Overcome the Negativity Bias with Mindfulness - dummies

Overcome the Negativity Bias with Mindfulness

By Shamash Alidina, Joelle Jane Marshall

Have you noticed that your mind finds it easier to focus on negative things rather than positive ones? Even if you consider yourself a positive person, if something frustrating happens during the day that event is more likely to pop into your head in the evening rather than any of the positive ones that also happened. This tendency is called negativity bias and here’s why it happens.

Humans have evolved to survive, and, therefore, to avoid danger to do this. If your brain didn’t focus on potential dangers, you could easily make a mistake and end up dead, to put it bluntly. The humans that survived in ancient times were the ones who could best focus on danger and avoid it.

Any humans that simply focused on the positive and didn’t worry about the tiger that might eat them got eaten by tigers. Humans are the result of that evolution — they’re the survivors who were extra careful. So even though the dangers nowadays may not be directly life-threatening, such as a long queue at the shops, an aggressive boss or concern about a global recession, your brain still focuses on them.

Here is where mindfulness comes in to help. Instead of simply reciting positive thoughts to drown out negative ones, it’s more effective to become aware of those negative thoughts and put them into perspective.

Okay, the queue at the supermarket is long, but hey, at least you can afford to buy food. The boss is aggressive, but then again, he’s always in a bad mood. And the recession — well, it will pass, like everything else. Worrying about it won’t make the problem go away.

Mindfulness helps you to manage your negativity bias and prevents you from getting stuck in repetitive negative thinking. There’s hope for you if you worry too much!