Our brains tend to focus on the negative. Why? Because, as human beings, we are problem solvers. So, our brains don’t focus on what is going well in our lives. Our brains focus on what is wrong so that we can figure out a solution. Then we move on to the next problem.
There is nothing wrong with our innate drive to solve problems. That is why human beings keep advancing. But there is a down side to our need to solve problems: It makes us focus too much on what is wrong in our lives, and not enough on what is right.
As a result, we have to fight against our natural pull toward problem solving. We instead have to train our brains to focus on what is good in our lives. Let me give you an example. Let’s say that you have 10 friends in your life. If 9 of those friends adore you and 1 is always annoyed with you, who do you focus on? You focus your 1 annoyed friend! That may sound silly, but that is how we operate.
For example, I have family members with whom I have great relationships. But I used to always worry about the family members with whom I had problems. Then one day, I stopped and decided that my approach to family relationships was insane. Why should I give my mental energy to people who are unhappy with me, when I have family members who love me and support me? They are the ones who deserve my undivided attention.
Once I made the decision to change my focus in my relationships, I became much happier! I felt like someone who was loved and appreciated by others, rather than someone who was rejected by others. Significantly, my life and relationships had not changed. Rather, it was my focus that changed. I was training my brain to be happy.
Over the years, I have known people who were depressed. And I can assure you that there was nothing wrong with their lives. They had beautiful homes and nice families. Of course, sometimes their depression had a chemical element to it which needed to be resolved with medication. But the other issue was that they were obsessed with the one thing in their lives that wasn’t perfect. And that one thing made them miserable.
Part of training our brains for happiness is accepting the fact that life will never be perfect. There will always be parts of life that will be incredibly imperfect. So, you have a choice: You can choose to focus on the inevitable imperfections of your life – and be unhappy. Or you can choose to focus on all that is good in your life, and be happy. The choice is yours.
I will admit that I am a fixer. I don’t like anything to be broken, whether it be a relationship or an appliance. But I have learned that some things (like certain relationships) cannot be fixed. And I’ve come to accept that fact.
Now do life’s imperfections make me uncomfortable? Yes. Of course, they do. I would love for life to be problem-free. But I am old enough to know that life will always be imperfect. People will never be as kind or considerate as they should be. No job will ever have the right pay and the most rewarding tasks. And there will be bumps in the road. Friends and family members will get sick. There will be professional and personal disappointments.
However, I train my brain to be happy. This training is not a one-time exercise, after which I permanently have an “attitude of gratitude,” as they say. Rather, it is a continual exercise. Every time my brain goes down the path of trying to fix something that I either don’t have the power to fix, or I shouldn’t be fixing, I have to catch myself. I then have to re-direct my focus toward something good in my life.
So, if I go down the path of worrying about a relationship that is broken or fraught with problems, I stop. I then redirect my focus to the relationships in my life that are good. I don’t waste my time trying to fix problematic relationships, when I should be spending my time and energy caring for the people who are kind to me and who support me.
The same holds true for other aspects of my life. If I spend my time focusing on the aspects of my job that are imperfect, it is easy for me to feel frustrated. However, if I redirect my mind to think about all the benefits of my work, I can be very satisfied with my job.
Training your brain to be happy is not easy. We are wired to identify problems and fix them. We aren’t wired to simply ignore problems and focus on the good in life. But to be happy, that is exactly what we need to do!
This week, try to train your mind to focus on what is going well in your life. If you have good relationships with certain people, give your energy and attention to those people! If you have things about your work and your home that you love, pause to be grateful for those things. Don’t dwell on what is imperfect. Instead, train your brain to gravitate toward what is good in your life and watch your happiness increase.
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Books: “The Secrets to Success for the Working Mother” by Meerabelle Dey (https://www.amazon.com/Secrets-Success-Working-Mother/dp/1546329544 )