Information:

The brain has a negativity bias. This comes from our past, millions of years ago, when we needed to identify threats to stay alive. Even though we no longer have mammoths or sabre tooth tigers our brains stay the same.  The brain focuses on the negative to identify threats to ensure our survival. You know if you get 10 compliments and one criticism what your thoughts ruminate on! We’re more likely to notice what’s wrong, and feel unpleasant emotions more, and be energised by them. We can benefit from training our brains to notice and savour the positive.

How many thoughts do we have in one day? (70 000) 80% of those thoughts are negative. So that means ….  56 000 negative thoughts to cope with each day. No wonder it’s hard! We get negative thought patterns as a result, that can become automatic spirals of negative thinking which leads to negative feeling and behaviour. We can get and feel stuck in these patterns, but even stone changes when water flows over it, with time.

Research1 shows that experiencing positive emotions in a 3-to-1 ratio to negative ones leads to a tipping point beyond which we naturally become more resilient to adversity and better able to achieve things.

 

Reflection:

I identify with this negativity too. I have spent the last three years starting the day by bringing to mind things that I am thankful for and I have noticed that over time I have increased resilience, reduced anxiety and more productivity at work and at home. Giving myself permission to  “Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you’ll look back and realise they were big things” Robert Brault, American author.

 

Challenge:

Try this exercise for a week. In Sheldon and Lyubomirsky’s study2, just one week of bringing to mind gratitude for three things a day had lasting effects on happiness for 6 months. Will it for you?

Write down three things each day that you are thankful for, big or small, same or different:

Day One3 things I am thankful for today:
1
2
3

 

Day Two3 things I am thankful for today:
1
2
3

 

Day Three3 things I am thankful for today:
1
2
3

 

Day Four3 things I am thankful for today:
1
2
3

 

Day Five3 things I am thankful for today:
1
2
3

 

Day Six3 things I am thankful for today:
1
2
3

 

Day Seven3 things I am thankful for today:
1
2
3

1B.L. Fredrickson, Positivity: Groundbreaking research reveals how to embrace the hidden strength of positive emotions, overcome negativity, and thrive, 2009.

2K. Sheldon and S. Lyubomirsky: How to increase and sustain positive emotion: The effects of expressing gratitude and visualizing best possible selves. Journal of Positive Psychology 1(2):73-82, Feb 2007

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