For some reason, I have been noticing a lot of negativity around me lately. There are updates on Facebook with various complaints, meetings in which people focus on all the things that are going wrong, and even when walking Rafa (our doggie) the other day, a regular park patron greeted me with “You are late!” rather than a “Good morning!”
Maybe you have noticed this phenomenon as well or have even felt more negative about things yourself. Why is it so much easier to be negative and how can we change it?
Over our lifetime we all accumulate various memories – some good, some bad. However, even when we have more positive experiences than negative ones, we remember more of the negative experiences. This is because our brain has a preference for recalling and reacting to unpleasant memories. This is called the “negativity bias” and it has an important evolutionary reason: To help us survive by avoiding danger and keeping us out of harm’s way.
The problem is that luckily most of us don’t have to deal with daily life or death situations, so this bias for negativity is causing us needless suffering. While we often cannot prevent negative experiences from happening altogether, we CAN create much more balance by fostering positive experiences and really internalizing them.
In the book “Buddha’s Brain”, Rick Hanson suggests a 3 –step process for focusing on the Positive:
1. Actively look for the good and positive every day
Every day, there are positive things all around us – someone is nice to us, we see a beautiful flower, the smell of an orange, interesting clouds in the sky, we finish a project – but we just let it roll by. Instead of just letting those moment go by, bring mindful awareness to them. Open up to them and let them affect you.
2. Savor the experience
Really stay with the experience for 5, 10, even 20 seconds – don’t let your attention wander to something else. Focus on your emotions and body sensations and let the experience be as intense as possible. Pay attention to what is rewarding about it (for example, how good it feels to get a great big hug from someone you love.) All of this will help strengthen the implicit memory so you can carry it inside you and remember more easily.
3. Fully absorb the experience
Imagine or feel that the experience is entering deeply into your mind and body, like the sun’s warmth that is soaking through. Keep relaxing your body and take in all the emotions, sensations, and thoughts of the experience.
The good news is that there is plenty of opportunity to practice – every day we experience 20,000 moments! What positive moments are you noticing and savoring today?
Manuela loves helping smart and creative women bring more balance, happiness and success into their lives through Professional Life Coaching!