Why is it easier to be anxious and depressed rather than happy and relaxed?

It appears that we can blame it on evolution!


Why is it so difficult to stop our minds drifting to unpleasant and anxiety-provoking topics? Often this happens in the middle of the night, especially to insomniacs who often find that their thoughts prevent them from getting back to sleep.

Well, evolutionary psychologists put it down to the way in which our brains are wired, says Ronald Siegel in his article entitled “West meets East” in the September/October edition of Psychotherapy Networker (in which he discussed the link between psychotherapy and Eastern spiritual practices, such as mindfulness).

The arguement goes that the human beings of today have survived through natural selection only because, through thousands of years, they are the ones who were constantly on the lookout for danger and needed to be extremely adept at anticipating possible risks and life-threatening situations. So anxiety and fear kept you alive whilst happiness and complacency got you killed.

So, although the world has changed a great deal since the days of our cavemen ancestors, our physiology and the wiring of our brains have remained more or less the same, causing us to react to (usually) benign life events, such as traffic snarl-ups and work pressure, asif they were of the magnitude of a tiger hiding in the shadows, waiting to pounce.

So if we are wired for anxiety and stress, what can be done about it?

First it is necessary to develop an awareness of the problem. Then with the help of cognitive-behavioural techniques (CBT), relaxation training and mindfulness techniques it is possible to gain control of one’s thoughts and to calm down the mind. It is important to take on board that one’s thoughts are merely a product of one’s mind and are not necessarily accurate. It is quite possible to substitute more balanced thoughts for thoughts that lead to anxiety, stress and depression. This will help to calm the mind, paving the way for a more measured, focused and appreciative approach to life, including one’s relationships.

And this can only lead to an inhanced feeling of happiness and contentment!

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