A Meditation on Feeling Connected in Nature


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How Our Brains Tend Toward the Negative



In Podcast Two I talked a little about how our brains evolved, and that one of the brain’s basic needs is for connection. Maybe it was interesting to notice how connections happen throughout the day in small and big ways. Even though they might not always be the kind of connection we were hoping for, connection is a basic need. Even a little connection matters.


We’re priming the pump to notice moments of connection that can easily go unnoticed. Today I’ll talk about how we tend to focus more on the negative than the positive. Let’s get some clues about why taking in the good isn’t straightforward like we might think. It is something you’ll want to learn.

Our brain registers messages and experiences of danger and remembers them more quickly and easily than ordinary things. It’s nature’s way to help us stay away form harm. Keeping ourselves safe around fire was something we all needed to learn. Learning not to put our hand on the hot oven got imprinted with neon lights so we learned it fast.

On the other hand enjoying the feeling of the breeze on our skin wasn’t vital to survive. Our brains tend to focus more on the negative. It’s a great built in mechanism that protects us and prevents unnecessary bigger troubles like not walking out into traffic. At some point we learned how to safely cross the street. Imagine if we had to relearn that everyday. We wouldn’t get much done.

One of the brain’s automatic set points is to be on the lookout for what might go wrong. Nowadays danger isn’t a wild tiger looking for its evening meal like it was for our ancestors. It can be as simple as a harsh tone in someone’s voice. It is also tricky.

We can become so conditioned to look out for danger that we miss the beauty of the moment, the colors of the sunset, the warmth of a friend’s concern, the sounds of a flock of birds. We may miss the many moments of the good things in life that are also all around us.

For many of us our nervous system is often in a state of mild to moderate stress. Maybe we have an upsetting interaction with someone we care about, or we lock ourselves out of our car. Our brains go on red alert as if there was a tiger ready to have us for dinner.

The red alert alarm easily overrides our ability to make wise choices, think clearly and keep some perspective. Even though noticing the good times in life seems like an obvious choice we’d make, instead we get caught up in scanning for danger.

A rule of thumb is to bring in anywhere from 3 – 5 times as much of the good as of the negative, and train our brain to seek out those things that result in more resilience, satisfaction and happiness. Like the nice breeze that’s blowing, or the simple pleasure of clean clothes.

Today I talked about how much our attention goes into concern about danger. Consider how this adds up over time.

Thanks for joining me.