What is the Negativity Bias and what can I do about it?
As humans, we all have a Negativity Bias, which is our brain’s propensity to focus on negative stimuli. This shows up in our lives in a lot of different ways (watch this video to learn more https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7XFLTDQ4JMk), but it is the source of most of our negative self-talk. Our brain is very concerned that if there is something about us that is perceived as negative, then we will face rejection, which is one of its worst fears. Therefore, our brain tries to protect us from the pain of rejection by focusing on the “negative” so that we will fix or change it.
But what our brain thinks is “helpful” is really to our detriment. The negativity bias creates feelings of insecurity and fear. Which in turn has us being less authentic and open with those around us.
Another way the negativity bias shows up in our brain is convincing us that the worst-case scenario is the most likely and plausible scenario. When we believe this, we become afraid to put ourselves out there or take any risks in our life. Consequently, we just fail ahead of time, creating a worse scenario for ourselves in the long run.
Also, we tend to focus on the negative experiences in our life rather than on the positive experiences, which gives us an unbalanced view of what our life is actually like. When asked, “How are you doing?” Our brains will answer with, “I'm ok. But it's been hard.” And while that might be true to some extent, not ALL of it is true. We have good experiences but just tend to forget them. This has us feeling discouraged about our life, which can be very demotivating. Having that balanced view will keep you engaged and motivated to keep moving forward into the life you desire.
So, what do we do about this? If our brain is programmed to think this way, then what hope do we have of silencing that negativity in our heads?
Well, it is not that hard actually, but it does require shifting the brain’s focus away from the negative and giving equal opportunity to the positive.
Here are 3 questions that will quickly help you do that:
1-How can the opposite be true?” For example, -when your brain is telling you, “I’m not good with money.” You can ask “How is the opposite true? In what ways AM I good with money?"
2-How can this be for my benefit?” When your brain is convinced that you will fail or experience pain, you can shift the focus to how this circumstance can bring good into your life, even if failure is part of it.
3-What part of my experience brought me joy and happiness?” When your brain is only remembering negative events in your day, asking this question will help your brain recall the things that were positive. The result- is an immediate boost to your mood.
Though we cannot completely quiet our Negativity Bias, learning to shift the brain's focus can really make a difference in the way we think, feel, and show up in our lives. Try practicing these questions throughout the week, and see if you don't automatically feel a deeper sense of love and compassion for yourself and others.
Feel free to share your experience in the comments below.