find ourselves traversing the valley of challenge or despair. With so much going on in our daily lives, sometimes opportunities for gratitude are easily missed.
Appreciation isn’t just about the big moments when we are on vacation, celebrating a birthday or acknowledging an anniversary. There are small moments like having clean water, breathable fresh air, the sun, food on our table, supportive community, physical health, access to nature, and opportunities to nourish ourselves and play. These instances are present every single day and with a little bit of mindfulness and shift of attention, we can begin to see them and revel in them a bit longer.
For this week explore:
On the Mat
1. Take time to appreciate one thing you are grateful for about your body.
2. At the outset or end of your practice acknowledge the time you carved out to move your body, even with everything else going on.
3. Give thanks to others in your life that support you in ways that allows you to carve time out to nourish yourself.
Off the Mat
1. Write down three things that went well and that you appreciated today, a few days this week, or for the entire week.
2. Write yourself a love note (2 paragraphs minimum). What do you appreciate about yourself? What do you bring to the world that is spectacular?
3. Email, text, or mail a card to someone in your life and tell them why you appreciate them.
UW Recreation’s Mindfulness Manager, a yoga teacher trainer, and wellbeing educator, Danny Arguetty, M.A., is author of Nourishing the Teacher and The 6 Qualities of Consciousness. Passionate about helping people flourish through mindfulness, wellness, and personal self-development, he has over a decade’s worth of experience in group facilitation, one-on-one coaching, and experiential teaching.
Danny has guided workshops throughout the United States, led yoga trainings in the U.S. and India, and spoken at Facebook, Olson Kundig, Seattle Children’s, and Gravity Payments. He served as adjunct faculty at Williams College, leads a quarterly course on Intro to Mindfulness at UW, and is a former faculty member at Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health. Learn more about Danny in this staff spotlight covering his work at UW or visit his website.
Thank you to AT&T for being our Whole U program sponsor.