Yes, your thoughts are hurting you more than you realize, unless you are aware of negativity bias and how to prevent it. I certainly wasn’t.
Research has indicated that we have upwards to 60,000 thoughts a day and 95-percent of them are negative. Apparently, we are programmed to hold on to negative thoughts, experiences and moments. Wow. Sobering information. From The Neuroscience of Happiness, Rick Hanson explains it this way.
For most of us, as we go through the day, most of the moments in life are either neutral or positive. The problem is that neutral or positive moments get remembered with standard memory systems, which is to say they’re mostly in-and-out. But negative experiences are instantly registered and intensely focused on, based on the negativity bias of the brain. Then they get stored in what’s called “implicit memory” – not so much memory for events, like what I did on summer vacation, but rather the feeling of being alive. And that implicit memory bank gets shaded in a darker and darker way by the slowly accumulating residue of negative experiences.
Yikes. That’s, honestly, depressing. Fortunately, there is a solution to this bias.
Action Step #1: Turn positive events into positive experiences. Good stuff happens all day but we hardly notice it and if we do, we dismiss it (like a compliment).
Action Step #2: Savor those positive events and turn them into experiences. Feel it, take it in, make it more intense. Stay with the compliment or moment for 10-30 seconds. Don’t deflect or diminish it.
Action Step #3: Tell yourself and sense that this positive moment/experience is sinking into you, becoming part of you. Woven into your brain and body.
Action Step #4: This is a tougher one. Consider pushing that experience into an old or current place of pain. See and feel the current positive experience in the forefront and prominent and see the pain in the background, blurred. Keep that awareness and picture in your mind for 10-30 seconds as well.
Action Step #5: When faced with a negative situation, take deep breaths, calm yourself down, imagine that you are safe, strong and capable of getting through it; think of resources or people for support and grab positive emotions that counteract whatever it is you are dealing with. The more you do that, the more you will retrain your brain and combat negativity bias. We all know how easy it is to get a “stab” and then brood over it for the rest of the day, inflicting all kinds of secondary wounds. Arrest that so you don’t add to your self-criticism and depressive movie scripts.
So, please work on your thought awareness and especially the positive ones.