I’ve had one of those days. A steaming pile of crap sort of day. You know how it is.
We all have them. When the morning starts out with headache, an angry tailgater or the continuation of some tough circumstances the bad mood usually isn’t far behind. This has a ripple effect. We complain to others, tipping conversational topics toward what grinds and grates. And somehow that negative outlook sets our personal radar to scan for more difficulty on the horizon. Those days rarely improve.
Some of us hold out a little longer. We work hard at emphasizing the positive, which is handy because moods are downright contagious. Studies show an individual’s emotions can influence entire groups (families, playgrounds, workplaces). Positive contagion leads to more cooperation and less conflict. Negative contagion, well, you know how fun that can be. Apparently moods stick like that pink goo from The Cat in the Hat Comes Back.
No one is upbeat all the time. Besides, constantly perky people inspire loathing. But I keep learning the necessity of choosing the way we experience life’s ups and downs. You know how easy it is to focus on five minutes of difficulty rather than the smooth progress of the day. We do it all the time. A child’s angry outburst overshadows hours of sunny cooperation. A colleague’s late return from lunch somehow reflects badly on a week’s worth of work. Or a whole slew of minor problems start to look like a steaming pile.
I’ve discovered while reading Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom that we’re fighting a hard-wired tendency. Our brains pay more attention to the negative than the positive. That was probably helpful when saber-toothed tigers threatened our early ancestors. Not so helpful these days.
Fortunately I live on a small farm where the cows produce loads of actual crap. So I know what to expect from it. Whether mixed in to the garden beds or left in a heap, eventually it bursts into flower.
The same potential lies dormant in our worst days. No matter what, we’re still in charge of our own attitudes. Because “sh*t happens” is only one way to look at it. “Compost happens” too.
Dirt in hand photo courtesy of Tea Cupie
Flower in hand photo courtesy of Prismes