Life is a series of ups and downs, successes and failures, heart throbs and heart breaks & hits and misses. We are elated when we are joyful and depressed when we are sad. But somehow, it is those times that we are down that we tend to remember the most. When we are down, we seem to find more and more problems around us. Beyond a point, this downward mood swing becomes unbearable. Why is that so? Why is it easy to become happy but very difficult to come out of depression? Why do we remember the bad things more instead of counting our blessings?
Don’t worry, you are not to blame. The monkey in your head is the culprit. Meet Mr Monkey, the little guy who helps govern your brain. You would’ve encountered him in your life – remember those animal instincts you had? It wasn’t you, it was this monkey saving your ass back then. You were just a dumb human. One of my favorite bloggers says that a relative of this monkey is the one behind procrastination as well, but that’s another post.
This monkey has a heightened sensitivity towards unpleasant stuff. And when you are a highly sensitive person, this reaction by this monkey to negative stimuli is even higher. This is called the “negative bias” of the brain. Monkey was an ancestor of ours. As we evolved, this monkey’s survival depended upon avoiding danger. Hence the brain is wired up in such a way that it responds to negative stimuli better than positive ones. So what can we do about this? We cannot change the way we are wired. How the heck are we going to control an invisible monkey? At the same time we do not want to end up in a depressed state all the time as well.
Now that you have agreed that the monkey is to blame, how do you make this information to your advantage? Monkeys love fruits. Kick these monkeys in their asses and point them towards the low hanging fruits in the tree. They will go and get it. The key to overcoming the negative bias is by grabbing the low hanging fruits that come your way. It is by getting those small wins in your day today life. People say that success is a habit. What they actually mean is that success is a series of small wins. A negative bias towards life makes us focus on the bad stuff more than the good ones. The only way out of it is to grab those small wins.
Exercised today? You became a tad more healthy. A small win right there. Solved a puzzle? You worked your brain muscles. Another small win right there. Completed a trivial task that was pending for a long time? A small win, yet a much needed one. Wrote a blog? You took time out of your schedule to indulge on your hobbies. This blog post for me is a small win too. The thing about these small wins is that they are easy to come by. So once the monkey grabs these low hanging fruits, dopamine gets secreted in your brain. It spurs you ahead, to take on the more difficult tasks of the day. The monkey can climb higher and higher and grab the harder fruits. Wins are addictive, just like depressing stuff are addictive as well, but in a more positive way. One win leads you to another. Success begets success. Your friends start rooting for you. Your family starts becoming supportive. The entire world conspires to make your dream come true. And that’s how you win. May the force be with you.