Did you know that your brain has a natural negativity bias?
It’s designed to remember and embed the bad stuff to keep you safe from encountering it again in the future. More specifically, to keep you safe enough to have a future.
That’s a good thing when it means you won’t be stepping out into traffic or putting your hands on any more hot stoves. When it means you can easily recall every painful experience, self-effacing thought, and set-back while the wins, kudos and proud moments fade into the ether, it isn’t.
Unfortunately, most of the negative things we remember have very little to do with keeping us safe and a lot to do with keeping us stressed out.
Your negativity bias also affects every decision you make.
When you draw on the experiences stored in your memory banks, only part of your reality shows up. The data is flawed. Your memory is skewed negative and that profoundly affects the way you see opportunity, calculate risk and choose what you should and shouldn’t do.
Fortunately, you can begin shifting your negativity bias to create a more balanced, more accurate memory bank.
I’m not talking hearts and ponies here.
This is about noticing the good things that are 100% real. By embedding your positive experiences into your memory in the same way your brain embeds the bad ones, you’re actually growing a new brain – one that will help you stay present, feel better, see new opportunities and make choices to keep you moving forward.
And the way in?
This Week's Tip:
Three simple steps to balancing your brain.
Start a Gratitude Journal:
- Pick a particular time of day you’ll do it. (An anchor is always helpful in making it a habit.) At your chosen time each day, write down three things you are grateful for in that moment.
- They can be big or small. They can be as simple as “mmmmm, I smell coffee,” or as profound as the universe itself.
All that matters is that you feel truly grateful for it in the moment that you write it down – that it is 100% real. No rose-colored glasses or false optimism here.
Never lie to yourself – if you’re not feeling particularly grateful for those messy teenagers today, it’s not the day to put them on the list. Maybe ice cream or wine?
- Now, remember that your brain is not designed to hard wire these types of thoughts, (the delightful smell of freshly brewed coffee has little to do with your immediate safety or survival).
We can trick your brain into embedding these positive experiences in a way that is similar to the way it embeds the negative ones.
Read over the three things you’ve written down. Notice (and name) any positive feelings that arise when you read them back to yourself. Notice (and name) any sensations you feel in your body.
Try to experience each item on your list with as many of your senses as possible.
In the few seconds it took you to create a sensory experience about the things you wrote, you activated several parts of your brain and embedded your good experiences. You’re on the road to a more balanced database.