How to heal our built-in negativity bias...


Every night, my 10-year-old daughter Olivia and I lie in bed and talk. Sometimes it’s processing the day, sometimes it’s philosophical, and it’s always lifting the veil of the culture to reveal truths behind the illusion. I cherish our chats and I always learn as much from them as she does.

A couple nights ago, Olivia was feeling down. As I listened, I noticed that she was struggling with one of the things about humanness that I grapple with—our built-in negativity bias, or tendency to focus on the negative. While this has served us well in evolution and survival, our modern schedules and minds are so bloated that over-thinking gives us more negativity to focus on.

If you wonder why Americans have one of the lowest happiness quotients in the world, this is a big part of it.

After I gave her empathy and helped Olivia see that her feelings were normal in our culture, I asked if she wanted to know the remedy that helps me with this. “Yes!”

We talked about having a Gratitude Practice and I invited her to do a Gratitude Challenge with me. She could choose however many days we would share three gratitudes in the morning and three at night during our time together. She was eager to get started.

At her request, I went first. Then, she readily expressed appreciation for three things she could sense and feel strongly in that moment. Afterward, the subject changed for a few minutes. During a pause, I asked how she was feeling now. “I think you already know, Mama. This really works!

Last night, as we lay in bed together, we realized that we’d forgotten our morning gratitudes. Oops! No matter, Olivia suggested we share six to make up for the morning. Neither of us could stop after only six. There are so many things to be grateful for!

Olivia asked why this practice works so well. My typical response to questions like this is, “What’s your idea about it?” so that she has room to explore her thoughts before hearing mine. Her idea: “I think it’s because I was focusing on good things.” Yes!

I heard myself reply, “I think that for most of us, happiness is 90% perspective and 10% circumstance.” She understood right away and totally got it.

How about you? What are you focusing on? How might your perspective need a slight or significant adjustment to enjoy life more? Would you like to join Olivia and me in our 28-day Gratitude Challenge? If so, just wake up and sense three things you feel grateful for and before bed, do the same. And then, watch for shifts! I’d love to hear how it goes for you.

With love,

P.S. I have a Q for you: Olivia is a fantastic writer, and she and I often talk about writing a book together. We’ve been waiting for clarity on the subject. A nano-second after I thought it, Olivia exclaimed, “Mama! This is what we need to write our book about! People need to know this, especially kids!”

What do you think? Is this a good idea for a children’s book? Have you read anything like that for kids? If so, was it complete or was there something that was missing? I’d love to hear any and all thoughts you have on this!

P.P.S. Olivia has a new YouTube channel where she talks about being a vegan kid. Check it out and I hope you’ll subscribe and share if you like it! If you have any questions you’d like her to answer, just post your Q in the comments of one of her videos!


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