How to deal with negative thinking
Do you find yourself getting stuck in the tar pit of your negative experiences? Here is a way to redress the balance by focusing on what is going well in your life.
We all have a natural tendency to focus on perceived threats due to our brain’s evolutionary journey. This tendency is called the negativity bias. We are wired to be on alert to things that might be harmful and to take evasive action. Vital in genuinely life-threatening situations, the negativity bias is also triggered by everyday experiences: a poorly worded email, a frustrating commute, or perhaps feeling misunderstood.
Unchecked this can lead to an over-focus on what’s not going well. Then our attention slides over positive experiences, so we barely register them. Pretty soon we can get stuck in the tar pit of our negative experiences.
How can you counteract this? Begin by redirecting attention to what is right in life. This doesn’t mean ignoring problems or pretending everything is perfect. It merely is redressing the balance in how you view the world. Then you are better equipped to deal with the difficult things that require attention.
Research has repeatedly shown that by taking time to appreciate positive experiences, it is possible to boost our mood in the moment - and bolster our resilience for when times are tough.
A simple approach is to recall ‘three good things’ that have happened during your day. Just take a few minutes to reflect on what when well. These don’t need to be major things – just three experiences that made you smile and see the brighter side of life.
Consider these questions if you are finding it tough to get going:
What has gone well for me?
What am I grateful for in my life?
Who am I thankful for in my life?
Try it every day for one week then shift to once or twice a week. It only takes a few minutes and costs you nothing but the effort of focusing on what has gone well for you.