Formation Fridays: Focusing Our Thoughts
“From now on, brothers and sisters, if anything is excellent and if anything is admirable, focus your thoughts on these things: all that is true, all that is holy, all that is just, all that is pure, all that is lovely, and all that is worthy of praise.” Philippians 4:8
For my meditation this week, I wanted to leave us with a practice that we can incorporate into our everyday lives.
Recent studies of the human psyche have found that we actually have a bias hard-wired into our brains. This bias effects the way we view the world, the way we interact with others, and the way we process our lives happening around us. It is so insidious that without actively counter-acting this bias, we can skip further and further into patterns of behavior that will further alienate us from ourselves, from our friends and family, and from God.
The bias is negativity.
Our brains hold on to negative memories and experiences much more readily than positive or happy ones. For our ancestors, it made sense for them to remember and retain their negative experiences, since physical danger, potentially death, was right around every corner. Our brains have not stayed in step with the new realities we live in.
Most of our dangers we face are emotional and relational (this is not to downplay the severity of emotional hurts, they just cannot kill us the way a lion could), yet our brains retain these fight or flight responses.
So how do we counteract this negativity bias? How do we slowly shift our perspective when negative experiences stick like glue and positive experiences slip off us like grease on Teflon?
The solution is rather simple and elegant: look for positivity. Look for things that are good, that are beautiful. It might be a passage of Scripture or a poem, it may be a song, it may be a flower or a bird that catches your eye on a walk. When you notice it, savor it. Intentionally sit with it (listen, read, contemplate) the sacred object for at least 15 seconds (this is the amount of time that neuroscientists say it takes for a positive experience to “stick”). Say a quick prayer of thanks, and continue on.
It seems simple, but it takes intention to make it a habit. And I guarantee you will be amazed at the beauty and goodness that is all around you.