Have you ever wondered why it is harder to ‘shake off’ a failure or getting bad news even if you have good stuff happen to you on the same day? And if why you’re having an awesome day and then one bad thing happens that things tend to look a lot less rosy all of sudden, even if the bad thing was only 10% of your day and the other 90% was good? Or if you have ever beat yourself up for missing a few days of yoga practice even though all in all you’ve had a pretty stellar record!
Well, there is nothing ‘wrong’ with you, it’s just the way your brain actually evolved. Yep, Our brains have evolved to have what’s called a negativity bias. Research shows that this starts as early as 3 months old!
It has also been proven that Negative information tends to influence our decisions and judgments more strongly than comparably extreme positive info.
This can explain why you may have felt guilty in the past about ‘judging someone or something’ in a negative light too quickly—I know I’ve been there and then sheepishly had to admit my mistake!
Working with many high achievers who are experiencing stress in their lives, and going through this myself in the past, I have also realized that this tendency to pay attention to, learn from, and use negative information way more than positive information can be adaptive for achieving goals, and in your career because fear of the negative is a really powerful motivator. But if we attend to the negative all the time and don’t train our brain away from this tendency, over time it can lead to not coping so well with stress, not having that joy in our lives and doing things out of fear of failure or sense of ‘duty’ rather than out of passion and creativity—And this can lots of issues with feeling fulfilled, feeling overwhelmed and even lead to anxiety!
This was a big change I made in my own life was really starting to focus on paying more attention to the positives and training my brain out of getting ‘stuck’ in the negativity bias and it is so transformative, as so many women and men I’ve worked with have also found!
The good news is there IS a way out of negative thinking biases and ways to get ‘unstuck’ from the brains bias towards paying more attention to the negative. For example, You can actually train your brain to see the upside doing the most simple thing in the world like writing down 3 things you are grateful for each day and putting them in a grateful jar. This one single daily habit alone has actually been proven to change your brains ability to escape this negativity bias!
This ‘grateful’ jar has also been used by researchers at Penn State and they call it the ’Three Good Things or Blessings’ where every night after work you write down three good things that happened to you that day AND WHY you think these good things happened to you. This is a really good twist on the grateful jar that I love and works really well because when you have to write down WHY you think good things happen to you, you find out all kinds of useful things about the way you think about yourself. So if you notice that you chalk up your 3 daily good things that happened to pure luck or to someone else, then this is a sign you have to focus on being KINDER to yourself, as you are probably underestimating your ability to make good things happen! this is really common especially for women because you don’t want to brag or want others to think you are boasting, we want to be liked by others!