Being alive is being imperfect

Just like you can't get your home's radon levels to zero, you can't completely empty your mind of negative thoughts and feelings.

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A few years ago, we discovered high radon levels in our home, three-fold higher than the desired. Suddenly, our basement felt like a live nuclear reactor.

With the pump installed and the radon back to less than 2.0 pCi/L, our sleep quality crawled back to normal. Then I had a brilliant idea -- why not take radon levels down to zero? Just to compensate for the years of radiation. Few quick clicks on the internet, and I knew that wasn’t possible. Radon is part of the natural environment. Its level can be reduced, but not eliminated.

It turns out this is true for most other toxins. The normal blood mercury level is less than 10 micrograms/liter. It isn't zero. Even if you never enjoyed grilled mackerel or a tuna sandwich, you still will have some mercury in your body. The same is true for lead, arsenic, aluminum, and now micro-plastics.

“Isn’t that true also for negative thoughts?” I thought.

Our minds can’t have zero anger, zero fear, zero sadness, zero envy, zero falsehood. Research shows that for most of us, negative thoughts often exceed positive thoughts. I don’t know anyone who sits in a corner thinking just happy thoughts.


Every week I think thoughts I would rather not think. Being alive is being imperfect.

Here are three ways you can leverage these insights:

  1. Accept and embrace your negative thoughts, knowing that they are universal and also because they serve a purpose. Rational fears keep you safe. Healthy envy can push you to work harder. A resilient mind has space for both positive and negative. In fact, extreme positive can be a net negative.
  2. Just as you can mitigate high mercury or lead levels, you can decrease your negative thoughts if they are usurping too much space. Fill your mind with gratitude, compassion, forgiveness, meaning, and hope, and you’ll see toxic anger, fear, and envy exiting your headspace.
  3. Have compassion for those mired in negativity. They may have faced a rough tide in the past, may have vulnerable genotype, and more. Deep down, they are hurting. Your compassionate engagement will help their self-worth and might start their journey toward freedom and healing.

If you agree with the preceding, here is your challenge: Just for today, choose to accept one mildly annoying aspect of one person in your life. Remember that an excellent first step to help others improve is to accept them as they are. And also, that people don’t like to be improved; they want to be validated.
I hope you keep these three ideas as you march into the new year. I wish you peace, health, joy, love, and healing in 2021.

If you wish, join my free initiative, “2021: Your Year of Healing,” at . You can find more details about the initiative in this short video: .

Dr. Amit Sood answers your questions about stress, resilience, happiness, relationships, and related topics in his column. Email

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