The Negativity Bias
Like it or not we all have a negativity bias. You’re not the only one focusing on what can go wrong verses what can go right when presented with a new opportunity. Or fixating on that one bit of critical feedback amongst all the positive received. We’ve all been there before, dwelling on a mishap, argument, an error we made despite having otherwise a seemingly good day.
Thanks to our ancestors, we are all hard wired to give greater weight to our negative experiences instead of positive. From an evolutionary standpoint, it’s not all our fault, we inherited the genes that predispose us to give special attention to the negative aspects in our lives. Being highly attuned to worst case scenarios is how, in pre-historic times, humans survived natural threats. But let’s face it, the chances of us running into a saber-tooth tiger on the way home from work nowadays is highly unlikely, the time has come to break free from this limiting human default robbing us of greater happiness and success.
Studies prove we can retrain our brains
Here’s how we begin defeating the negativity bias….
1.Awareness- Just by simply being mindful of the degree to which our brain is inclined to focus on the negative aspects of things is the first step. Becoming aware of our negative self-talk and thoughts allows us to separate ourselves from them, to challenge and even eliminate them.
2. Relish Positive Experiences- Researchers have learned that negative experiences are perceived more easily and quickly into our long term memory. Whereas, the positive require a dozen or more seconds to be held in our awareness before it transferred from short term to long-term memory. Taking the time to relish in those good things that happened throughout our day reinforces positive patterns in our brain. Our brain then learns from these experiences, building new neural pathways, researchers call neuroplasticity, helping keep our brains attuned to positivity.
3. Crowd Out Negative Thoughts- Do whatever it takes, have an arsenal of go to practices to drown out the negativity. Here’s just a few I use daily…positive mantras affirmations, and quotes, gratitude journal, mediation, be more selective when I listen to the news, workout (kicks up those endorphins), practice the skill of reframing challenges and negative self-talk, seek a glass is half full mentality, surround myself with positive people, get outside as much as possible, build in simple pleasures throughout my the day like nuzzling with my dog, eating a favorite food, getting a manicure, watching a funny, feel good show that makes me laugh or warms my heart. Of course, it’s going to vary for everyone but the objective here is lessen the pull towards the negativity bias in order to gradually rewire our brains for happiness.
As they say in the neuropsychology field “neurons that fire together wire together”, each time we consciously decide to take in the good will make a difference and over time these little differences will add up retraining our brains to embrace positivity and overcome the negativity bias.
Wishing You Always The Best Of Success