Have you ever wondered why negative comments from others affect you so deeply, while you often brush off positive comments or compliments? You are not alone!
Scientists have found that we are actually wired to notice bad experiences more than good experiences. Dr Rick Hanson explains: “Your brain has a hair-trigger readiness to go negative to help you survive.”
This negativity bias (or excessive focus on the negative) might have helped us when we were hunter gatherers but nowadays, focusing on the negative, while ignoring the positive is a real problem for many of us. It can cause anxiety, depression and just a general feeling of unease.
One of the simplest ways to counteract this negativity bias is to start really tuning in and noticing when we have negative thoughts. We might be rushing around, feeling tense or stressed, or saying mean things to ourselves. The key is to start noticing when we are doing these types of things. We don’t even have to push the negative thoughts away. We just have to notice when we’re feeling a bit off, or thinking mean things. American clinical psychologist Dr Tara Brach says when we begin to notice it, we can take a U-turn. Just becoming aware of the tightness in our shoulders, or the tightness in our jaw is the first step towards counteracting the negativity bias.
Then we can start to be kinder to ourselves. We can ask ourselves: “What is it I most need right now?” “What would someone who loves themselves say right now?” “What’s the kindest thing I can do for myself right now?”
The answer might simply be: “This is really hard. Anyone would find this situation hard,” or “I’ve got through this before. I can get through this now.”