How channelling Sir David Attenborough can improve your day
Drama, Danger and Disappointment!
Our negatively biased self talk can mean our life is narrated with much drama, danger and disappointment. It can cloud our day and mean we miss or overlook and miss the opportunity to capitalise on the good stuff. It can undermine our ability to engage with and demonstrate our best performances on tasks. It can lead to poorer experiences in relationships.
I could go on about the negativity bias and challenges of negative self-talk, but I'm sure your self-talk is chiming in with commentary that is in agreement with these introductory points. So, I'll move onto a useful metaphor and some simple steps we can take to strike more balance.
Here's a news update
I see our self-talk much like an evening newsreader jumping from one negative story to another. There are constant alerts, stories about potential threats to our safety - our health, our financial security, our psychological wellbeing, our family and children. The stories strike fear in our hearts which chronically activates our stress response.
This tendency creates what scientists call 'allostatic load' - wear and tear on our body and mind. Just like wear and tear on your car leads to problems, allostatic load leads to a bunch of health issues, including significant decrements in cognitive and physical functioning, a weakened immune system, more rapid ageing, a higher risk of the heart disease, and more. Check out the video link for more information on stress and the mind-body connection.
Wow - now who's telling a negative news story, right?
Can you balance out this post with a more positive angle that brings us some hope we're not all doomed?
Our newsreader self-talk will, on occasion, provide a positive news story about what is going well. Unfortunately, our brains are wired to pay less attention to these anyway (for more, keep exploring the negativity bias). So on we go to the next disaster, speculation, anxiety and worry. It doesn't have to be this way though. I believe we can train ourselves to treat our newsreader self-talk like we should treat all media – it’s a story, an angle, a lens which is often biased - and not fact. I'll provide a brief outline of the steps I recommend you take below.
Back to our metaphor...
I think life needs to be told more like a documentary. Indeed, there is a documentary with that very title that is narrated by none other than Sir David Attenborough. Wasn't he brilliant? It's my personal opinion that Sir David Attenborough should narrate everyone’s life. So, as well as training ourselves to treat our newsreader self-talk differently, we can introduce Sir David Attenborough to the news desk. We can choose to bring his curious narrative style and inquisitive exploration into the way we navigate through the stories and episodes our life experiences. This is particularly important if your newsreader self-talk is really doom and gloom.
I have one more important step before you go. To which, your Sir David Attenborough self-talk can chime in with the best wispy and warm british accent you can muster, "What could it be? What final step could we hope to unlock in this quest for a balanced narrative self?"
Well, we can create the habit of summarising the positive and valuable stories as a sort of 'news recap' for the end of our day. That means, reflecting on the day we've experienced when on our way home, after dinner, or before bed. Deliberately sift through all the stories and pick out experiences, tasks, and interactions that brought value and positivity into your day. Perhaps you learned something during a task, or from a colleague. Maybe the sunset was a particular shade of pink you found pleasant as you walked from the tram stop to your home. Whatever your experiences, counteracting our negativity bias with a positive news recap will help you be grateful for and savour the positive aspects of your day. Science shows that practising gratitude and savouring have positive effects on your health and wellbeing.
So let's recap this 3-part strategy so you can be engaged by your life documentary and turn your experiences into something you truly enjoy watching and narrating, rather than something that is overwhelmingly fuelling stress and fear.
Treat the newsreader as one view - one angle of a number that you could take to provide commentary on current events. In so doing, you will defuse from the negative story being fact. You can then better disentangle helpful elements of the story from the not-so-helpful. Then...
Invite Sir David Attenborough to the news desk. Use his voice as the self-talk in your head. Bring his exploratory style to telling your story - a new angle filled with curiosity, wonder, and an appreciation of the real and beautiful things in life.
Practice savouring and bringing some gratitude for the value, positivity, and progress you made - like a recap of the best bits of your day.
From the news desk, this is Sir David Attenborough's voice channelled through Dr Adrian Medhurst wishing us all well with the above 3-step process.