The good news, or the bad news (depending on how far into Eeyore Syndrome you are) is that this is a normal way for us to think. So for the Eeyores amongst us that think there’s something wrong with you – you can relax.
Our brains are very much focused on remembering and concentrating on what’s wrong.
This made sense when we lived in caves and we needed to remember and be aware of what food might kill us, what small cute animals might have nasty bites and which one of our tribe members has breath like dead fish in the morning (don’t sleep on your animal skins next to him).
So our (not so sophisticated back then) brain decided that a large portion of itself should be dedicated to storing ALL the information about bad stuff and having it readily accessible at any time. Gloom on Call.
The difference then to now is that there were many, many, many moments of peace and ease and good times to combat Gloom on Call. These days we’re bombarded by constant reminders of gloom. Just watch the news for half an hour.
So the Gloom on Call section of our brain became HUGE! And I mean HUGE! Humungous, gargantuan, enormous. Think the size of the Death Star if you’re a Star Wars fan. If you’re not I’m not sure what you can think of. Just think BIG.
The poor little positive section of our brain almost doesn’t stand a chance against Gloom on Call. Think Luke Skywalker’s tiny little plane competing with the Death Star. If you don’t know what that is just think small. In fact, Dr. Barbara Fredrickson discovered that to compete with Gloom on Call we need a ratio of 3:1 positive to negative thoughts. That apparently creates a tipping point and gives Gloom on Call a run for its money.
So if you’re suffering with Eeyore Syndrome (Eeyore is the donkey from Winnie the Pooh BTW) then you’re going to have work pretty hard to get 3:1 positive to negative thoughts.
There’s a little caveat as well. Positive thoughts need to be believable. So telling yourself you will win lotto and be free of financial debt will likely not work if you’re not a true believer in the lotto fairies.
This is all sounds pretty do-able right? You get your brain in gear to think 3 positive thoughts to every 1 negative thought. Except you’re awesome at it for… a day. Then the enthusiasm starts to wear off. “Really” you say “THREE to one? Is she sure? Maybe I’ll try one to one and see how it goes.”
That may last a day and then the enthusiasm starts to wear off. Again.
Luckily there is an answer to this problem. AND it’s amazingly good.
Whenever we develop any habit (and this is what we’re doing here – developing a good habit) then there are certain steps our brains like to take. First it likes to know what’s coming – it needs a cue. So the cue is a negative thought. Then it needs the routine – in this case three positive thoughts. And then it needs the reward (I’ll leave that bit up to you).
If you think about how bad habits are formed they very much follow this process. It goes a little like this: get home from work – it’s 6pm (cue), pour yourself a glass of wine /beer/whatever it is that takes your fancy (routine). You get a nice feeling of relaxation/mood improvement (reward).
Brains are very comfortable with this process. They don’t like the formula to change. Especially when creating good habits are often not nearly as fun as bad habits.
So find yourself something small and rewarding that you can give yourself every time you do your 3:1. Your brain will start to associate the reward with the routine in a very short period of time and will actually look forward to trying to think up three positives to one negative.
Related Tag: Counselling Mermaid