By Loretta Breuning
Social comparisons upset us, yet our minds keep going there. That’s because our brains are inherited from ancestors who had to make social comparisons to survive. When you recognize your own impulse to compare, you’re less hooked by the thought that others are judging you. Each time you catch yourself making a social comparison, you can choose to focus elsewhere.
2. Avoid the news.
The constant blast of negativity is draining. You may be surrounded by media, but you don’t have to give it access to your brain. Learn to notice when you’re getting sucked in, and shift your focus to your own goals instead.
3. Prepare a positive topic.
Be ready to talk about something you feel good about. Find a relatable topic instead of showing off. You don’t have to wait around for a positive topic to come up because you can take the risk of bringing one up yourself.
4. Find the good in others.
Some of the people in your holiday rounds will get on your nerves. Some of them will shoot down your positivity. If you focus on their flaws, you will miss out on the good. You have the power to find the good in interactions that might have annoyed you.
5. Notice your anger.
Your inner mammal thinks anger is positive! Anger is the impulse to fight for the one-up position instead of accepting the one-down position. In the animal world, anger is self-limiting because it can get you killed. We humans learn to mask and muzzle it, which is why we can also marinate in it. We bond around shared anger the way our ancestors allied against common threats. This feels good in the short run, but it wastes your energy in the long run. Instead, you can learn to put yourself up in ways that don’t put others down.
It’s easy to lose sight of your goals when you overindulge. “I’ve already blown it so I may as well have more,” you may think. Hating yourself in the morning only intensifies the urge to indulge. You can escape this loop by habitually re-focusing on your goals. There’s joy in the act of choosing goals, and joy in each step you take toward them. You have the power to enjoy things that are good for you.
7. Read Meet Your Happy Chemicals
and learn to stimulate more dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin and endorphin.
8. Read Beyond Cynical: Transcend Your Mammalian Negativity
and build realistic expectations that you enjoy meeting.
9. Read I, Mammal: Why Your Brain Links Status and Happiness
and make peace with your inner mammal.
10. Choose to stay positive.
Choosing means investing effort in new neural pathways. Old pathways light up effortlessly. Negativity is effortless. Positivity takes work, but the effort is rewarded in the long run. Each time you go positive, you build pathways that make it easier.