Most of us in the West are very lucky. We live very fortunate lives. We only need to compare ouselves to the most poor, infirmed, and despondant throughout the world to see this is so.
When you make a list of all the “good things” in your life and compare it to a list of all the horribly “bad things” that have never touched your life at all, you’re well on your way to a more optimistic view of life!
The problem with this is that few of us ever take the time to consider our “blessings” as we scurry about in our day-to-day lives. Immediate pressures, activities, and problems preoccupy most of our mental efforts and thoughts. We rarely take time to examine our lives, and when we do our human psychology has a strong tendency to overlook its positives…
One of the most basic human (and animal) characteristics psychologists have identified is called “the adaption effect.”
The adaption effect, simply stated, is the very natural tendency of all organisms to become quite used to their situation — and, subsequently, to experience it as normal and expected. In everyday terms, we humans become used to our regular circumstances — and thus take them for granted!
We move into a new home. We’re thrilled and excited! But after a number of months, we become adapted to it — and after a year or two we hardly notice the change at all. The thrill and excitement have dissipated. Our home is now an ordinarily and unnoticed part of our routine life. We’ve come to take it for granted.
In other words, once we become adapted to something, we no longer notice all the wonderful aspects of the situation that entrhralled us about it in the first place!
But here’s the worst part: once we become adapted to something there is another strong human tendency to start focusing on it’s lacks and shortcomings. Now we start noticing more of the defects in the home..
The bedrooms are too small. The kitchen’s too big. The windows don’t look right. The garage should have been on the far side. Etecetera…
In a way, this psychological tendency defies logic. You would suppose that it would be far more natural to notice what’s there, rather than what’s absent. But Human Nature is such! The more used to a circumstance we become, the more our attention turns to what’s wrong with it. We focus more on what’s not there — rather than what’s there! Especially where our “blessings” in life are concerned.
It’s a vicious cycle. At first we feel thrilled and blessed — then we start to adapt, but remain somewhat pleased — later, as we completely adapt, we take the situation for granted with little notice or thought — and finally dissatisfaction creeps in, as our attention begins to focus more on the lacks and shortcomings the situation affords.
This is a quite human, psychological cycle. But it represents one of the major barriers in becoming a more optimistic, positive-thinking person.
Here, then, is where a thoughtful “blessings list” comes in…