As 2016 came to a close, you might have noticed that your social media feeds were filled with people posting almost exclusively about the negative aspects of the year.
When you see negative messages like that, it's easy to start seeing everything through that lens. In fact, it's not just easy--it's instinctual. Our brains gravitate toward the negative as a safety mechanism; it's what has helped us avoid danger for ages.
In modern times, however, it can be a significant barrier to happiness. Rick Hanson, psychologist and author of Hardwiring Happiness, says, "The brain is like Velcro for negative experiences but Teflon for positive ones."
In short, if we're left to our own devices, we'll be more likely to dwell on the negative. If you want to make 2017 the best year of your life, you have to focus on the positive.
Here are three easy ways to do just that:
1. See the silver lining.
In the midst of a challenge or negative experience, it may be hard to see the silver lining, but do yourself a favor and try to anyway. Take a moment, even in the worst of times, to acknowledge that something positive can come from the situation.
If your business fails, for example, figure out what valuable lessons you can learn from that failure. What mistakes did you make? The silver lining here is that you probably won't make them again.
When you start to honor the positive things even in moments of sadness or despair, you'll be better equipped to do it again in the future.
2. Write it down.
Did you know that the amygdala uses approximately two-thirds of its neurons to detect negative experiences? As Ray Williams explains, that means that once the brain starts looking for bad news, it ends up stored into long-term memory fairly quickly.
On the other hand, we have to think about positive experiences for more than 12 seconds to store those as long-term memories.
So how do we make sure to remember the good moments? Take a moment to write them down. Dwell on the silver linings and review them later when you need a reminder that life isn't only comprised of negative moments.
3. Look for the opportunities.
Challenges provide a canvas for building resilience. When you learn to rely on yourself and develop a sense of self-control, you're more likely to turn those obstacles into opportunities for growth. By seeing them as positives instead of negatives, you'll be less likely to get discouraged when you face such challenges in the future.
There's no telling what 2017 has in store for us yet, but following these three suggestions will help you look at life through a different, positive lens. It will take some practice, but you'll soon see that you're setting yourself up for your best year yet.