How to Focus on Positivity When Our Brains Are Wired Negatively?
I’ve been thinking a great deal lately about positivity. Researching fibromyalgia and pain management, I’ve learned that the more one has negative thoughts or experiences occur, the more likely they are to feel pain.
But what are we supposed to do where our brains are wired to focus on the negative?
The brain has a natural negativity bias. It’s easier to remember negative experiences, thoughts and feelings more vividly than positive ones. According to Dr. Rick Hansen, “The brain is like Velcro for negative experiences but Teflon for positive ones”.
Additionally, Psychology Today goes on to state “in our brains, there are two different systems for negative and positive stimuli. The amygdala uses approximately two thirds of its neurons to detect negative experiences, and once the brain starts looking for bad news, it is stored into long term memory quickly. Positive experiences have to be held in our awareness for more than 12 seconds in order for the transfer from short-term to long-term memory.” (Ray Williams, Wired for Success)
Well…that sucks. That means we must try significantly harder to remember GOOD things?
How many people remember game 6 of the 1986 World Series? I’m sure Mets fans (like myself 🙂 ) do, but other than that it probably doesn’t ring a bell to a typical person.
However, what if I mentioned the name Bill Buckner?
Does THAT sound or look familiar? That’s during game 6 of the 1986 World Series…the famous ball through Buckner’s legs to let the Mets win. As a matter of fact, statistics has shown that people remember that error the most out of that entire series. YES it was great for the Mets, but it was an error and not something usually focused on.
So how do we fix this? How can we have more positive than negative memories?
Based on Our Brain’s Negativity Bias by Hara Estroff Marano, (and I’m a research nerd so if it’s proven, I’ll take it), “researchers have found that a very specific ratio exists between the amount of positivity and negativity required to make life satisfying”.
“That magic ratio is five to one. As long as there was five times as much positive feeling and interaction…as there was negative, researchers found…(thoughts were) likely to be stable over time.
It is the frequency of small positive acts that matters most, in a ratio of about five to one.
Occasional big positive experiences—say, a birthday bash—are nice. But they don’t make the necessary impact on our brain to override the tilt to negativity. It takes frequent small positive experiences to tip the scales toward happiness.”
So let’s bring more positivity into our life. Not because it’s cliche to say, but because research actually proves that it makes you remember things in a more positive light.
Let’s choose happiness.