Has it ever happened with you that you were in your best of moods and someone said negative things to you? As a result of which, you were disturbed, ruminating over it and fixated in those thoughts not for hours but for a few days altogether. These thoughts keep coming back and have divested you of your inner peace? If your answer is Yes, then you must know that you are caught in the loop of Negativity Bias.
As per the research paper published in Springer Link, Negativity Bias is defined as,” A broad psychological principle according to which the negative is more causally efficacious than the positive”. Which means that we have not only strong tendency to register negative events/ stimuli or thoughts but also dwell in those. As a result of which we tend to remember:
Thus, we tend to harp over negative events more readily than positive events. This means that negative events, thoughts or stimuli have more lingering effects than the positive ones.
If we are too much caught in our negative thoughts, we tend to behave or act in more negative way.For instance, if at office you received one negative remark over many positive remarks for your presentation, you’ll stay fixated over this negative remark even when you reach home. Being in that disturbed state, you may land up arguing with your better half over some petty issue. Likewise,you’ll experience the same thing in office when you begin your day with a disturbing conversation at home. As a result of which you may either be unable to focus on work or may lose your temper over your colleague’s minutest of mistakes.
Researches have also shown that this negativity bias not only affects our behavior, but it may also affect our self- esteem. Any bad comment one gets for one’s work/ performance has the ability to seed in doubt in one’s own capabilities. Thus, one may feel low and begin tormenting oneself,thereby not been able to reach one’s true potential.
Well, it can be said that negativity bias contributes more to our pain as it aggravates the way we perceive the situation. Instead of seeing the situation as what it is about, we have too much negativity attached with it that we tend to take it too personally. As a result of which we get caught in the thinking loop and are unable to alienate these thoughts from our mind.
You must be interested in knowing- Why do we tend to remember negative things/ stimuli/ events?Why do we ruminate or get fixated over the loop of negativity ? The answer lies in our ancestry. We are hardwired to be negative because of the evolutionary perspective. An article published in PNAS states that, “What explains the apparently widespread preference for negative information? One account is rooted in evolutionary theory. Attention to negativity may have been advantageous for survival. Negative information alerts to potential dangers; it has special value in terms of “diagnosticity”, or the “vigilance” that is required to avoid negative outcomes.”
Does that mean that the loop of negativity bias only impacts us negatively? Of course not! But it surely depends on what meaning you attach with it. In certain instances, it has been found that the loop of negativity bias can act as a motivator. As per the study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied,“People are frequently challenged by goals that demand effort and persistence. As a consequence,philosophers, psychologists, economists, and others have studied the factors that enhance task motivation. Using a sample of undergraduate students and a sample of working adults, we demonstrate that the manner in which an incentive is framed has implications for individuals’ task motivation. In both samples we find that individuals are less motivated when an incentive is framed as a means to accrue a gain (positive framing) as compared with when the same incentive is framed as a means to avoid a loss (negative framing). It it is a negativity bias in information processing(Baumeister et al., 2001), and not other factors (e.g., the atypicality of the incentive), that contributes to the effectiveness of negatively framed incentives on motivation.”
To summarize what this study intends to say is negativity bias can help people achieve their goals provided they can dwell over what they might lose instead of gaining something. Though negativity bias can act as a motivator, but its chances of taking toll over negative side is brighter. But this does not mean that one can not be unwound or re-wind our wiring. Below mentioned ways might assist you in some way or other:
2. Choose to rationalize: No matter how grim is the situation, try to see it as a whole and not just what you think about it. Try to understand the context, how it has affected you, what made you feel in that way and what you could have done about it. Breaking down the components would help you analyze the situation from a detachment and would help you see the unnoticed positive aspect as well.
3. Weigh its importance: Whenever we experience loop of negativity, we attach too much importance to the negative event. Thus, to reduce its effect, it is first important to understand what importance the situation holds for you in your life? Does it really cost you more than your inner peace and happiness? If your answer is No, then you will gradually observe that these thoughts will stop bothering you.
4. Journaling: It is a good practice to pour your heart out and pen down your thoughts about the situation, how you felt about the situation and what best could have been done from your end. This will calm you down and would relief you.
5. Practicing Gratitude: Constant reminder to oneself of what one is thankful about the situation and what was good about the situation can help us to free our mind and alienate us from negative patterns of thoughts which have potential to become our actions and behaviors.
6. Self-awareness: To break the trail of negative thoughts running in one’s mind, it is important to be first aware of them. Instead of dwelling in self- talk over these thoughts, one needs to just observe them and let them passe without inspecting them. By becoming aware of them and not letting them overpower you, you are letting them go by you being a mere observer instead of being a participant in that event.
7.Count your positive situations: While reflecting through the day, count your positive moments instead of negative ones that made you proud of yourself. This will help you to focus even on hidden good things that accompanied any situation.
8.Practice mindfulness: Being here and now is the key to many locks. Being in the present moment, giving your cent percent to the situation in hand will keep negative thoughts abate and add the same time would quieten your unruly mind.
In the end one can just say that, “We are the nurturer of thoughts in our mind’s garden which leads us to act. If we are aware of the seeds we plant, such thoughts would grow which would affect not only our garden but our persona as well.”
Ritika Dureja Bajaj is an author and a certified Life Coach and Mental and Emotional Wellness Coach. A self-motivated philanthropist, she chose this path as she has an urge to contribute to society in a much larger way. With her strong educational background, and excellent oratory skills, Ritika has been working towards this since a while. Her in depth understanding of Mental Health has helped her transform many lives as a life coach.
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