Don't worry. It's Negativity Bias, and we all have it. I say you can use it to grow and heal.
Today I’m going to make a list of people and events that have hurt me.
That's right, I'm taking names, and believe me, I have a good memory when it comes to pain.
Actually, studies confirm that we all do. It's not just me.
Negative events have a bigger impact on all of us than positive ones.
They involve more thinking, the information is processed more thoroughly, and we actually use stronger language to describe them.
Which makes sense because if something affects us negatively, we'll instinctively want to remember it.
In our modern world, something negative might just be annoying or hurtful. But in terms of evolution, negative experiences were much more high stake.
So you had to remember every bad experience in detail, for a long time, to make sure you avoided what caused it.
This is called "Negativity Bias," and we all have it.
It's what causes us to:
- Remember traumatic experiences more clearly than good ones
- Remember insults better than compliments
- React stronger to bad experiences than good ones
- Ruminate about negative things
So if you thought you were just a horribly negative person, you're probably not.
And if you're young - in your 20's and 30's, here's a bit of bad news - it seems your negativity bias is stronger during this time.
This again makes sense because it's during these decades when most young adults strike out and have to learn to live on their own.
So even though it all makes sense, it's not very pleasant.
So I'm going to share how I've learned to take this natural tendency towards the negative and turn it on its head.
How to embrace instead of resisting these bad memories and moments and use them to your advantage.
Here's an exercise I do regularly:
I remember every backstabber, every bully, every liar, every cheat.
I think about the losers who hurt me, the friends who betrayed me, the thieves who stole from me, and all the people who've tried to steal my thunder.
I ruminate on the bad luck I've had and created for myself.
I might write it all down, or I might just sit and think.
So why on earth would I willingly embrace all this pain?
It’s because I want to thank them, naturally.
Does that sound crazy?
Well, it's not.
You see, gratitude is the perfect antidote for all negativity.
It's so powerful. It actually changes your brain.
Gratitude causes the brain to release dopamine and serotonin, the neurotransmitters responsible for making us feel good.
This enhances our mood, making us feel happy almost instantly.
By intentionally practicing gratitude every day, we strengthen these neural pathways to become more positive overall.
By focussing on the negative first, I bring in all that wonderful healing power and point it like a laser right at my pain.
I use my gratitude to dial back the negative, and amp up the positive and you know what?
What's even better is that over time this technique appears to make the changes permanent.
So when I'm feeling especially bitter, I use this powerful technique to foster forgiveness.
And yes, times may be challenging, but tough times are what shape us.
You might think you have nothing to be grateful for, but you do.
Because let's face it, if you're fortunate enough to be reading this, you probably have a roof over your head. You have food in your body and somewhere to sit at a computer, so that's pretty good.
Life, even in challenging times — especially in challenging times — is a beautiful gift, masterfully teaching and always nurturing us.
So be grateful for everything that’s brought you to this moment.
Especially the things that seemed terrible at the time.
- Thank every bad friend, they taught you to be more discerning.
- Thank every bad partner, they taught you to value yourself.
- Thank your parents for every mistake they made. They made you more sensitive to the needs of your children.
- Thank the bosses who fired you. They saved you from their oppression.
- Thank the co-workers who conspired against you. They helped force you onto a better path.
- Thank the illnesses you pulled through. They’ve shown you how resilient you are.
- Thank your children for making you do better.
- Thank the people who didn’t believe in you. They forced you to believe in yourself.
Thank this moment in history that slowed life down to a crawl, forcing us to unwind and reflect.
It’s making us take stock of everything.
It’s making us reimagine our world and how we live in it.
Making it impossible to look away.
If things were any less bad, we might ignore the obvious until it's too late.
So be glad you can never unsee what you’ve been forced to see.
Don’t wait until the moment has passed.
Don't resist your negativity bias. Embrace it. It's your best teacher.
Be grateful today.
Find a quiet moment to thank the bad times, give them equal gratitude.
They’ve been your best teachers.
They’re teaching you now.
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