Have you ever had a negative thought hijack your day and take you off guard?
Negativity can wreak havoc in our lives, impact our relationships, stop us from performing at our best, and impact the way we experience the present moment.
Friends, please do not despair if you lean more towards being a negative Nancy than a positive Polly, because there are neurological reasons behind why we remember a negative experience more than a positive one!
Neuro-scientist believe that our brain has a negativity bias, which is the tendency for humans to pay more attention and give more weight to negative experiences, rather than neutral or positive ones.
Essentially, our brains are wired to absorb the bad and neurologically, negative experiences move more quickly into our long-term memory than positive ones.
Dr Rick Hanson refers to the brain as being Velcro for the negative experiences and Teflon for the positive ones. This is why our underlying expectations, beliefs, actions, strategies and mood can easily go in a negative direction.
Why is our brain wired this way?
Scientists believe it’s for our ability to survive because thousands of years ago we had to be able to avoid the lion, which was far more important than being able to find and gather berries. If they didn’t find the berries, they had a chance to find it later on. If they failed to avoid the lion – BANG, they were gone!
For every negative experience it takes about five positive ones to counteract the bad (which is why it’s easy to remember all the bad things are partner or children did, and we can easily forget the moments of calm or good times).
The only way to counteract this negative bias is to ‘level the playing field’.
How do we do that? By tilting our brain towards the good, the things that bring us happiness, joy, and happiness towards others.
It’s not about not acknowledging the hard times or even wishing them away. Hard times in life are inevitable. You’ll still see and experience the tough times, however, by tilting towards the good you’ll be able to navigate, change or even stand tough times as it puts challenges into perspective, increases energy, taps into your inner resourcefulness and fills your cup so that you actually have more to offer others.
The more you absorb positive experiences, the more you can actually change the neurology of your brain to have more positive neuron structures!
How do you do that? I’m glad you asked!
Here’s a 3-step process to help you do just that!
Name it to tame it
Notice when your brain focuses on the negative and name it for what it is. No judgement, just acknowledging that you’re absorbing or focusing on the negative.
Look for good facts and turn them into good experiences.
Every morning when you wake up set an intention for the day – “good things come to me and I enjoy them”. The next time you see a glorious sunset, stop and notice it. If your children are laughing, stop what you’re doing and watch them. Have a good hot coffee? Then stop and enjoy it.
Savour the moment – 20 second rule.
It’s so important to embed as many positive experiences in our brain as possible. To do that neuro-science believes we need to stop and savor the moment for about twenty seconds. Soak it in. Eat that delicious meal a bit slower. At the end of the day, I actually visually recall two or three moments of joy. I savor it before going to sleep at night. Researcher Marc Lewis believes that the longer something is held in awareness and the more emotionally stimulating it is, the more neutrons that fire and thus wire together, which leads to a stronger trace in our memory.
Ultimately, in order to retrain our brain from going towards the negative, it’s all about firing the positive neurons together by taking in positive experiences and filling ourselves up with that.
And the best part is, when you do that, your happiness and love will become more unconditional as it will be based on inner fullness rather than whether you’re experiencing momentary good things in your life.
Whether you believe you’re a positive person or not, training your brain to recover faster from negative bias will always be valuable.
Here’s two ways I can support you further in this journey: