"The negativity bias is the notion that even when of equal intensity, things of a more negative nature (e.g. unpleasant thoughts, emotions, or social interactions; harmful/traumatic events) have a greater effect on one's psychological state and processes than neutral or positive things.
In other words, something very positive will generally have less of an impact on a person's behaviour and cognition than something equally emotional but negative." (Wiki)
Neuroscientist Dr. Rick Hanson explains how our ancestral "survival brain" is wired to be biased toward the negative. He writes, "In effect, the brain is like Velcro for negative experiences, but Teflon for positive ones. That shades “implicit memory” – your underlying expectations, beliefs, action strategies, and mood – in an increasingly negative direction."
It is easy to become trapped in negativity. Because our brains are wired for survival, our default feeling is fear. Fearful thoughts, repeated over time and throughout generations, become deeply patterned into our neurology.
Not realizing that we are "practicing" our negative emotions, we accumulate lower vibrational thoughts, emotions and experiences into an ongoing pain story that can feel hard to climb out of. Assembling more fear-based evidence along the way, we unconsciously confirm that our negativity bias is real.
"Whatever we plant in our subconscious mind and nourish with repetition and emotion will one day become a reality."
~ Earl Nightingale
If you are hurting emotionally, you can be sure you are repeating a fearful thought. And, fearful thinking gathers power through repetition. (See How to Feel Safe.)
Fear makes us feel small and inadequate. Repetitive fear can have us doubting our capacities to be able to "make it" in the world. Always on the lookout for what is wrong, we forget about what is good about our life.
Our negativity bias might have us fearing we are not good enough, not lovable enough, not worthy, smart or talented enough, or not abundant enough to be able to physically survive. The good news is, once we become aware of our negativity bias we can regularly interrupt it.
Here are 7 ways to interrupt chronic negative emotions:
1. Witness Your Mind
In meditation, you can learn to identify more with your larger witnessing self instead of just your smaller hurting self. You can witness our innate negativity bias without becoming it.
2. Expand Your Awareness
To expand your sense of self start a daily creative project, spend time in nature or cultivate a regular spiritual practice to invoke feelings of awe.
3. Contradict Negative Thinking
Counteract your negativity bias soon as you notice the painful thought. Identify your painful thought and then interrupt the negative momentum with a new better-feeling thought or action.
4. Repeat Positive Affirmations
When stuck in the negativity bias, saying "I am..." positive affirmations can feel fake. When you feel doubtful about better-feeling thoughts, practice wondering instead. "I wonder what it would feel like to be loved, successful, respected...etc." As you wonder, a slight sense of possibility will arise. Build on this.
5. Minimize Negative Stimuli
Your subconscious mind registers all violence as emotionally real. If you are prone to chronic negativity, it is best to avoid watching the news, violent television and movies. You also might also want to spend more time with people that support and uplift you.
6. Appreciate What You Have
All negative emotions are underpinned with a fear of lack. To build a feeling of abundance, see how many things you can appreciate during the day. When you are struggling with fear and negativity, amplify your appreciation for even the smallest details in your life.
7. Amplify the Good
Fear-based survival programming is deeply conditioned into our brain, body and nervous system. To interrupt your negativity bias, persistent, the deliberate practice of noticing what is good will increase your joy.