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Negativity Bias

Do you ever catch yourself thinking about unpleasant encounters you have experienced or setbacks you’ve endured?

We tend to be impacted more by adverse events than positive ones.  This tendency toward negative thinking is called negativity bias and can influence every part of our lives (even negatively affecting our psychological state).

Negativity Bias originates from our survival instinct and the need to be aware of danger or threats to our survival, health, well-being, and image. We’re predisposed to “attend to, learn from, and use negative information far more than positive information” (Vaish et al., 2008).  Even when numerous good things happen in a day, negativity bias can explain why we will still focus on the one thing that went wrong.

Overcoming this bias has a lot to do with where we direct our attention. By directing more of our conscious attention toward positive events and feelings, we can begin to address this pull to negativity.

Some practical ways we can do this are:

  • By checking in on yourself during the day and start to identify thoughts that are running through your mind – both good and bad. Then begin to tackle these head-on, challenging them and replacing them with more useful ones. Refer to Albert Ellis ABC technique for more help on this one.
  • Practising Christian mindfulness is one good way to become more attuned to your own emotions. Through your reflections and other mindfulness interventions, you can start to notice your feelings and thoughts more objectively.

 

  • Stopping and taking some time to ‘drink in’ a positive experience, you’re savouring it and creating memories for the future (Bryant & Veroff, 2017). Building up your store of positive mental images and feelings helps you address the imbalance that negativity bias predisposes us to.

It might take a bit of practice, but as you stick with it, you will eventually find that you will start to feel, think, and act in more positive ways.  This will lead to a happier life and you being a more contented person.