It was a morning ritual. Some might say it was a habit. As soon as I awoke each day, I put on the news. It would only take a few minutes for my stomach to be tied up in knots after hearing about the robberies, murders, fires, accidents, weather disasters, impending terrorist attacks, as well as the useless mindless dribble that emanated from the news. When was it that the news turned so negative? Sure, many news programs finish with a feel good story to put a smile on your face, in hopes that you forget all of the nega-news you just watched and tune in again the next day. But that’s basically the equivalent of using a bottle of Windex to clean a broken windshield.
In “The Happiness Advantage”, author Shawn Achor references a study by Timothy Wilson, professor of psychology at the University of Virginia, where he said, “The human brain receives 11 million bits of information per second from the environment, but can only process 40 bits per second.” I don’t know about you, but I’m blown away that there are 11 million bits of information to take in every second. I don’t even know what a “bit” is, but I do know that 11 million of anything is a lot! I’m even more blown away that we can process 40 bits of information in one second.(Maybe I should get a tee-shirt that says that? It may help me seem smart.)Incredibly enough, that wasn’t the most significant thing in the study. At least, it wasn’t to me. The real kicker is that we get to choose which 40 bits of information we process! It’s a choice!
I am a mathematician at heart, so I did a little calculation. I figured out that if I walk away from an event feeling badly about it or about myself, I still have 10,999,960 bits of information to choose from to feel a different way. But I’m lazy. So, the way I saw it was, since I had already extracted my 40 bits, I’d have to replay everything in my mind and choose a different 40 bits. And that seemed like a lot of work to me. But what if I could pick my original 40 bits from a better gene pool of information.(Now I’m on to something!)
Think back to great vacations you have taken, incredible places you have been, or amazing events you have you have been a part of. You know what I’m talking about; Disney World, a trip to the Fiji Islands, a cross country drive, spending time with old friends, the birth of a child. You would have to search hard through those 11 million bits coming at you every second, to find 40 bits of negativity. I mean, you’d have to have some serious issues, to come back from Hawaii remembering 40 bits of crap every second.
If you’re like me, you’re bursting with energy and excitement about you trip when you get home. You want to share how great you feel with everyone you see. You tell stories, share pictures, and encourage you family and friends to take the same trip. It’s an AWESOME feeling! Imagine how it would change your life, if you felt that way about every day.
It occurred to me that I could choose a different environment for myself every day. I had the power to remove the negative things in my day and replace them with positive ideas, information, thoughts, and people…and you can too!
It was easier than I though, I turned off the news. Completely. Local news, CNN, FOX News, MSNBC, news alerts on your phone, and even the WEATHER! I unplugged and my life changed. By the way, it didn’t change a little, it changed profoundly. Think of it this way. If you were an Olympic sprinter, and every time the starting gun went off, everyone else tripped, but you were out to a huge lead. Removing the negative from our lives is like getting a jump on every day and gives us a huge advantage. It’s almost impossible to explain, because it’s a feeling; like waking up in Hawaii on a beautiful morning, at just the right temperature, and the air smelling so good it almost tastes like bacon.
Do it for one week. Don’t try, actually do it. Turn off all of the news, including newspapers and online news. Don’t worry. You won’t be cut off from the world. Your water cooler friends will catch you up on the big stuff. While you spend your time in production mode, you will overhear their idle chatter about the happenings around the world. If you’re like me, you will find that to be all the updates you really need.
Here is a way to make it even more powerful. Replace your “news” time this week with a great book. I recommend beginning with “The Happiness Advantage” by Shawn Achor.
Leave a comment below, if you are willing to do this exercise for a week. Then come back again next week and update us on how it went. Have FUN and KEEP SMILING!
Have a greater day!
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