Get the key ideas from

The Unexpected Joy of the Ordinary

The benefits of mediocrity and the beauty of the everyday

By Catherine Gray
13-minute read
Audio available
The Unexpected Joy of the Ordinary by Catherine Gray

What’s it about?

The Unexpected Joy of the Ordinary (2019) explores the surprising benefits of being an average Joe. From money to intelligence to relationships, it reveals the pleasures of being perfectly ordinary.

Who’s it for?

  • Anxious souls looking for reassurance
  • Lovers of popular science books
  • Anyone interested in evolutionary psychology

About the author

Catherine Gray is an English journalist and author. Her first book, The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober, was a UK best seller.

Go Premium and get the best of Blinkist

Upgrade to Premium now and get unlimited access to the Blinkist library. Read or listen to key insights from the world’s best nonfiction.

Upgrade to Premium

What is Blinkist?

The Blinkist app gives you the key ideas from a bestselling nonfiction book in just 15 minutes. Available in bitesize text and audio, the app makes it easier than ever to find time to read.

Discover
4,500+ top
nonfiction titles

Get unlimited access to the most important ideas in business, investing, marketing, psychology, politics, and more. Stay ahead of the curve with recommended reading lists curated by experts.

Join Blinkist to get the key ideas from
Get the key ideas from
Get the key ideas from

The Unexpected Joy of the Ordinary

The benefits of mediocrity and the beauty of the everyday

By Catherine Gray
  • Read in 13 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 8 key ideas
Upgrade to Premium Read or listen now
The Unexpected Joy of the Ordinary by Catherine Gray
Synopsis

What’s it about?

The Unexpected Joy of the Ordinary (2019) explores the surprising benefits of being an average Joe. From money to intelligence to relationships, it reveals the pleasures of being perfectly ordinary.

Key idea 1 of 8

Your brain is always searching for bad news.

Do you often find yourself focusing on what you don’t have? Imagine that you’re in a performance review with your boss. She praises your hard work, social skills, and professionalism. However, she also mentions that you sometimes lack confidence. And now the end result is you come out of that meeting feeling deflated.

You spend the rest of the night focusing on your shortcomings. But what about all the good things your boss said? Well, you hardly give them a second thought.

Here’s a question, then. Should you beat yourself up for focusing on the bad? Well, maybe that’s not your fault. The devastating truth is that evolution has primed you to be relentlessly negative.

The key message here is: Your brain is always searching for bad news.

Neuroscientist Dr. John Cacioppo carried out a study in which he showed his subjects different sets of images and measured how their brains responded. He found that people became more engaged when they looked at negative pictures, like guns and dead animals. Positive photos – things like pizza and ice-cream – didn’t create the same level of excitement.

Dr. Cacioppo concluded that negative information seems to trigger a greater mental response.

Unfortunately, our negative bias doesn’t stop there. Other studies have found that we’re quicker to spot an angry face in a crowd than a cheerful one. This phenomenon is called the anger superiority effect. Worse still, our negative bias affects our interpersonal relations, too. We tend to see people’s bad characteristics as more significant than their positive traits.

But why are we so negative? The answer lies in our evolutionary past, and a region of our brain called the amygdala

Your amygdala plays a key role in your emotions and decision-making. It’s especially sensitive to negative information. This sensitivity evolved with our prehistoric ancestors. Their lives were incredibly difficult. They had to deal with lots of aggression from members of their own tribe, and predators were an ever-present threat. In other words, if our ancestors hadn’t been wired to always look out for trouble, chances are they wouldn’t have lived long enough to reproduce.

Thankfully, modern life isn’t nearly so dangerous. But evolution moves slowly, and your amygdala is still scanning for threats. The author, for instance, often feels threatened when she finds herself in busy subway stations. The reason is simple: her amygdala is warning her that there are no plants or water sources around, so she might have a problem finding sustenance.

In the following blinks, we’ll combat this negativity bias, and look at all the reasons to be positive instead.

Upgrade to continue Read or listen now

Key ideas in this title

Upgrade to continue Read or listen now

Learn more, live more

Sign up now to learn and grow every day with the key ideas from top nonfiction and podcasts in 15 minutes.
Created with Sketch.