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Creating (Un)Favorable Conditions

It can be hard, sometimes, to conceive of how we might foster more happiness, hope, gratitude, or other positive emotions. But, perhaps because of the negativity bias mentioned on Day 2, it is far easier for most people to imagine how we might stoke negative emotions. Strangely, it’s even fun! Today’s exercise will help you create favorable conditions by first imagining unfavorable ones.

Today’s exercise:

  1. Spend 5 minutes writing about how you could become spectacularly ungrateful. If you wanted to be a champion of ingratitude, how would you accomplish that?

For example, you might complain relentlessly, roll your eyes a lot, point out flaws and deficiencies, dispense with niceties like “thank you” and “please,” lose your sense of humor, take everything personally, inflate you own importance and minimize everyone else’s, grab what you wanted, and overschedule yourself, so as to always be busy and in a rush. “Me,” “myself,” and “I” could become your three favorite words and best friends!

  1. Spend 5 minutes writing about how you could become spectacularly hopeless. If you wanted to be a diva of despair, how would you accomplish that?

For example, you could dwell on the negative, engage in “catastrophic” and all-or-nothing thinking, predict doom, scare yourself, stay stuck in inaction, walk around with a hunched and defeated posture, wail or moan, paint yourself as a victim, refuse to get out of bed, solicit comfort, hope, and encouragement - and then argue with anyone who offered them. Eeyore would sound like an optimist, compared to you!

  1. Now, spend 5 minutes writing out any insights or take-aways from the above two writing sessions. Of that list, choose one thing to focus on and put into action today.

For example, based on the two lists I generated, I can see that humility and thinking of others are good bulwarks against ingratitude and despair. Negative language, ungraciousness towards others, and fixed judgements, on the other hand, can be seen as “early warning signs” for entitlement and hopelessness.

The item that jumped out at me, personally, from my stream-of-consciousness lists was: “overschedule yourself, so as to always be busy and in a rush.” I will therefore choose to focus on slowing down and giving 10% more time to positive people, ideas, and gestures – savor them, give thanks for and to them, and spend increasing mental attention on them.

"We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude."

Cynthia Ozick

Wishing you joy in this moment and in the anticipation of a good future,

Rabbi Debra


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