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The Unexpected Joy of the Ordinary summary

Catherine Gray

The benefits of mediocrity and the beauty of the everyday

4.4 (100 ratings)
20 mins

Brief summary

'The Unexpected Joy of the Ordinary' by Catherine Gray explores the beauty of finding happiness and contentment in life's simple pleasures. It provides practical tips and inspiring insights to help us appreciate the ordinary moments that make life extraordinary.

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    The Unexpected Joy of the Ordinary
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    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.

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    What is The Unexpected Joy of the Ordinary about?

    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.

    The Unexpected Joy of the Ordinary Review

    The Unexpected Joy of the Ordinary (2020) is a refreshing exploration of finding happiness in the simple moments of everyday life. Here's why we think this book is worth reading:

    • It offers thought-provoking perspectives on the power of appreciating the ordinary, reminding us that true joy can be found in the smallest of things.
    • Through personal stories and deep research, it reveals the hidden beauty and meaning that exist within the routines and mundane activities we often overlook.
    • With its warm and relatable tone, the book invites readers to reframe their perspective and embrace the ordinary, ultimately helping us lead more fulfilling lives.

    Best quote from The Unexpected Joy of the Ordinary

    It is not the man who has too little, but the man who craves more, that is poor.

    —Catherine Gray
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    Who should read The Unexpected Joy of the Ordinary?

    Who’s it for?

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

    About the Author

    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.

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    The Unexpected Joy of the Ordinary FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Unexpected Joy of the Ordinary?

    The main message of The Unexpected Joy of the Ordinary is finding happiness and contentment in the simplicity of everyday life.

    How long does it take to read The Unexpected Joy of the Ordinary?

    The reading time for The Unexpected Joy of the Ordinary varies by individual, but it typically takes a few hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is The Unexpected Joy of the Ordinary a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Unexpected Joy of the Ordinary is a worthwhile read that reminds us to appreciate the little things in life. It offers valuable insights for finding happiness in our everyday experiences.

    Who is the author of The Unexpected Joy of the Ordinary?

    The author of The Unexpected Joy of the Ordinary is Catherine Gray.

    What to read after The Unexpected Joy of the Ordinary?

    If you're wondering what to read next after The Unexpected Joy of the Ordinary, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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