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?


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.


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.


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


Paulo R
Paulo R8 hours ago


Paulo R
Paulo R8 hours ago


Nicole H
Nicole H15 hours ago

@ Rosslyn O : Very true what you say. Personally I think that looking with an open mind at children, animals and elderly people, are the best ways to turn your negativity into positivity. They have no mask, as most of the average adults have. Standing up in the morning, hurrying to bring the children to school, running to get to your job, etc.. The speed at which we are living withholds us from seeing all the beauty and happiness around us. And we don't make our live easier either. We have to go to the fitness or run for 1/2 an hour at least every day. Our children are not happy with one occupation. I regularly hear parents say their child is horseback riding, and plays football as well. Or they play the piano and go to ballet school.

It takes less energy to swallow all the bad news, served on a platter. Positive things we have to look for. Overwhelmed by all that negativity we risk to drown in it. I have to learn a lot more about it, but since I can't work any longer, I more easily take some time everyday to find something positive around me. Since a couple of years I have 2 ladies who come to do my housekeeping, cleaning, ironing, shopping etc.. as I can't do it myself any longer. It is often just a bit extra that hey do for me, as a little massage of my legs or my back that turns my day from misty to sunny. That's all I need.

Nicole H
Nicole H16 hours ago

Great article. Indeed, as Mr. Dewitt Jones says, the media only tell us about all the wrong and bad things happening in the world. Wars in many places, people fleeing their countries, children starving, sick people without access to doctors or medication, plane crashes, aso. Most of us look every day to the news, and read the newspapers about all what's wrong and bad. I'm certainly not an expert as Mr. Dewitt, but when I had to stop working 10 years ago, because of health issues, at first it was all dark, cold, fearful and bad. But I was lucky to live in an apartment on the 3rd floor, and when looking outside, I looked right into the big trees in front of the building. I have always been a big animal lover, of all species and one day I saw birds, flying on & off, as they were building their nest. I cut pieces of knitting wool in different colors, and put them on the terrace. After a couple of hours, I saw them flying into the tree with pieces of knitting wool. 3 to 4 hours later all the knitting wool had gone. As from them I tried to find a little sunshine in small things every day. I made my life much easier and brighter.

Deborah W
Deborah Wyesterday

NEGATIVITY IS THE BEST EXPERIENCE FOR SECOND CHANCES WE'LL EVER BE GIVEN. Rather than dwell on the bad features of a thing, why not instead look for the many options that could allow our change to positivity, for the better result we've always hoped for.

Angel W
Angel Wyesterday

hard 2 do

Lesa D
Lesa D1 days ago

news fasting & social media blackouts!!!

thank you Angela...

tanzy t
tanzy t11 days ago

Great read.

Ellie M
Ellie M15 days ago


Joemar K
Joemar Karvelis16 days ago