The Mindful Life™ Blog

The Negative Bias of the Brain: The Power of Sharing the Positive

I got a big laugh during a presentation I was giving last week in Atlanta, where traffic can be absolutely awful. I was talking about the negative bias in the brain, and I asked them “think about your commute – when was the last time you thought ‘wow, that’s an excellent driver’, instead of wanting to flip half a dozen people off each day for failing to put their blinkers on while changing lanes?!”

The reason we don’t notice those good drivers, I explained, is because our brains are far more sensitive to negative information than positive. This dates back to our hunting and gathering days when it was more important to pay attention to poisonous snakes and saber tooth tigers, than to stop and smell the beautiful flowers. This hyper-awareness of the negative is a survival mechanism.

Today we don’t have the same threats to our survival, but our brains are still far more sensitive to negative information. As Rick Hanson says, "our brains are like velcro for the bad and teflon for the good!"

Think about this:

  • When you stand in front of a full length mirror, which is an easier list to come up with, five things you would like to improve about yourself, or five things you think are awesome about yourself?
  • When you look at your kid's report card and there are 4 As and a C, what goes through your head – 'My kid is killing it', or ‘What’s going on in that class?'
  • When you have a job review, and your boss tells you 9 amazing things, and 1 area that you need some improvement in, what do you tell your partner when you get home?

I’m as guilty of this as anyone – I easily get hung up on the slide I forgot in my speech rather than the compliments I received when I was done.

In A Moxie Tribe this month, we have been spending a great deal of time working through this.  The key is to strengthen the neural pathways in the prefrontal context of our brain that are responsible for cultivating positive emotions.

Here’s a simple hack to get you started: One Funny Thing

At the end of each day, write down or share with someone one funny thing that happened today.

Research shows that humor is powerful. Our laughter creates physical effects on our bodies, releasing dopamine, increasing blood flow, and strengthening connections with others. And when we can find the humor in a tough situation it provides a healthy way to cope.

When we reflect on these events at the end of the day, rather than ruminating about our problems, we direct our attention to pleasant experiences, and we have the opportunity to relive that positive experience in the present.

My Funny Thing For Today

Warmly,
Kristen

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