Why We Need to Get over Our Brain’s Obsession with Negativity

Have you ever wondered why your brain loves negativity? There’s actually a valid reason why we humans ruminate on bad news, replay arguments and fixate on our mistakes.

It turns out our brains are evolutionarily wired to focus on the bad stuff, more often than not at the expense of all the good things happening around us.

While it served our ancestors in their quest to remain alive long enough to procreate, this trait has turned us into a bunch of Debbie Downers who struggle to see what’s right with the world.

You obviously can’t undo this evolutionary development, so how do you overcome your negativity bias?

TAKE IN THE GOOD

Dr. Rich Hanson, a psychologist and Senior Fellow of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, has a three-step process called ‘taking in the good.’ By following these simple practices you can bring out your inner-optimist.

1. Look for good facts, and turn them into good experiences

When you notice something good, let yourself feel good about it. Resist the urge to rush past the event and actually spend some time enjoying it. There are plenty of opportunities to do this, it’s just a matter of training yourself to notice them.

As Dr. Hanson points out, it’s like sitting down to a meal: don’t just look at it—taste it!

2. Really enjoy the experience

It doesn’t have to be a bells and whistles experience to count. In fact, most of the time it isn’t. That’s okay, make a point of staying with the experience anyway. Try to immerse yourself in it for at least 20-30 seconds without getting distracted.

This process of holding something in your awareness and charging it with positive emotions, fires neurons, causing them to wire together and strengthen the trace in memory.

The more you do this, the less fragile or needy you’ll feel and the less dependent you’ll be on external supplies of happiness and love.

3. Intend and sense that the good experience is sinking into you

How you do this varies from person to person. You could imagine a warm glow spreading through your body, as if you were enjoying a hot drink on a winter’s day.

Someone else might visualize the experience sinking into them like syrup, bringing in good feelings and soothing old hurts. This too, causes those neurons to fire and wire together.

Remember, each time you engage in these practices you’re making tiny inroads. On their own they may not seem significant, but done consistently you’ll weave positive experiences into the fabric of your brain and your self.

TAKE REGULAR NEWS FASTS

Watching the news is bad for your health anyway, but if you’re trying to overcome your negativity bias it’s even worse. In a bid to drive viewership, news networks play into our evolutionary glitch by feeding us a constant stream of bad news.

The only way around this is to go on regular news fasts. Take a break from the 24/7 barrage of negativity and seek out good news instead. A simple search for ‘good news’ on Google yields a string of results.

The Huffington Post’s good news section —which showed up on the first page of my search— has plenty in the way of feel good stories. Good news is everywhere, we just have to train ourselves to look for it.

CELEBRATE WHAT’S RIGHT WITH THE WORLD

In his uplifting and inspirational TEDx talk, former National Geographic photographer Dewitt Jones highlights the wonders and possibilities that surround us everyday that are just waiting to be noticed and celebrated.

He says too many of us see the world as a place based on fear, scarcity and competition. A place where phrases like ‘dog eat dog’ and ‘second place is the first loser’ are commonplace. Fortunately for Dewitt, his job as a photographer took him into nature and allowed him to see the beauty and possibility it had to offer.

He decided then and there that if he had a choice between a world based on scarcity and fear and one based on possibility, he was choosing possibility. By viewing the world through a lens of celebration Dewitt learned nature’s biggest lesson: There’s more than one right answer.

Things change when you come at the world from the perspective of more than one right answer. You become comfortable with reframing obstacles into opportunities.

Of course, as he rightly points out, a lot of people might see this as being a Pollyanna.

But Dewitt argues that celebrating what’s right with the world doesn’t deny the very real pain and suffering that exists on the planet. Rather, it’s a perspective that puts those problems into a larger, more balanced context.

A context where we can see that there’s far more right with the world than there is wrong with it.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

82 comments

joey nelson
joey nelson23 days ago

Very cool !!!!

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Chad Anderson
Chad Anderson3 months ago

Thank you!

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KimJ M
KimJ M4 months ago

Tfs

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KimJ M
KimJ M4 months ago

Tfs

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KimJ M
KimJ M4 months ago

Tfs

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KimJ M
KimJ M4 months ago

Tfs

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Peggy B
Peggy B4 months ago

ty

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Peggy B
Peggy B4 months ago

tyfs

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Jerome S
Jerome S4 months ago

thanks

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Jerome S
Jerome S4 months ago

thanks

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