We all go through times in our life where we are facing difficulties that overwhelm us. I would never want to diminish how tough these experiences can be or pretend they aren’t very real. But many of us can unknowingly get trapped in a negativity habit where we no longer see how many positive things happen in our lives each day. This limits our perspective, drains us of energy and saps us of hope, drive and joy. so why do we find it so much easier to be negative than positive?
We are wired for negativity
Remembering that the berries are poisonous, or that last time we walked that way there was a sabre tooth tiger lurking around the bend, is how our ancestors survived long enough to reproduce. This survival tendency comes hard-wired into our brains and exists in modern times as a negativity bias, meaning it is much easier for us to focus on everything that is going wrong in our lives rather than all the things that are going right.
This negativity bias is amplified in stressful times, when our fight, flight, freeze mode gets activated and we switch into survival mode. But we can do begin to turn down this stress response by reminding ourselves to pay attention to the myriad of small positive moments we experience each day.
Switching our brains to a more positive state
Switching to a more positive headspace begins by first recognizing the positive moments that are already happening in our lives, and amplifying the impact they have on us. I am not talking great and perfect moments. I am talking about the tiny, wonderful experiences that pass us by all the time without us truly noticing them.
- Seeing your dog stretched out in bliss in a patch of sunlight
- The sound of autumn leaves crunching underfoot
- Sipping a cup of tea that is the perfect temperature
- The feel of sliding your foot into fresh socks
- The smell of jasmine in full bloom
- A neighbour smiling and saying hello
When one of these moments happens, we can amplify their impact by more fully absorbing the experience. How?
- Bring your full attention to the moment.
- Take the experience in as fully as you can for 20 seconds using your sense of taste, touch, smell, sight and sound.
- Feel how your heart feels in response to the moment.
- Allow yourself to know that in this moment life is good and you have much to be grateful for.
- Record your experience either in a journal or on the notes app on your phone so you can refer back to these moments whenever you need a pick-me-up or reminder that there is always good happening even when times are tough.
Why be more positive?
Making a concerted effort to see the world in a more positive and hopeful way helps to shift our nervous system out of fight, flight, freeze response by teaching it that the world is basically safe. Without all the cortisol in our systems our capacity for higher cognitive reasoning returns and we are able to shift our thinking away from disaster planning and crisis management, toward a more hopeful, strategic vision of what is possible.
From this wiser and more positive perspective we can reassure ourselves that though sometimes things are bad, sometimes they are also good, and that though we don’t control everything we do control some things.
The moments we cling to and amplify can make an enormous difference to the decisions we make and the actions we take. Let the positive moments in and see how your world changes.