Tuning Reception To Change Perception
When I was a kid and we took long family vacations, our in-car musical entertainment options were: 1.The radio 2. Humming until your sister told your mom to tell you to cut it out. Some of my earliest memories of summer trips were in cars without even air conditioning. You know that baking swelter you suffer through for that first few minutes when you get into a hot car in July? Well, that’s how it felt all the time.We had vinyl seats and if you were wearing shorts and plopped down without thinking to throw a towel down first, you risked becoming a human patty melt.
The most frustrating thing about listening to the radio in a moving car was the changing reception. Right in the middle of Elton John warbling a falsetto, “Rocket ma-aa-AAA—a-a-an,” suddenly Tammy Wynette’s plea to “Stand by your (Rocket) Man” would intrude from the country station that shared the same frequency in the county into which we were driving. We’d furiously futz around with the dial and try to get Elton back but soon Rocket Man was beyond mission control and we were now stuck with the Oak Ridge Boys doing “Oom-pah-pahs” on Big Country 99.5.
When that happened, it changed more than the song on the radio. Disappointed that I couldn’t hear my favorite artist singing one of my favorite songs, suddenly the trip felt longer and the car hotter and more cramped. So much depended on the reception.
Your perceptions operate in much the same way. You perceive what you receive. Perception is reality, so the saying goes. But what creates healthy perceptions and is it possible to tune them to receive a better playlist?
Yes! Because your brain is what is sometimes referred to as a “parallel processer” it takes in way more information than it can be consciously aware of. What rises to the level of conscious awareness is determined by what has novelty (and often that is what goes wrong) and what has relevance or meaning. In other words, what you’re tuned to receive. It’s no surprise that the reception angle of a satellite dish or antenna is described as its “attitude.”
If your reception attitude is tuned to a negative frequency, you receive a feed of all that is wrong, ugly and stressful in the world and in the people around you. After all, all of those things do exist and to deny it isn’t optimism, it’s delusion. But so much more also exists that can negate stress and cultivate hope and joy.
Here are five simple ways to fine tune your reception starting now:
Express Gratitude. Nothing has more impact on your focus and emotional outlook than gratitude for one simple reason, it forces you to acknowledge the calm flow of the many mundane things that are actually working instead of reacting to each frustration and failure that may be the exception to the rule but arrives with red flashing lights in your consciousness.
Make Connections. You are by nature a social being, but we live in a world of conveniences that minimize human contact. We bank without tellers, buy food at self-checkouts, ask directions from our phones that we hold in front of us as a shield against all possible human contact. Surrounded by a deluge of humanity we move through life like we’re running between raindrops of personal contact and then wonder why we feel so stressed and alone. That’s the bad news. The good news is that making contact is actually pretty simple. Start by making a conscious choice to notice the people with whom you share the simplest transactions. The server at the restaurant, the parking attendant, the person at the front desk when you check into your hotel. Most of them wear nametags. Use them. Tell them your own name and then note the difference it makes in the way you feel, how they react and even the quality of the service you receive. You’ll be amazed and encouraged.
Check your Intake. What you take in is what you’ll express when the pressure is on. Feel angry and annoyed? Lay off the comments sections on social media, limit the conversations with people who drain your emotional bucket, make time for experiencing beauty, listen to Ted Talks, read books and articles . Even the words you choose have a direct impact on your stress levels and your health when they are too often negative. Recent research showed that people who use positive words (e.g. “healthy,” “well,” “hope,” “life,” “success”) enjoyed better physical health and resilience than those who used negative words.
Do Kindness. Nothing is more healing and a better way of changing your perception of the world around you than to be the change you want to see in the world. And not with some heroic gesture. Pay for someone’s coffee or toll, give a compliment, put a candy bar in your coworker’s in-basket, visit someone in the hospital, send flowers, carry someone’s luggage. Small kindnesses are memorable and make you see the world and your value in it in a dramatically different and more positive light.
Get your “BUT” in there. When I taught high school, I learned that one of the best ways I could remain student-centered was to be willing to offer a counterpoint when a frustrated colleague vented his or her usually well-founded frustrations with a student. I sympathized but learned that offering some contrasting take on that student deescalated the emotions and was more constructive than taking an easier path of joining the chorus of criticism. When you have to deal with life’s many imperfections and the people who disappoint and exasperate you, your reception may tend to spin back to old presets. Here’s a small step to safeguard against accidentally switching back to your old negative frequency. Find some positive—no matter how small—in that negative. If someone says something negative about a coworker, you add a “but” with something more positive. Ed may be late to work too much, but he may also be a calming influence in a crisis. Sales numbers might be down for the quarter but the overall economy is improving so there is a good chance you can make up lost ground in the next. It’s not that everything has an upside, but actively looking for it is a way of telling your brain that the positive is meaningful, that it exists and that it’s possible to tune into it deliberately.
These things are simple, but not necessarily easy. Tuning into a more positive wavelength isn’t done with a simple tap on a touchscreen. It’s more like tuning the giant Stanford Dish radio telescope. It takes some time and effort but when you start to experience a more positive reality, you’ll enjoy this long trip so much more.