So how do we get those negative thoughts out of our head. These are the notes from Alison Ledgerwood on TEDX. Alison explained that we have two frames one that is negative or one that is positive. If we see a glass as half full we are happy. If see a glass is half-empty not so happy. We look at the good and bad in a day and tend to really remember the bad.
Alison explained that if she had a positive experience at work, she would be happy, but then quickly snap back to her baseline. If something negative happened then she would have negative feelings. What was interesting is that she would not swing back as quickly to the baseline. The tendency is to linger in the negative and not let it go. As a Psychologist she wanted to understand why we tended to stay there. Then she questioned can people change their frame.
The study had two groups that they shared the same data with, but presented it in two different ways. What was being explained to group one was that there was a medical procedure that had a 70% success rate. Group one was positive about that. Then group two was told that the procedure had a 30% failure rate. Group two then had a negative reaction to the procedure. They then went back to group one to share that the procedure had a 30% failure rate. Now group one has a negative take on the procedure even after first being told that there was a 70% success rate. Meaning that once the mind turns negative, it tends to stay there. Group 2 was told that the procedure had a 70% success rate and they still were negative on the procedure.
Alison spoke of another study and it was explaining to two groups that a governor was running for re-election and that with the current budget cuts they expected 10,000 jobs to be effected. Group 1 was told that the governor was able to save 40% of the jobs. Group 1 liked that. Group two was told that 60% of the jobs were lost. group 2 did not like that. When Group one was told that 60% of the jobs were lost, now there opinion swung negative. Group was told 40% of the jobs were saved and Group 2 stayed negative. What this showed is that once we turn negative it takes a lot of hard work to move back to positive.
To try and quantify this, Alison explained again using two groups. the statement is that 600 lives are at stake. Group one was asked “If 100 lives are saved, how many will be lost. The answer is 600- 100 = 500. that took group 7 seconds to respond to. Then group two was asked If 100 lives are lost, how many will be saved. Again the answer is 600 – 100 = 500. However, it took this group 11 seconds to respond. Showing that it is harder to find the positive or bright side. that we go more naturally to the negative and indeed it is harder work to see the same problem in the positive.
Alison explained that were things we can do to train our mind so that we do not get stuck in the negatives. She suggested writing about all the good things that happened to you today. Even on a bad day, if you start remembering the good things your attitude starts to turn positive you start to smile and then come to the conclusion that maybe the day was not so bad.
From my perspective I think that is why Christians giving thanks for the many blessings that we have is the little secret sauce for happiness. The reality is that discipline of giving thanks, or remembering blessings is a healthy discipline that can lead to joy and happiness.