“When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” Wayne Dyer
In troubling and uncertain times, we are all tested more than ever on our ability to be firm and resolute with our minds. Now more than ever, with the least amount of coaxing, our mind control is more easily disintegrated by an abundance of negative experiences all triggering an array of emotions, most of which we label as “negative”. For most of us, we will do anything to evade these feelings. And herein lies the problem, as resistance is a form of attention. The irony is that the more we try to avoid the unpleasantries, the more we breathe life into them.
Negativity bias is a psychological phenomenon that states that as humans we have a stronger tendency to pay more attention to and energy on the negative experiences in our lives. The occurrences that create discomfort quickly take center stage, overshadowing all others.
Jill Bolte Taylor is a brain scientist who explains in her book My Stroke of Insight that the physiological mechanism behind an emotion lasts 90 seconds from the moment of trigger. The reason that these responses/emotions last longer is because we replay the experience, feeding it with our thoughts, recycling the story and firming its stronghold. We carry grudges, jealousies and injustices as to how the world mistreated us and we care for them such that we grow them into habits.
Dr. Rick Hansen says “if we move through the day with an open awareness of the many good things around us, we correct the brain’s built-in negativity bias.” It is important to remember that the impetus is on us. You can choose to continue to focus on all of the negative experiences or you can redirect your attention to the positive, thereby strengthening your neural pathways to create a “positive outlook” habit. Why not create a positivity bias? Take the same energy that you are directing to your negative experiences and shift it toward the positives in your life ~ transforming this energy from ruinous to creative.
But remember, we are not shifting our focus in an attempt to rid ourselves from negativity. Instead, we are redirecting our energy to spend more time focusing on our positive experiences. It is important to acknowledge that negative emotions will arise. And so what do we do when negativity arises? There are a few things I believe to be true: 1) Throughout my life, I will experience the entire emotional spectrum; 2) emotions are informational barometers letting me know where I am at any given moment; 3) like everything, no state of being/feeling is permanent; and 4) I am better off embracing every emotion with welcoming attention, but without the story ~ having a direct experience without my interpretation.
Creating a healthier relationship with emotions allows for a pause/distance between the stimulus and the response allowing me to to develop a better stress response and to become more emotionally resilient. Remember, you are not the result of what has happened to you, but you are the result of what you have chosen to be. In the end, what do you have to lose by being positive? We cannot control all that unfolds around us, but we do get to choose how we respond to it. Choose wisely!