For most of us, the answer is the “negative” ones. Enjoyable and useful experiences, such as smiling at a friend, finishing a task, or learning something new, usually happen multiple times a day, but they’re brainwashed through a sieve. Our stressful, often damaging experiences—being stuck in traffic, being late for a meeting, being pulled over by a friend, or being misunderstood by a partner—anxiety or resentments consistently produce lasting changes in neural structure or function. This is the negative bias in your brain. This built-in bias is no one’s fault. It is the result of 600 million years of evolution of the nervous system.
Our brain naturally scans for bad news, focusing on the negative and causing the big picture to disappear. Overreacting quickly stores negative experiences, especially our emotional life, in memory and becomes sensitive to negative ones.
Negativity bias causes the body to wear out unnecessarily and cause us to engage in meaningless conflicts with others. It reduces the healing and growth we gain by distracting us from useful daily experiences. This bias is a well-designed universal learning disability in a brain designed for peak performance in Stone Age conditions.
How do you overcome your brain’s desire to be negative?
Life in reality leans towards survival, but against long-term health and well-being. To level the playing field, we must lean towards positive experiences and actively help them change minds for the better.
1. Observe negative experiences with calm force.
Suppressing or resisting unpleasant, stressful experiences makes them worse. Instead, let it be lived by observing with acceptance and self-compassion. Remember the times you identified and highlighted your talent and focus on the feeling of strength and endurance.
2. Look for the little good truths every day.
Negativity bias narrows the attention span. Make mindfulness a habit to recognize the positive things in our lives. The positive emotions that come with recognizing what is good help us face, cope, and recover from adversity, loss, and trauma.
3. When you have a good experience, really absorb it.
When you realize that gratitude and determination is a good way, try:
- Take a deep breath and stay with the long experience.
- Feel it in your body.
- Focus on what is enjoyable or meaningful.
With practice, you can build a stronger and more compassionate mind.
There’s a famous saying in brain science: Neurons that fire together, connect together When they fire together intensely, they’ll come together more. This means that many times a day, you can weave psychological resources such as anger, gratitude, compassion, and trust in the fabric of your own nervous system.