In 2023, what do you seek to accomplish? Would you like to increase the positive vibes in your life? Here’s a simple way: perform three acts of goodness a day. They don’t have to be the traditional help-the-old-lady across-the-street kind of activities. You could pick up a piece of litter. You could return the change to the clerk who overpaid you. You could compliment someone who appears to be in need of a compliment.
Three is a decent target, it’s attainable: not overdoing it, and not underdoing it. In choosing to do three, however, often you’ll find yourself doing more.
Rewire Your Brain
Studies suggest that your brain is wired to focus on negative input, i.e. a “negativity bias.” It’s your built-in survival mechanism to notice danger so that you can protect yourself. This hypersensitivity to what’s wrong in your environment, however, can wreak havoc on your state of mind, your motivation, and your energy.
Deliberately choosing to focus on positive action can literally shift how you relate to the world in ways that are more uplifting, more inspiring, and more positive. For example, focusing on world hunger can often leave you feeling helpless, overwhelmed, and constricted. Alternately, focusing on the noble efforts being made to alleviate hunger can leave you inspired, open-hearted, and motivated to action. In short, you are reprogramming negativity bias, and it works!
As you initiate three acts, you start feeling better about yourself, and perhaps surprisingly, better about the world in general. You know the old axiom, if you smile at somebody they tend to smile back at you. If you perform three good acts daily, you tend to be immersed in a world of people who perform good acts. You begin to notice them more often.
A Discernable, Current Benefit
I’m not saying to do this because it’s some kind of pay-it-forward scheme where, hopefully, one day everyone is engaged in wonderful acts for one another. That seems too idealistic to consider.
In your own life, right now, however, right here, three acts a day does wonderful things for your psyche. It confirms the goodness that is inherent within you. It prompts you to look forward to performing the next act and the next and the next.
What you focus on expands. You’ve probably heard this before and research backs this up. Where you place your attention is a conscious choice and intentionally focusing on positivity helps you cultivate a mindset that supports taking positive action. Think about it… once you start thinking about that new car you want, you’ll often start seeing that car everywhere! In the same way, when focusing on goodness, you begin to see goodness everywhere.
Everything to Gain
You primarily experience the world emotionally. You see, taste, touch, or hear something and your emotions are triggered, whether positive, negative or neutral.
“Positive emotions broaden [our] scope of attention, cognition, and action, and build physical, intellectual, and social resources,” says Barbara Fredrickson, a leading happiness researcher at the University of North Carolina
By focusing on goodness, thereby generating good-feeling emotions, we are intentionally creating a positive emotional environment. Cultivating this positive emotional state has ripple effects in every area of our lives. Buying coffee for the stranger behind you makes you feel good; then you take this positive emotional state into your next activity.
Repetitive positivity filters into your being, down to the cellular level and helps to cultivate a positive emotional state. We wouldn’t be surprised if your step becomes a little lighter, your smile a little brighter, and your disposition more engaging.
Building a Skill
Learning to focus your attention on where it serves you best requires intentional practice. You are building the skill of deliberately creating the mindset required for a joyful life. It’s training your attention on goodness so that positivity becomes your default setting.
Sustaining that intention to focus on goodness in action is key. If you want to live a happier life, we invite you to practice this kind of consistent mental and emotional discipline to continually overcome your brain’s negative bias.