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Goodbye, Negative Nancy: My Anti-Resolution For the Year

New year, new resolutions. In previous years, my aims were all about hitting swimsuit targets or making a certain amount of money. This year, I'm taking a different tack with my health-related goals. This year, I want to beat the interpreter.

If your reaction to this statement was something along the lines of "uh . . . what?" then you're not alone. Bear with me: left-brain interpretation is responsible for a specific kind of negative thinking, which we can agree is pretty darn lame: negative thinking can interfere with weight loss or even cause weight gain — not to mention just make life miserable. Luckily, the modern age abounds in specific tips for giving negativity the boot, but I think one of the best techniques at all is to recognize your cognitive bias and stop it in its tracks.

OK, time for a few definitions. Cognitive bias is a perceptual quirk that tweaks reality in favor of a more palatable "truth." We tend to be swayed by the most recently available fact, the first piece of information, or the fact that aligns most closely with our emotions, clouding our judgment. This helps us make sense of the world — aligning new information to old structures of thinking — but it tends to work against us.

That's mainly due to the left-brain interpreter, which is responsible for reconciling past and present. The interpreter is actually there to make us feel better, warping new facts to fit with our perceptions in a way that suits us. If I can't break a habit, for instance, the interpreter will tell me it's because of a past trauma or is otherwise beyond my control. If I snap at my kids, I tell myself they deserved it and I couldn't have done better. If I get into a fight with a friend, I explain it away with her being a self-centered you-know-what. Superficially, that makes me feel better and inflates my ego.

In the long run, though, this thinking majorly works against us, especially since believing we "can't" break a habit, lose weight, or nurture a relationship typically means you won't. I know I'm guilty of this repeatedly: I run into a failure, my left brain justifies the failure, and I allow myself to believe the failure is permanent. Boom. Life sadness achieved.

Well, no more! From now on, when I experience unpleasant information, I am going to consciously strive to put it in its place. Work failure? Temporary. Haven't hit my fitness goal yet? Not proof I won't. Snapped at my kids? They didn't deserve it, and I can do better next time. I'm not going to allow these temporary negative thoughts to worm into my mind and become permanent, simply because it makes me feel better in the moment.

The nondenominational spiritual teacher Peace Pilgrim is famed for saying, "If you knew how powerful your thoughts are, you would never think a negative thought." While saintly Peace is probably better suited to keeping this resolution than I, the root wisdom is applicable to every life. If we allow our thoughts to rest a while, we eventually act on them . . . even if the only action we're taking is nursing an ever-deeper grudge or resentment.

This year, I want to focus on just one thing: beating the interpreter. Yes, many other paths to happiness exist, and I look forward to taking them all throughout my life, but this one is highest on my list for 2018. Oh, and also, I want to look good in a swimsuit and make more money — and I totally can.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / THEM TOO
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