• Monique Peats

Understanding Negativity Bias

As human beings we all have what’s called a “negativity bias” which means we’re hardwired to look for possible threats to our safety which isn’t such a bad thing, because as a species, we’ve needed some level of anxiety to survive. Heights, snakes, and fire are some of the biggest fears we’ve had which have helped keep us alive even now.

The brain is designed to seek out possible threats and, at the same time, uniqueness, novelty, new and interesting things.

The good news is that despite the evolutionary hand we’ve been dealt, the degree to which we’re able to override our “default” setting and avoid falling into a cycle of self-recrimination, insecurity, sadness, anger, or bitterness is impacted by other factors including upbringing, the input we’ve received from those around us whose opinions we value, and how we interpret what we’ve been told. “The single most important underlying factor is….how we talk to ourselves about our experiences,” notes Kenneth Yeager, PhD “If you challenge yourself…to be mindful of your daily activities, noticing what’s important [and what isn’t], you are more likely to have positive life experiences,” Dr. Yeager explains. Basically, you need to put effort into truly valuing all the good and positive aspects of your life so that you are not overcome by the negative. Even if you are facing a multitude of objectively negative situations, you can try to appreciate the positive aspects of your life, regardless of how small they may be.

How can you counterbalance your predisposition towards negativity?This sheet is not saved or stored, this your safe place to process your thoughts.

Grant Brenner, MD, Adjunct Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Mt. Sinai Beth Israel Medical Center (New York), advises:

  • Be poised to gently recognize what is happening when negative patterns start to get activated and practice doing something each and every time—even something very small—to break the pattern.

  • Notice your negative self-dialogue and substitute positive approaches. “You idiot!” becomes, “I wish I had made a different choice, but I will remember how I wish I had acted and apply it to future situations.”

  • Another tactic is talking to yourself as you would a friend. When you have negative thoughts, ask yourself, “Are you ok? What’s wrong? Why are you so angry? Are you feeling hurt?” This will help you to interrupt your flow of negative thoughts and encourage you to reposition your perspective and alter the tone of your self talk to be kinder.

  • Perhaps most important, notes Brenner, is to “cultivate a gentle, curious and patient attitude with yourself. Learn to celebrate small victories [over negativity and self-recrimination] while understanding that you may have days of back-sliding. It’s all a natural part of the learning and growth process.”

It’s important to remember how much control you have over letting bad comments stick with you or not. “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Refuse to consent to make yourself feel inferior. Eleanor Roosevelt.