Rick Hanson, the author of ‘Buddha’s Brain’ said:
Your mind is like velcro to negativity and Teflon to positivity.
If you played with a dog 1000 times and he bit you once, what will you remember? That the dog bit you once.
And not so much the 999 times where you absolutely enjoyed playing with him.
Because your mind is wired for negativity.
It is wired to easily pick out what is negative in your surrounding.
It is wired to easily dwell on the negativity.
It is wired to easily seek negative aspects of your experience.
It is an evolutionary adaptation. Earlier in the human history, the guy or girl who obsessed about things that could go wrong, was more likely to be prepared.
The person who obsessed about the predators on the horizon was more likely to be prepared and hence more likely to survive.
The person who didn’t bother so much about things that could go wrong was probably the first one to get wiped out when things went wrong.
And of course things did go wrong from time to time, e.g. predators attacked quite frequently.
Does this mean, obsessing about negativity is the right thing to do?
Not at all. Firstly, our environment is very different today.
It is still true that the ones who obsess about what could go wrong are more likely to be prepared. But you will end up paying a much steeper price compared to earlier in the history.
In the environment, we live today, the incremental benefit that you get from focusing too much on negativity is far outweighed by the risks of being too negative.
Too much negativity can lead to a lack of self-confidence, depression, other mental and physical health issues.
But by default you are likely to engage in too much negativity because of the wiring of your brain.
Can it be fixed? And if so, how?
Yes, it can be fixed. Your mind can be trained to focus less on negativity and become more positive.
You do it by taking the time to intentionally notice the positive aspects of your experience. And practicing it repeatedly.
The most effective way to train your mind is through repetition.
Practically following are some of the ways of reorienting your mind for more positivity.
- Gratitude journaling.
- Loving kindness meditation practices.
You may be familiar with gratitude journaling already. But I will show you one easy way to get started.
- Get a small and inexpensive notebook. I suggest you keep a separate dedicated notebook for this purpose.
- I suggest you use longhand and not do this on computer or phone. Good old pen and paper.
- Keep this notebook and a pen by your bedside.
- Right before you go to sleep, pick up the notebook and pen.
- Think of 3 things that went well that day.
- Push yourself a bit if you need to, to recall 3 things that went well.
- These 3 things don’t have to be grand.
- They could be somethings as simple as having a meal that you enjoyed. It could also be the fact that you didn’t get involved in any arguments throughout the day.
- This has to be an ongoing practice. You try to do it every day. It is okay if you occasionally miss some days.
I highly recommend you get started on this practice.