Resilience and the Negativity Bias

09/02/2022

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RESILIENCE AND THE NEGATIVITY BIAS

Your brain is naturally biased towards noticing negative things rather than positive things. This is a survival mechanism from when early humans were at risk from predators. If you assumed something was bad and it turned out to be good, you might have missed out but you lived to fight another day. If you assumed something was good – and it turned out to be a predator – that was the last choice you made.

Psychologist Rick Hanson says “The mind is like Velcro for negative thoughts and like Teflon for positive ones.” You have to make an effort to remember positive things because they flit through your mind quickly but negative thoughts stick automatically. In fact it takes 12 seconds of focused attention for a positive experience to stick in the same way.

So you have to work harder to remember the successes you have with your dog but you will continually come back to every experience where something goes wrong.

This has an impact on your resilience to stress. Research shows that when you increase the ratio of positive to negative experiences you have, you get better at handling stress. But because of the negativity bias, we also have to spend time focusing on these positive experiences so that we remember them.

Aim to have between three and ten positive experiences to every negative one in order to most effectively improve your resilience. Frequent small positives are better than one big one. So get into the habit of creating many small positive experiences for yourself – a great way to do this is through power-ups.

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