When things happen in our lives, we react by creating a story in our heads about those events. And everything takes off from there. Ask me how I know. I've had lots of practice.
It's not actually the events that make us suffer; it's our story about the events that produces our suffering. So, when we find ourselves unhappy about something that's happened, it's important to question our story to see if it's true.
There are four simple questions, as explained in a technique called "The Work" by author Byron Katie, that have helped a lot of people. The Work consists of asking yourself four questions about any painful thought or belief:
1. Is it true?
2. Can you absolutely know it's true?
3. How do you react when you believe that thought?
4. Who would you be without the thought?
Then you apply a "turnaround" statement, a sentence expressing the reverse of your thought. Find three genuine examples of how the turnaround is true in your life, and you're on your way to creating more peace in your life and loosening the hold your story has on you.
There's actually a scientific explanation for the fact that we gravitate toward the negative in lots of cases.
Velcro vs. Teflon
In the days when cavemen were trying to survive, they had to pay more attention to potential threats than to positive events to avoid dangers like being eaten by a saber-toothed tiger.
Psychologists and scientists who study the brain point to the amygdala - the part of our brain's alarm system that triggers the fight-or-flight response. Negativity simply makes a greater impression on the brain since we're hardwired to pay more attention to the negative than the positive.
Dr. Rick Hanson, psychologist and brain researcher, says our brains are "Velcro for negativity and Teflon for positivity." Our negative experiences stick to us like Velcro, while our positive experiences slide right off us like Teflon.
You may have heard it takes numerous positive experiences to overcome a single negative one. Now you know why. Unfortunately, this wiring can wreak havoc on our happiness.
Consider the story of Bruce, whose life was turned upside-down when his wife asked him for a divorce, as relayed by Marci Shimoff, author of "Happiness for No Reason." Bruce's wife had met someone else and wanted out of their 20-year marriage.