A negativity bias is the notion that even when of equal intensity, things of a more negative nature (e.g. unpleasant thoughts, emotions, or social interactions; harmful/traumatic events) have a greater effect on your psychological state and processes than neutral or positive things.
In other words, something very positive will generally have less of an impact on your behaviour and cognition than something equally emotional but negative.
The Negativity Trap
It is easy to become trapped in negativity. Because our brains and nervous systems are wired for survival, our default emotion is fear. Fearful thoughts, repeated over time become deeply patterned into our neurology.
Neuroscientist Dr. Rick Hanson explains how our ancestral "survival brain" is wired toward the negative. He writes, "In effect, the brain is like Velcro for negative experiences, but Teflon for positive ones. This shades implicit memory – your underlying expectations, beliefs, action strategies, and mood – in an increasingly negative direction."
Not realizing that you are "practicing" negative emotions, you will accumulate lower vibrational thoughts, emotions, and experiences into a progressively depressing pain story that can feel difficult to climb out of. Assembling more fear-based, sad, or angry evidence along the way, you will unconsciously confirm that your negativity bias is real.
The Power of Repetition
"Whatever we plant in our subconscious mind and nourish with repetition and emotion will one day become a reality."
~ Earl Nightingale
If you are struggling with depression, you can be sure you are repeating sad, angry, or fearful thoughts. And, sad, angry, or fearful thoughts gather power through repetition.
Sadness can lead to hopelessness, and you can lose your motivation to progress.
Anger keeps you stuck, waiting for others to change before you can.
Fear makes you feel small and inadequate, doubting your capacity to succeed in the world.
Your negativity bias might have you fearing you are not good enough, not lovable enough, not worthy, smart, or talented enough to be able to survive and thrive.
Always on the lookout for what is wrong, you can forget about what is good about your life.
Yet, the good news is, once you become aware of your negativity bias you can regularly interrupt it.
7 Ways to Heal Chronic Negativity
1. Witness Your Mind
In meditation, you can learn to employ your larger witnessing Soul Self to see and hear your small hurting ego self with neutrality and compassion. In this way, can witness your negativity bias without becoming it.
2. Find the Emotional Need
Chronic grief, anger, and fear point to an unmet emotional need. Once you discover what you are needing from life and others, consider how you could meet this need inside yourself.
3. Expand Your Awareness
Contemplate who you would be if you felt fulfilled. To expand your sense of fulfillment start an expansive creative project, spend time in nature, or cultivate a regular spiritual practice to regularly invoke feelings of openness and awe.
4. Interrupt Negative Thinking
Interrupt a chronic negativity bias as soon as you notice a habitual thought that is painful. Identify what thoughts cyclically cause you pain, and then interrupt the negative momentum with a new better-feeling thought.
5. Wonder Into Better Feelings
When stuck in a negativity bias, saying "I am..." positive affirmations can feel fake. When you are doubtful about feeling better, practice wondering instead. "I wonder what it would feel like to feel joyful, peaceful, empowered, free...etc." As you wonder, a slight sense of a better feeling will arise. Build on this.
6. Minimize Negative Stimuli
The negativity bias seeks to confirm and perpetuate itself. Because the subconscious mind registers all perceived negativity and violence as emotionally real, it is best to avoid watching the news, as well as violent television and movies. You also might want to spend more time with people that support and uplift you.
7. Appreciate What You Have
All negative emotions are underpinned by a fear of lack. See how many things you can appreciate during the day to build a feeling of abundance. When you are struggling with sadness, anger, or fear, amplify your appreciation for even the most minor things in your life.