Overcoming Our Negativity Bias
This past Sunday we read one of my favorite scripture texts: “Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8).
While some may view “thinking about these things” as something good Christians should do, it is actually something everyone should do if they want to be happier in life.
Dr. Martin Seligman, a researcher in human flourishing, did an experiment related to this. For one week he had a group write down three good things that happened each day and why people thought they happened. In a one-month follow up, he found the participants were happier and less depressed than they had been before. Surprisingly, the effect remained after a six months!
The “three good things” (or three blessings) approach is now taught as a way to help people overcome negativity and focus on the positive, making them much happier in life. The Apostle Paul taught this same thing nearly two thousand years ago. The only difference is that he didn’t cap it at three!
Beginning this week, make the practice of Philippians 4:8 a part of your routine. Before you go to bed or when you’re sitting around the dinner table with the family, ask yourself and one another about three good things that happened and why you think each good thing happened. This simple approach can make us happier, more positive people!