I’m taking a happiness course (www.hapacus.com) with several family members based on this book written by my brother-in-law and sister-in-law: We went over the two chapters we were assigned to read and discussed our thoughts, impressions and personal experiences. Although I was wrestling two small children who ran in and out of the room, I did manage to have several takeaways.
One thing that struck me in particular was the idea that negative events stand out in our minds. “One of the challenges associated with our negativity bias (our inclination to favor negative information over positive information) is that our brains don’t just notice negative events; they assign more weight to the negative than the positive.”
Oh how true this is. I will have a relatively good day. I have a great productive morning. Hunter enjoys his preschool. We have a great lunch. Nap time is longer than expected and I get a lot done. And then 3:30 rolls around. By this time, Hallie is walking in the door and Bennett has just woken up from his nap, more whiney than usual. For the next two hours I listen to kids fight as I prepare dinner with a toddler wrapped around my leg. Before long, Steve walks in the door from work and asks how my day went. The events from the last two hours, ALWAYS carry more weight than the positive seven hours we shared before that. And inevitably I describe a day that is far worse than I truly experienced.
I read this in the book and related to it so well. The same goes for our Sunday morning routine getting ready for church. We attended an early afternoon service which meant we had a great deal of time to get ready and enjoy our morning. We made breakfast. The kids played. We relaxed. But never failing, just minutes before we were to walk out the door we would experience a “crisis” and suddenly we were in the car driving to church irritated and annoyed with one another. The perfect way to start a church service!
I could name 10 more examples at the drop of a hat. Negativity weighs too much! The book goes on to explain that we need to retrain our brains and relabel these negative events with less toxic labels. Instead of letting our brain go into crisis mode for spilled milk – we would relabel the event as being unexpected and clearly not the end of the world. I made it my goal this week to relabel and it’s not as easy as I originally thought it would be.
I am constantly finding myself in situations in which I have to relabel. Today was a perfect example. My four-year-old, who has been potty trained for a long time, was busy trying to tell me something this afternoon. I was having a hard time listening to him because I could see he needed to go the bathroom. After I told him several times to go to the the bathroom the look of disbelief covered his face and he looked down to see it running down his leg. This does not make for a happy mom. Emergency mind kicked in immediately and I panicked to get him to the bathroom before it hit the floor and I was frustrated. It took me a good two minutes before I realized I quickly needed to relabel. Although completely frustrating it wasn’t the crisis I had made it out to be. Steve was going to be home in just 2.5 hours and I was determined to tell him it was a good day when he got home, I wasn’t going to allow this event to change that.
I’m just a couple days into my two week goal of relabeling, but so far, so good. Here’s to hoping my toddler doesn’t have another accident tomorrow, it might be hard to relabel the same event several days in a row!