Why We Are Hardwired To Think Negatively Based On Psychology And Evolutionary Perspectives
Once you know about the facts of who you are, it will make you easier to recognize why you feel bad in certain things.
Have you ever wondered why are your minds drawn to think negatively than positively? Why does your mind tend to remember a mistake you made than achievement you earn? Why does your minds easily assume towards worst case scenario than a good one? This phenomenon in psychology is called negativity bias which define is humans paying more attention to negative experience than positive experiences.
This bias usually come unconsciously in your life and it impacts how you see things unclearly. You assume what you see is truth but the fact is just only your perception. This perception affects your mood directly which sometimes lead to the bad outcome.
It happens a lot to me in the beginning of my writing article. I write some but I never be able to publish them because it feels scary about other people’s negative comments or rejection. So, it ends in my draft for months. My mind loves playing trick regardless of what positive impacts causes if I publish it. This bias is usually happening automatically and goes unnoticed which impacts my well-being and mood too.
Sometimes just because of these biases, we make something even worse than they actually are.
A study published in the journal of personality and social psychology states that our brain reacts and is more active to negative stimuli compared to positive stimuli, which means that our brain will respond more actively to the negative event than a positive one as it is called as a natural tendency of human brain.
Go even further, from an evolutionary perspective. This negativity bias serves us as a survival mechanism. Back in the day, it was vital to be alert in responding to negative situations as a sign of danger. This negativity biases are essentially for us to keep alive.
It makes a lot of sense in the modern world, after you read or watch some news that mostly are negative, then it starts creeping its way into your mind and affects your emotion which makes you feel anxiety in the end.
Here are a few things that you can do to overcome these negativity biases in your life.
1. Distract Yourself When You Feel Negativity Arise
We cannot remove our negativity biases because it roots within us, but by distracting ourselves to activity we enjoy, it will help us to address them to be more manageable. For example, when you get negative comment on social media, instead you reply directly and make you angrier, you can redirect your attention to enjoyable activities such as listening to your favorite music or reading some blogs.
Studies show that people who have a greater tendency to engage in distraction method, show improvement on their mood significantly. Being able to distract yourself from a negative experience into some activities you enjoy will reduce your negativity bias and make less effect.
Be aware of the circumstances around you that can trigger your negativity biases and switch your attention directly to help you cope with this bias in a healthy way.
There are many kinds of strategies to distract yourself in a positive way such as you can go for a walk, reading a book or blog, listening to podcasts, etc.
By distracting yourself and switching your focus into some activities that you enjoy from the negative moment, you push yourself toward something that make you feel good.
2. Reframe Your Negative Interpretation
“You cannot change what has already happened. You can always change the way you respond.”
Most of your problems happen inevitably and the only thing you can do is changing how you interpret to the problem.
Your interpretation will influence your emotions and lead to how you respond to the situation. So, if you are not aware of this, your negative biases within you will affect how you see things negatively and the result is you react irrationally which leads to the bad result.
For example, when two students have failed the exam. One student may interpret “it is not a big deal and let me start over again” and acts like nothing has happened during the day. Then the second student responds “I’ll never pass to the next grade” and feel sad.
This perspective toward negative event is different for every single person, but if you are not aware of your tendency of human nature, you can even make your problem is much worse again.
Even though we are hardwired to negativity, but we have a chance to reframe this perspective into a positive and realistic way.
The point is there’s nothing you can do to control a situation the way you want it, but you have the control over your interpretation of the things that happens to you into more positive way.
Some simple processes to reshape your thought:
- Be aware of your trigger (Knowing the cause of it)
- Identify your emotion (Knowing what you feel when this trigger comes)
- Spot and Swap (Spot your negative thought and swap them into a positive way)
3. Focus On Positive Moments In The Past
Remember when you don’t put your focus on positive moments in the past, your mind will naturally attract to your past negative experiences because we are wired to negativity. So, by training your mind consistently to focus more on the positive experiences, it will reduce your negativity bias and make you feel good.
A study found that recalling positive memories in the past will enhance positive emotion and mood, the more we practice putting our attention into positive memory in day-to-day life, the more we can overcome this negativity bias easily.
The simple methods we can use to overcome negative biases:
- Write some positive moments in the past
- Visualize and feel the positive moments in the past as a daily habit
- Be consistent in recalling your positive experience in the past
These simple methods don’t make you immune to the negativity biases but at least you can manage your thought and feeling because you already feel good by rehearsing to visualize positive moments as your daily habit.
This negativity bias is a natural trait of humans, it functions to anticipate some dangers around us to make us live longer. However, the truth is, it doesn’t relevant anymore to apply into this modern world. What we live currently is safer than we used to be but the funny thing is we feel more threat and uncertainty in life.
Even though we have tendency to be drawn more to negativity but the lucky thing is that our brain is neuroplasticity which means our brain has the ability to change and adapt as a result of experience. So, even we have drawn more to negativity, it doesn’t mean that we can not change it.
You can activate your brain to overcome these negative biases by applying these simple methods as part of your daily habit:
Distract Yourself When You Feel Negativity Arise
Reframe Your Negative Interpretation
Focus On Positive Moments In The Past
Once a little switch in your thought will help you to overcome your negativity bias as Marcus Aurelius said.
“Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.”