Embracing Change Through A Positive Outlook

When faced with a new and challenging situation, there are different ways to react. The default, very normal, human reaction might be to freak out and retract, as we are sometimes uncomfortable with unfamiliarity. Our brains are energy-efficient machines that require more energy expenditure when dealing with novel situations. Therefore, resisting change is a normal human reaction to conserve energy. 


Furthermore, we evolved from hunter gatherer homo species, who survived by moving from one environment into another with unknown risks and threats, unpredictable availability of food and drink, and unpredictable climate. Taking that into account, we can accept and allow ourselves to feel uncomfortable when facing change in life.


Now that discomfort with change is predicted, you might find it easier to embrace. Once you have embraced change, you are able to perceive it as a new adventure and a ride in a park that you will enjoy even when you are not able to predict the ups and downs of every turn. 


This might not be an easy process, considering the brain likes to think what it has thought over and over before, as thinking new thoughts requires new neural pathways and thus more energy. For example, if you have once tried okra as a young child and hated it, you probably believed growing up you still hated it. Years later, confronted with an opportunity to try it, your brain will bring up the thought that you hate okra. In this case, you should predict that you will feel discomfort with adopting a new mindset regarding this new food. 


You may not want to switch directly from “I hate okra” to “I like okra” but introduce to your mind something more nuanced, such as “I used to hate okra” or “I do not know whether I still hate okra”. In doing so, you allow your brain a neutral outlook in regards to a novel situation that you would otherwise think negatively of. It is also important to keep in mind that trying okra after years of thinking you hate it will be an uncomfortable experience and that embrace that discomfort, which will make it pass more easily.


In addition to embracing the discomfort around any change, one way to make it more positive experience for you is by bringing to memory a past experience where something new turned out to be wonderful. This might be a new person you met that turned into a close friend. This might also be a new book you knew nothing about and absolutely loved, or a new TV show, movie, or game. If none of this applies, think of one of your favorite restaurants or places to visit or snack and try to remember the first time you tried it. By bringing to mind the rewarding memory of a positive experience after experiencing a novelty, you are conditioning your brain to the reality that change and novelty could bring about a positive result after all.