Overcoming Negativity Bias

Do you sometimes feel stuck in a negative rut, replaying unpleasant encounters or setbacks you’ve endured? When you read the news, are you drawn to depressing articles? Humans tend to be impacted much more by negative events than by positive ones.

This negativity bias can influence how you feel, think, and act and can adversely affect your psychological state.

Negativity bias refers to a tendency to look for and use negative information far more than positive information.

Even when we experience numerous good events in one day, negativity bias can cause us to focus on the one small bad thing that occurred. It can lead us to meditate on these little things, like worrying about making a wrong impression, or lingering on negative comments.

Negativity bias starts in our very early development. Early in life, infants learn to avoid negative stimuli and things they have an aversion to. This increases their chances of survival.

It could be argued that in some situations a negative bias can be helpful, but as we grow and as society develops, this hardwired tendency is not as useful as it once was.

How do we overcome this negative bias?

1. Be self-aware and challenge negative self-talk

By checking in with yourself throughout the day, you can start to recognise any thoughts running through your mind – helpful and unhelpful. You can tackle these head-on, challenging them and replacing them with more useful thoughts. 

2. Cognitive restructuring

Negativity biases have been linked to numerous psychological disorders, such as depression and anxiety. When you catch yourself taking a negative view of situations, it may help to practice cognitive restructuring which is where you positively reframe the event or experience, so you don’t feel so overwhelmed or depressed by it.

3. Savour the positive moments

When you stop and take some time to drink in a positive experience, you’re savouring it and creating memories for the future. Building up your store of positive mental images and feelings can help you address negativity bias and bring things into a manageable balance.

We all face rejection, sadness, fear, and unhappiness. However, when we find ourselves getting stuck on the negative aspects of our lives, it’s important to be aware of why we might be doing this. We may seem to be hardwired to focus on negative things, but it’s possible to retrain our brains to 1st consider the positive possibilities in a situation. A hopeful and grateful frame of reference is a healthy mental habit that will boost our wellbeing.