OVERCOMING THE NEGATIVITY BIAS

As we have evolved over the ages, one human characteristic that has remained is the negativity bias. This refers to our tendency to focus on bad over good and always be on high alert for danger. This internal alarm system protected our ancestors from starvation, extreme weather, and being eaten by lions. Today, our negativity bias can create a tendency towards.....well, negativity!

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According to psychologist Rick Hanson, your brain has different systems for processing negative and positive events. Negative stimuli produce more neural activity than equally intense positive ones. You can also identify something negative faster than something positive. The amygdala is the alarm system of the brain - about two-thirds of its neurons search for bad news. When something bad is identified, it is quickly stored in memory whereas positive events need to be held in awareness longer to remain in your memory.

The brain is like Velcro for negative experiences but Teflon for positive ones.
Rick Hanson

THREE STEPS TO SQUASH THE NEGATIVITY

  1. Look for the positive. Thanks to the neuroplasticity of the brain, you can learn new things and develop new neural pathways. Tools such as a gratitude journal, remind you to keep looking for good things to counteract the bad.
  2. Relish the good stuff. When you experience a positive emotion or have a joyful experience, take the time to savor it. Too often, we simply enjoy the moment and then move on. By lingering on the positive or sharing it with a friend, you amplify the impact.
  3. Practice mindfulness. The more you internalize and truly feel a positive emotion, the more it will stay with you. Try not to let worry and stress cloud your enjoyment of good experiences.
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BROADEN AND BUILD THEORY OF POSITIVITY

According to psychologist Barbara Frederickson, “The psychological broadening sparked by one positive emotion can increase an individual’s receptiveness to subsequent pleasant or meaningful events, increasing the odds that the individual will find positive meaning in these subsequent events and experience additional positive emotions.”

BOTTOM LINE?

It is a natural tendency to focus on the negative. If you turn more attention and focus to the positive events in your life you can override and overcome your negativity bias!

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