Keeping it in the room: health, happiness and living in Berlin
I’ve made a decision. It’s a big decision, and not one which I’ve taken lightly. My decision is that I’m going to pay attention and make a mental note of people being nice.
This may sound a bit weird, but it seems like we only remember bad stuff. We remember when someone pushed in front of a queue; or didn’t stop at a red traffic light.
My guess is remembering bad stuff is an evolutionary thing: all living things want to survive, and by remembering bad stuff, we learn how to deal with that situation so we can live to tell the tale. In years gone by, we would have made a tasty lunch for lions in Africa. So, in evolutionary terms, it makes sense that we remember the lions chasing us, and remember what to do next time. We didn’t need to remember the times the lion had already eaten and ignored us.
I remember reading research which said that it takes seven good things to happen to negate one bad thing. But most of the time, these days, remembering bad stuff only makes us angry or upset. So why not try to remember the good stuff instead?
A couple of days ago, a Brakes catering truck driver was about to turn into a side road, but then changed his mind. I was cycling past, so he had to brake before he could drive straight on. But rather than being cross with me for being in his way, he smiled and waved to both apologise and to acknowledge he’d seen me.
I nodded a thanks back, and we both went on our merry way. Other people might have yelled abuse at him for not paying enough attention, but I realised that achieves nothing. Instead, we both went away happy.
So I’ve decided: I’m not going to get cross any more when out and about. Having a row with someone achieves nothing – they’ll get defensive, and unless you’re a police officer in uniform with a fixed penalty notice book to hand, you’re unlikely to change their ways. But if I see someone driving along at night without their lights on, or with broken brake lights, I’ll tell them. It’s worth it just so they say thanks and smile.