One of my most useful resolutions is to “Find an area of refuge.”
We all suffer from negativity bias, that is, we react to the bad more strongly and persistently than to the comparable good.
Research shows one consequence of negativity bias is that when people’s thoughts wander, they tend to begin to brood. Anxious or angry thoughts capture our attention more effectively than happier thoughts.
And of course, we often have many difficult, upsetting, or worrying matters weighing on our minds.
If I feel myself struggling to calm my bad or anxious feelings, I seek a mental “area of refuge” for my mind.
Sometimes I look at photos of my family — research shows that reflecting on happy times in the past boosts happiness in the present.
Sometimes I think about my favorite scenes from books, movies, or TV shows. I often find myself thinking about classic funny scenes from The Office, for instance — like the time Jim wrapped Dwight’s desk in wrapping paper.
Most often, however, I reflect on my favorite quotations from Winston Churchill. When I was writing Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill, I collected a countless number of these — some funny, some sharp, some transcendent.
It’s impossible for me to choose my favorite, but this quotation is certainly one of my favorites. I’ve quoted it here before, but I can’t resist quoting it again.
In September 1940, Churchill gave one of his most memorable broadcasts — about the “Blitz,” the brutal nightly bombing of London.
I know the words practically by heart.
These cruel, wanton, indiscriminate bombings of London are, of course, a part of Hitler’s invasion plans. He hopes, by killing large numbers of civilians, and women and children, that he will terrorise and cow the people of this mighty imperial city, and make them a burden and anxiety to the Government…Little does he know the spirit of the British nation, or the tough fibre of the Londoners…who have been bred to value freedom far above their lives. This wicked man, the repository and embodiment of many forms of soul-destroying hatreds, this monstrous product of former wrongs and shame, has now resolved to try to break our famous Island race by a process of indiscriminate slaughter and destruction. What he has done is to kindle a fire in British hearts, here and all over the world, which will glow long after all traces of the conflagration he has caused in London have been removed.
My favorite line: “What he has done is to kindle a fire in British hearts, here and all over the world, which will glow long after all traces of the conflagration he has caused in London have been removed.”
If you want to listen to Churchill give his broadcast, you can listen here. The section I quote above begins at 7:43.
Ah, what a joy it was to write that book!