Is it easier for you to focus on or notice the things that went wrong in your day? The things that made you feel bad? Do negative events from the past seem to stick more than positive ones? If you answered yes to any of these, congratulations – you are human! Studies have found that negative events impact our brains more than positive ones. This is likely a survival mechanism but it doesn’t always serve us the best in our modern world.
If you were out for a hike and saw a bear, it would stand to reason that your brain would want to recall this in the future and either avoid that path or come more prepared and alert in the future. Negativity bias isn’t all bad, but in our day-to-day lives, it can become anything from a nuisance to a real problem.
Our brains are only able to process so much material at once so when we are focused on the bad we are often unable to see what is going right. This is why we need to learn how to train our brains to see the picture of our lives as a whole. It is unreasonable to expect that we won’t ever see the negative or that this won’t impact us, but it is totally possible to start seeing what is working and what is going well.
Here are a couple of suggestions to try that can help rewire our brains and requires us to think about the entire picture.
1. Gratitude journaling
Jotting down five or more things that you are grateful for has been shown to have positive impacts on mood, stress levels, and our relationships with others. When we engage in this regularly, our brains starts to look for the good throughout the day. Try it for yourself!
I know I’ve brought up meditating before, but it is invaluable and FREE! When we regularly meditate we begin to disengage from the chatter of our minds and start to become more of a “conscious observer.” Rather than getting consumed by the story we are telling ourselves and what we just notice – we can start stepping out of labels or judgments such as “good or bad.”
Sometimes we need help to rewire our brains and to move out of the negativity from the past. EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a great modality that helps move old material that is no longer serving us out of the emotional center of our brains and file it to where it needs to go. This helps to change our responses and perspectives of current events.
There are many other techniques and tricks to become more positive, so do a little Google searching and see what works for you. A lot of it is just creating the intention to be more positive in the first place.