By Karden Rabin, LMT
Human beings evolved with something called “negative bias.” In a nutshell, we were more likely to survive if we noticed negative things, like a sabertooth tiger, rather than positive things, like a raspberry bush.
Today, that evolutionary legacy is still with us and it leads us to spend a lot more time complaining about a parking ticket than celebrating the fact that we have a miracle called a car that can take us places 10x faster than we can run.
We also have a tendency to compare ourselves to those who have “more” than us rather than those who have less. Evolutionarily, this motivates some individuals to achieve more. But on the whole, I think it leads to a mountain of self-depreciation.
When you see someone in fine clothes, eating fancy food and spending money like its nothing, we look at ourselves and bemoan our financial state and our 60 hour work week. We spend much less time comparing our lives to a Syrian refugee family drowning on a rubber dinghy trying to cross the Mediterranean to a better life.
Since our inherited default state of being is to see the negative and envy those who have more than us, it’s no great mystery why so many of us are depressed, pessimistic and/or have nothing to be grateful for.
Fortunately, evolution also gave us a frontal cortex and self-awareness. This gives us the ability to observe upon our default states of being and choose to transform them. In this case, what we need to see is that pivoting from resentment to gratitude, from pessimism to optimism is simply a matter of choosing a different context to see from.
How would you feel about your life if you began to compare your present state of being with those who have less than you rather than more? How would you feel about your life if you started to appreciate the blessings of having a home instead of a shanty, hot running water instead of a dirty well, a car instead of a donkey?
I am grateful for all of these things! Heck, When I travel by plane and there are delays, even for hours, I’m like, “who cares, it’s a f*cking miracle that I can pay a couple of hundred bucks to fly in the f*cking sky and get anywhere in the f*cking world in under 24 f*cking hours.” Not to mention the fact that my grandparents had to come over on a f*cking boat after the Holocaust.
When I hold these perspectives, I am consistently grateful, and when I am consistently grateful, I always see the glass has 1/2 full, because for so many, they don’t even have a glass to drink from. In any moment, in all moments, life is something to be grateful for.
This Thanksgiving I invite you to not only list the particular things you are grateful for, but to make a commitment shifting your context from one of negative bias and envy to positive bias and appreciation. To create a context of perpetual gratitude.
It’ll change your life.