Have you ever had someone rudely jump ahead of you in line at the grocery store, and it soured your mood for hours? Or had someone make a spiteful remark, and it ruined your day? Even if the rest of the day was pleasant, you likely dwelled on the annoying encounter and were sensitized to notice more irritations afterwards. This is a natural occurrence.
People are primed to notice more negative things than positive. Your brain was designed to help you survive, and does so by detecting threats to your life. If your ancestors hadn’t registered that the tiger was about to pounce on them, they wouldn’t have survived to pass their genes onto you.
Nowadays, there aren’t as many physical dangers, but the mind doesn’t distinguish between what might kill you and what disturbs you emotionally or mentally. The brain perceives them all as potential threats and spotlights what’s upsetting to you so it can try to help you survive.
The Negativity Effect
Scientists call this the Negativity Bias or Effect. Humans are more inclined to recognize and remember the negative, and brush off the positive. It’s the brain and subconscious mind’s effort to keep you safe.
It’s not an issue if it only happens once in a while, such as from an unpleasant encounter. But if you get stuck in viewing the world through this dark lens, it adversely impacts how you think and react in other areas. You only perceive what’s wrong, and can become cynical, irritable and depressed.
You need to be careful as this primal characteristic can overwhelm your life. If you’re always braced for something to go wrong, you’re predisposed to overreact to minor upsets or annoyances, and you notice them more. At the same time, you don’t recognize the good in your life.
You’re always in a fight or flight mode, stressed, anxious and exhausted. If this is the case, you don’t have enough resources to think clearly or be creative. You automatically react like you did in the past, without considering other alternatives.
Why It’s Important to Overcome This Tendency
The more you focus on what bothers you, the more incidents you notice, and this mindset becomes a habit. This ingrained attitude can lead you to expect the worst in people and situations, and can adversely affect your relationships. Your actions follow your beliefs and attention, so you could unwittingly create the very conditions that would confirm your pessimistic expectations.
Fortunately, you’re not a captive to this ancient bias. You can counteract your brain’s predisposition to lean to the negative by training yourself to pay attention to what’s good in your life. This will balance out that primeval tendency to always be on alert for threats. You have the power to decide how much of an impact unpleasant situations will have on you.
Instead of getting sucked into a negative frame of mind, you can train yourself to notice what’s good in your life. It takes time and practice, but when you persist in developing this skill, annoyances will bother you less overall. You may be aware of the irritations, but they won’t trigger you to fall into a well of cynicism.
What You Focus on Grows
As you begin to pay attention to what’s going well in your life, you’ll discover there’s more that’s good than you originally thought. What you focus on grows in your awareness and your subconscious mind will begin to scan your environment for other positive aspects.
Scientists say that “neurons that fire together, wire together.” If you dwell on the negative, you grow more brain cells that create discouragement, depression and helplessness. This is how pessimists are created. However, when you focus on the positive, brain cells grow in the areas for happiness, wellbeing and resourcefulness. Doing this develops optimists.
The One to Five Ratio
Scientists say that, in a relationship, it takes between four and five positive interactions to overcome a single negative one. If you’ve had an unpleasant disagreement with a friend, you’ll need several amicable exchanges with them to feel comfortable with them again. I think the same might be true of events. When you’ve experienced a distressing situation and it has soured your mood, it may take four to five pleasant incidents to improve your outlook.
You can be more proactive to start to feel better. Shortly after you’re upset, irritated or annoyed, find five things you’re grateful for in your life. Or seek out five items that make you happy in the moment. They can be small pleasures, like a flower, clouds floating in a blue sky or a child’s laugh. This will balance out the negativity, and help you shake off the unpleasantness you encountered.
Creating a New Brain Pattern.
You don’t have to let upsets or irritations control your overall mood or mindset. As you deliberately seek out more of the positive, you establish a new pattern in your brain. You create more positive leaning brain cells. By training yourself to pay attention to what’s positive, negative situations will bother you less. You won’t waste mental energy on minor negative incidents. They’ll reduce in importance, and you’ll increase your ability to handle them.
Not only that, you’ll be able to recognize more possibilities that you would have ignored before. Because you’re more open to them, your subconscious will search your environment for opportunities that benefit you. To uplift your entire life and overcome your ancient bias to be negative, spend time to enjoy pleasant moments and rewire your brain to be happy.
I have the power and ability to choose where to put my attention. When I focus on more positive thoughts, I know that it impacts my life in a beneficial way. I become aware of when I start to slide into negativity, and decide to notice what’s good in my life. As I seek out the positive, I establish a new pattern within my mind that leans to optimism. This opens my mind to greater wellbeing and happiness.
Watch the accompanying video, Train Yourself to Be Positive.
As a focus mentor, hypnotherapist, and writer, Linda-Ann Stewart motivates women entrepreneurs and small business owners to focus and transform their business through deliberate actions that break through distraction and overwhelm to greater success, wellbeing and prosperity. Register for her FREE guide to Design Your Best Day at www.Linda-AnnStewart.com/guide.html. You can also contact her at LAS@Linda-AnnStewart.com or 928-600-0452.