Gratitude practice counteracts your natural negativity bias

Here’s yet another post on the internet about how you should have a gratitude practice and that it “really works.” I’ve made my family say 3 things they’re grateful for at dinner (like Thanksgiving but every day) for a couple years now, but I’d like to incorporate a deeper gratitude practice into my life. Because am I ever aware of my own negativity bias. 

As I’ve learned from the huge pile of books I’ve read about various topics in the realm of psychology and/or self-help, we humans have a brain hard-wired to focus on negative things. It’s an evolutionary thing- it’s helped us as a species to pay attention to all the things that would cause us harm (like I don’t know… saber-toothed tigers) but, in the modern world where we’re not constantly in danger of being eaten, it’s not something that necessarily serves us. It’s negativity bias that makes us ignore the 9/10 positive comments we get on our social media post and ruminate over the one troll. It’s negativity bias that causes us to remember, sometimes at 3am, that dumb thing we said like 7 years ago. It’s negativity bias that makes it really hard to overcome bad first impressions. It’s negativity bias that makes us constantly think about all the bad things that could happen and then we get busy trying to prevent #allthethings and we completely lose sight of the present moment. 

So maybe, for a second, don’t think about all the merchandise that comes with gratitude practices and think about this: Making a daily habit of listing things that are positive in your life might actually help you build new neural pathways that will cause you to pay more attention to things that are positive- which can counteract your natural, evolutionary, hardwired negativity bias. And there’s lots of research that says people who do this (people who “practice gratitude”) are happier in general. Here, let me google that for you. 

Here’s where the typical blogger is going to introduce a 30-day challenge or something and offer to send you a guide in exchange for access to your email address for all of time. I feel like that makes it into a Big Deal (it is a big deal… but not a big deal time commitment…). Try making a list of all the things you’re grateful for, and then try making a list of 3-5 things for the next couple of days and see if something changes. Pay attention to what you pay attention to. I’ve found that I taste my food more, enjoy my conversations more, notice things like particularly pretty trees or clouds… and reframe things like the messy kitchen (I have a kitchen with food to clean up…). Happy gratituding 🙂

(have I mentioned I need a graphic artist?)


If you want to support autistic people, don’t use electric shock on them

File this under “things I shouldn’t have to say.”

I was happy to see this article from a mainstream news source shedding light on the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center which has been using “graduated electronic decelerators” (GEDs) on their students since the 1970’s. The FDA banned their usage last year. Already nauseating that it took that long- but the thing is, it didn’t stop. The center is using COVID as an excuse to keep on with business as usual and the shocks are still happening.

So here’s my thing… That center is a torture chamber and should be closed immediately for behaving like a 1970’s mental institution, but what I’m missing is the big position statement from ABA condemning them and their practices because OMG why would you risk being associated with something so medievally behind the times?

Words matter- and it’s important that the foundations and companies you support stand up for human rights, right? Remember when every company you had an email subscription to sent you a message affirming that Black Lives Matter? Speech pathologists got really angry at the American Speech and Hearing Association’s initial statement about racism since it wasn’t strong enough- we spoke up and they changed it.

The NBC article above does not mention ABA, but the use of corporal punishment to control behavior is absolutely something that is associated with ABA- and ABA’s history includes the use of electric shock to “control” behavior. I would, again, expect to see an official ABA statement is about how electric shock is torture… how it’s unethical… how it should never be used… how any institution condoning its use is doing so without the blessing of a national association… I’m not seeing that. Not only am I not seeing that, I AM seeing a “symposium” presentation slated for May 30th, 2021 at the Association for Behavior Analysis International Convention titled “Challenging the FDA Ban on Electrical Stimulation Devices” with speakers from the Judge Rotenberg Center.

The use of electric shock by a person in power is NEVER okay under any circumstances. ABA’s public silence about (and quiet inside support of) electric shock is indicative of a core belief- that when it comes to ethical treatment, different rules apply to autistic individuals. The summary of this presentation starts by saying “Aversive conditioning devices have been utilized for treatment refractory self-injury, aggression, and other problem behaviors for over 50 years” like that’s a defense of their continued use. An industry that makes exceptions for physical abuse of CERTAIN PEOPLE is one that needs to be stopped. Now.

There is a social media campaign going on right now that I encourage you to participate in. Take a picture of yourself with a sign  that says “Judge Rotenberg Center #StopTheShocks !” and make sure you hashtag it #stoptheshocks and also #judgerotenbergcenter 

And PLEASE let me know if there are other ways I can help amplify the message here- this is absolutely a human rights issue.