As humans, we are swayed by negativity. Our tendency is to fixate on bad news more so than good news. For example, even if others heap their praise on us, one lone criticism will be all that stands out. Psychologists refer to this phenomenon as negativity bias.
A heightened focus on the negative was once useful to our survival. It kept us highly attuned to danger or threats. But the repercussions of defaulting to a focus on problems in today’s world where we no longer need to be hyper-attuned to our environment means we give greater validity to negative incidents, while overlooking all the positive ones.
When we pay too much attention to bad experiences from the past, we tend to project the negative occurrence on any envisioned future endeavor. Doing so keeps us from taking risks, pursuing our dreams, having an intimate relationship, or living life to the fullest.
This was true for one of my life coaching clients who came to me expressing that she felt paralyzed in her need to make a decision that would lead to a bold move professionally. She feared that if she made the wrong decision, it could leave her homeless and destitute. Together, we challenged this thought through a mindful inquiry method in which we investigated any actual veracity behind her apprehension. Challenging negative and fear-based thoughts is essential if we wish to get past any paralyzing negativity or trepidation.
To put a stop to negativity bias, employ these practices:
1. Confront self-defeating thoughts or beliefs. Many of us wrestle with self-defeating thoughts that we aren’t good enough or smart enough. These thoughts usually stem from a distorted perception of ourself because of something someone may have once said. Confront these thoughts by recalling your personal accomplishments and the positive feedback that you’ve received along the way. Choose to believe in your worthiness.
2. Stop giving air time to destructive thoughts. When a negative thoughts pops into your head, it’s important to ask yourself: “Do I like this thought?” If the message that it’s telling you is destructive, you don’t have to listen. Confronting your negative thoughts will make them lose their power over you.
3. Redirect your attention. Any time that you catch yourself obsessively mulling over a negative comment or event, consciously take your mind to a memory that brings you joy or a prospect that stirs up excitement. Understand that you are the one doing the doubting, so it’s in your power to decide to no longer dwell on the negative.
4. Cast yourself as a winner. When you envision how to carry out a goal or how to set out achieving a lofty pursuit, push aside all the negative “what ifs” and turn your focus toward all the good things you expect to happen along the way. Notice how your positivity helps allow you to make your intentions materialize.
5. Use setbacks as a chance to reset. Our emphasis on negativity stems from our fear of failure. But failures or mistakes can actually provide insights into new tactics to explore or better directions to take. Mindfully reset your compass using all that you’ve learned from the mistake.
If we don’t take control over our negatively oriented minds, we short-change ourselves. By directing our focus from the negative to the promising positive, we become the master of our internal dialogue and can manifest the mindset that supports us and our purpose.
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Ora Nadrich is a pioneering Mindfulness expert, international keynote speaker and coach, and the founder and president of the Institute for Transformational Thinking. A sought-after expert in the fields of Mindfulness, transformational thinking, and self-discovery, she is the author of Says Who? How One Simple Question Can Change the Way You Think Forever, Live True: A Mindfulness Guide to Authenticity, named “one of the 100 Best Mindfulness Books of All Time” by BookAuthority, and Mindfulness and Mysticism: Connecting Present Moment Awareness with Higher States of Consciousness. Her new book is Time to Awaken: Changing the World with Conscious Awareness. Learn more at oranadrich.com.