Your boss tells you 19 things that you are doing well, but tosses in one that you could improve upon, of all 20 which one stays on your mind?
The negative, of course!
We would consider a person who never lies a liar if we catch them in one lie. But, we wouldn’t consider a compulsive liar honest if we catch them telling the truth…
Last example, let’s sat you are looking for something on Amazon. Out of 1,500 comments, 75% are positive, 15% are neutral, and 10% are negative. It is the negative ones that most catch your attention … and they leave you with more of an impression even though they only make up 10% of all of the comments.
Even though here are many more examples, we can probably conclude that our intuition compels us to give more weight to the negative over the positive. Actually we can and is referred to as “the negative bias,” complete with a theory which explains, in evolutionary terms, why we are this way.
Take a moment and imagine the first humans walking through the jungle. They come upon a fruit that looks appetising, one of them gives it a sniff, since they are unsure if it is edible, they decide to just leave it aside.
But then someone else comes along and decides to eat it and a little bit later, winds up dying, poisoned. They’re continuing on and in a little bit they hear a sound coming from the underbrush… they scatter off towards the trees, however one of them is not scared off by the sound and sees that the sound came from what appears to be a small harmless animal.
A few seconds later, the over trusting human is eaten by a bear.
It’s as though nature has awarded those that have been more fearful, those that live with more stress, and those that have paid special attention to everything bad that happens or that could happen. In the world of our ancestors, happiness was not as important as merely surviving.
However, this adaptation may have made itself into a real obstacle for our happiness today…
What do we of with all of this?
In and of itself mediation has shown that it can do a phenomenal job at rewiring our minds.
From making the parts of our brains that stress us out (the amygdala) smaller, to further developing those that help us make better decisions (the prefrontal cortex), meditative practices not only relax us, they change our biology making us happier.
In his book, Hardwiring Happiness, Rick Hanson proposes very interesting strategies for “rewiring” our minds, delving in even deeper than meditation. To begin, Dr. Hanson suggests cultivating happiness by expanding on the effect that positive experiences have on us.
While we won’t stop having negative experiences nor be somehow protected from them, however, if we want the positive moments to have a greater impact on our lives, then we have to give them a larger space in our minds. For example, in the moment that we are perceiving something pleasurable, we should consciously appreciate it for 15 to 30 seconds to really fully appreciate it and be able to store it in our memory. To make it count!
Getting ourselves used to savouring the positive moments will eventually make it easier for our brains to recognise them in the moment and give them more importance in our lives.
So when your boss gives you 19 positive things and one negative, you’ll focus on giving them more power than the one negative.
Surely, it takes a lot of effort to reconfigure our brains, but it really is a sacrifice that is worth it. Eventually we will make positivity a habit, making it easier to get ourselves into a happy state in a natural way.
Try it today … and tell me all about it. 🙂
For a mind accustomed to happiness,