Research shows that our brains are hard-wired to over-emphasize the negative experiences we have. Due to an evolutionary survival mechanism called the “negativity bias”, the human brain holds on to and amplifies the negative much more than the positive. It was more essential for our distant ancestors to remember the experience with the dangerous bear, than the beautiful field of flowers.
According to Dr. Barbara Fredrickson (University of North Carolina, 2009), we need three positive experiences for every negative emotional experience in order to keep a positive mindset. According to her, we can actively build a collaborative relationship between our survival minds and our thrive minds. This 3-to-1 ratio should be maintained both in thoughts and feelings, as well as in interactions with people that matter to us.
What are a few ways to build that collaborative relationship between those two parts of our minds?
It starts with awareness: Pay attention to when you are having negative thoughts and feelings, including stress, anxiety, anger, disappointment, blame, guilt, shame, self-doubt, regret, etc. These thoughts might happen in response to yourself, to others or to events and circumstances. When you notice them, counter by commanding your mind to come up with at least 3 positives:
–See the adventure around the challenge: Can you learn something new? Can you explore something exciting? Can you grow a new skill?
–Look for opportunity: What is a positive aspect of a negative event? What could be a positive consequence of the negative circumstance?
-Zoom out and broaden your view: What does the big picture look like? What do you see now that you have not seen before?
–Take small risks that take you out of your comfort zone.
–Practice self-compassion: See the beautiful essence in you! Treat yourself like you would treat your best friend.
These thoughts could be quick and simple, and they will start to shift your brain activity to the positive side.
If you are curious about this and many more Mental Fitness exercises, I would love to meet you in a non-binding chat.
Here is a Link to Dr. Barbara Fredrickson’s Positivity Self-Test